I knew the E.T. Midnight marathon was going to be a great race the minute I read the e-mail from Colleen. Not only is the starting time at midnight, but it is staged out in the remote desert on the border of the notorious Area 51. This area, for those who haven’t heard the rumors, is a highly classified military testing ground. There have been so many UFO sightings that the road that runs close by is named the Extraterrestrial Highway… and that narrow road was the one the race was run on.
We stayed in Las Vegas. which, between the gambling, all you can eat buffets and (worse) the all you can drink buffets, was probably not an ideal pre-race place to stay. Saturday night we boarded buses for the 2.5 hour drive to the start. The starting line was at the Black Mailbox (which surprisingly was white) and to our great relief, the temperature was in the lower 70s. We were all given glow necklaces when we got off the bus. I looked around to see eerie groups of glowing green halos moving in the darkness. Laura, Todd Fanady and I added our own glow bracelets and assorted butt lights and pins. There were quite a few people in alien costumes.
Promptly at midnight we took off. The moon was full and so bright I did not use my headlamp. Not only could I see the white line of the road, I even had a moon shadow. It was incredible. There was a pretty fierce wind which started getting cold when we hit the hill at mile 6 (which was where the half marathon started). We climbed about 1,000 ft to Coyote Pass at 5,500 ft. At mile 13, we started the downhill. It was right about there that I saw my first shooting star. (I saw another later on while Todd claimed a total of 7.) I missed Colleen in the dark but she called out to me as I passed. I talked to her a bit while admiring her incredibly bright head lamp. A little later I saw Rich cruising along at a good pace.
The next couple of miles were just amazing. You feel really alone when you can’t see anyone or any lights anywhere you look. Running in the dark at a time that you are normally asleep (unless you are Zack, then you are probably still out drinking) is an incredible feeling. At mile 17, I started seeing the lights from Rachel (pop. 80) and then at mile 20, the half marathoners turned off to the finish line. We continued on with the sounds of the ‘big’ city fading for another 3 miles. Then we too turned around and headed back.
I got back to Rachel and left the road for the final 100 feet. They had 3 buses with their headlamps on to illuminate the finish line. After the darkness, it was blinding and I couldn’t see a thing. I ran until I felt the chip mat under my feet and then stopped, just short of plowing into the race organizers. After I turned from the lights, I realized I still could not see very well. My eyes were completely messed up and everything was blurry. I kept bumping into things. So I sat down for about 30 minites and my eyes started getting better. Strange.
While I waited for Laura to come in, I watched some kid poke at a scorpion. (“Wow he looks mad”. Yeah, I wonder why…) Laura flew in and took first in her age (4:25). Todd was abducted by aliens, but managed to escape and finish in 5:30.
The finish was at the Little Ale’Inn (clever, huh?). They provided breakfast and every kind of alien souvenir you could ever want to buy. We took the 7:00am bus back to Vegas and were in the hot tub with a cold beer before 11:00am. Rich and Colleen hit the finish line and immediately jumped on the bus. According to rumors, her stomach was not happy with the bumpy ride back.
I would strongly recommend this race. It was well- run; there were aid stations every 3 -4 miles. It is really more like an adventure, than just a race.