August 27, 2010

E.T. Full Moon Midnight Marathon (Race Report)

The E.T. Full Moon Midnight Marathon was not only the strangest race I've ever done, but also one of the toughest. So, where to start?

Wanting to be well rested for the race, my mom and I spent almost all of Saturday relaxing in our room reading Harry Potter (me for the billionth time, my mom for the first!). A little after 6pm we headed to the Hard Rock Hotel Saturday to pick up my packet and wait for the buses that were leaving at 8:45pm for the start. In the meantime we figured we could get a bite to eat at the hotel, but it turns out the Hard Rock doesn't cater to vegetarian pre-marathon food...who would've thought? So I ended up eating a muffin and yogurt from Starbuck's for my pre-race meal : / That's one of the tricky things about a night marathon is figuring out how to eat leading up to it!

Around 8:30pm they started loading the buses. Some were designated "quiet" so my mom and I made a beeline for one of those...not that I was really going to sleep at that point but I could do with some relaxing. Well it was just my luck that two young girls sat behind us and yapped the entire bus ride! I can't even tell you how obnoxious they were. Apparently they were signed up to walk the 10k but had no idea how long that was! Needless to say I was ready to get off that bus and run as far away from those girls as possible!
Mom and I on the bus!
After about 2.5 hours the bus rolled to a stop literally in the middle of nowhere! The start was to take place at the "black" mailbox, one of the only landmarks for miles in the mysterious Area 51. Ironically, the mailbox is actually white : ) Anyway, all the marathoners and 51kers unloaded while those doing the half or 10k were bussed further along the course to their starting point. All the runners were decked out in glow necklaces, many also wearing reflective vests and headlamps. It made for an odd effect in the dark night! As it got closer to midnight everyone gathered around the race director, Joyce, and on her word we were off!
The "black" mailbox
 Floating necklaces  : )
 Green and glowing!

The course was a straight shot on the open highway, known as the Extraterrestrial Highway. The first few miles felt invigorating in the cool night air and I felt full of energy. My eyes adjusted quickly to the dark and the flashes of light or the glow of a necklace that was a fellow runner. Despite the near full moon it was still pretty dark, so I was grateful I had my headlamp. As I mentioned before, the first half of the course was all uphill. And I don't mean rolling hills or net uphill, I mean constant incline with no flats. The elevation started around 4600' and rose to almost 6000' at the halfway point. The elevation affected me immediately; although I felt strong in the beginning, looking down at my Garmin there was a huge discretion between my actual pace and my perceived effort. As the incline increased my pace gradually decreased and I started to feel like I couldn't catch my breath. I managed to keep running til about mile 8, then took short walk breaks during the next few miles.
We runners were hard to miss with our reflective gear!

Around mile 11.5, however, running just wasn't going to happen. I actually felt dizzy and for the first time the thought of a DNF flashed through my mind - after all I still had more than halfway to go! The incline had reached it's steepest (I think it was a mountain pass) and everyone around me walked the next 1.5 miles to the top. I think this is the first race I've seen so many capable runners walking! Just after the halfway point we finally crested the hill and were treated (mercifully) to a nice, gradual decline for the next 7 miles.

At this point I started slowly running again, being cautious because of how I felt, but the downhill seemed to do the trick! The elevation was still high but I know longer had to work so hard and had gravity in my favor : ) The next few miles seemed to go by really fast - in fact, looking back, the whole race seemed to go by quite fast! I found myself mostly alone for long stretches, only occasionally seeing another light up ahead or approaching from behind. Around mile 15 we started to be passed by buses roaring by with all the 10k finishers...I have to admit I was a little jealous, I really wanted to be done! I had a song playing on repeat on my iPod that got me through this stretch of empty highway. You couldn't see too much of the landscape because it was dark, but you could see the silhouette of the mountains on either side and the stars! Oh, the stars! It was a glittering wonder to run beneath : ) I even spotted a couple brief streaks of brilliant light as a shooting star shot past and disappeared into the night.

Around mile 18 I got a killer side cramp and just focused hard on my breathing and getting to the aid station at mile 20 where my mom was stationed. One of the tactics I use during a marathon is breaking the race into a 20 miler and a 10k. I know I can do 20 miles, so I just focus on getting to that point, then it's just a 10k to the finish. This race was no different, however mile 20 also happened to be the finish which we had to pass and do a 5k out-and-back to get the final 6.2 miles. I stopped briefly at the aid station to say hi, but had to keep going, more for the mental sake.

At this point I noticed a woman that kept leap frogging with me and with just a few words began running together. Having someone to run with those last miles gave me some much needed motivation to keep moving. The first 5k were on another incline, but at every mile marker I allowed myself a short walk break. I should also note here that according to my Garmin the course was short - I hit the mile markers about .15 before my Garmin did. Anyway, I finally reached to turnaround, gave my number to a volunteer, and headed back the way I'd come. Unfortunately you could see the lights at the finish in the little town of Rachel in the distance, and yet they never seemed to be getting any closer!
Our marathon course, the infamous E.T. Highway.

Around mile 24 the sun slowly began to rise, giving us an amazing view of the surrounding desert and mountains. It hit me right then that I had actually run straight through the night! Although my body surprisingly didn't hurt as much as usual this late in a marathon, I desperately wanted to be done so I kicked it up a notch and finally found myself turning off the highway toward the finish line! I crossed in 5:28:18, at 5:28am : ) Not my fastest time by a long shot but considering the circumstances I was quite pleased!
The first sign of light.
The final stretch.
Desert sunrise : )

The finish line was at a small place called the Little A'le' Inn (haha, get it?) in Rachel, NV, that serves as an alien-inspired tourist stop. The Inn provided breakfast for all the runners, but per usual I couldn't even think about food right after running so long. Instead I ordered a beer, which sounded fantastic at the time! I did, however, have the good sense to grab a plate of eggs and pancakes to take for later. My mom and I stuck around for a bit taking pictures, but as soon as the next bus was ready to head back to Vegas we jumped! On the ride back I managed to sleep a bit, but felt like an absolute zombie. My eyes felt swollen and bloodshot and all I wanted to do was shower and sleep.
The end of 26.2
The Little A'Le' Inn
My little town : )
Views like this almost make the desert seem nice...

We finally made it back at our hotel around 9:30am and after cleaning up I passed out for several hours! It's weird but the race totally through off my sense of time for the rest of the weekend! When my mom and I finally woke up hours later, we got ready and headed to a Vegas "must", a buffet : ) I was starving and was ready to inhale my food, but to my immense disappointment I got through half my plate before feeling sick : / I think it was one of those things where you don't eat for so long and get so hungry that your stomach sort of "shrinks"! After dinner I was too tired to do much else so my mom and I headed back up to our room to relax and read more Harry Potter : ) Turns out my hunger came back later that night so a room service quesadilla was ordered!
My unconquered post-marathon feast : (

After getting lunch Monday afternoon we headed back to the airport to come home. It was a scorching 108 degrees so I was not sad to be leaving Vegas. The weird thing is that I was barely sore! I seriously didn't even feel like I'd run more than 10 miles the day before. I thought maybe it would kick in the next day but I've felt fine ever since! Try explaining that one to me... Like I said, it was an interesting and extremely unique experience. I got to do something most people will never do, finished another marathon, qualified for the Marathon Maniacs (3rd marathon in 3 months) and can cross another state off my quest for 50. All in all, not a bad weekend at all. Only downside? No UFO sightings!
Mysterious marathon no. 6 complete!


  1. Great report and awesome photos! Sounds like you had a great experience. What a zany event!

  2. Congratulations on another marathon completed. I might have to put this one on my “to do” list.

    All the best,


  3. Great report..looking forward to running it this weekend....hope to see some aliens