Runners and authorities show resolve at Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon

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Steve Marcus

Canadian runners take a selfie at the “Welcome to Las Vegas ” sign during the 2017 Geico Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon on the Las Vegas Strip Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. From left: Jenny Wong, Jill Carter, Trudy Coombs, and Sandra Clarke.

Sun, Nov 19, 2017 (2 a.m.)

Linda Moren held her hands to her face as she crossed the finish line of the half-marathon on the Strip. After having a medal placed around her neck and clearing another quarter-mile of food and drink handouts, the Henderson resident crouched down and briefly wept.

“I still can’t believe he’s gone,” Moren said, pointing to a special marathon bib that read “in memory of” on top, the name “Quinton Robbins,” written in thick black permanent marker below it. “He was as sharp and had as promising of a future as any kid I’ve ever met.”

Moren, 62, was among an estimated 40,000 runners to flood Las Vegas Boulevard for the annual Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon and half-marathon, which returned to the valley this month for a sixth consecutive year. This year’s run was the first major outdoor event on the Strip since the Oct. 1 mass shooting.

Instead of being blasted with live music, runners raced in silence for the first 2.5 miles of the course as a tribute to the 58 victims who lost their lives at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. Among the usual array of neon T-shirts, team uniforms and colorful sneakers was a force of runners wearing bright yellow “Vegas Strong” tees issued by event organizers. Others, like Moren, wore special bibs on their shorts, backs or torsos to commemorate victims. She said Robbins was a family friend.

Carlos Ramirez, 33, frequently travels to Las Vegas for conventions related to construction and welding. But he said he made his fifth trip to the valley this year for his first marathon after his father did of lung cancer in February.

Ramirez crossed the finish line, near Caesars Palace, in full stride with “in memory of Hernan Ramirez” pinned near his right shoulder.

“It’s a way to remind everyone that we’re not just here for ourselves,” he said, echoing the sentiment of so many runners making statements on the course.

Esther Reincke competed in memory of her running buddy and former colleague Cameron Robinson, a 28-year-old employee of the city of Las Vegas who was killed in the mass shooting. Reincke, 60, who works as the city’s special events planner, recalled the bright orange and green outfit Robinson often wore when the two ran together. Reincke embodied the spirit of many runners and Las Vegas leaders in saying their drive for “living their lives to the fullest” would not be deterred by the actions of a “coward.”

With the city’s convention business, professional sports market and outdoor event portfolio continuing to grow, that mindset will be “paramount” in helping the city heal, said Metro Police Captain Andy Walsh.

“Las Vegas is about big events; that’s what we do here,” Walsh said. “We’re filling in gaps and we’re moving forward.”

STEPPED-UP SAFETY

Given the gravity surrounding the first big event on the Strip in the shooting’s aftermath, authorities devoted themselves to ensuring the success of the two-day race, which featured a 5K on Saturday and a 10K on Sunday before the half- and full marathons.

More than 200 Metro Police officers were deployed for Saturday’s 5K, and police presence increased to 350 by the start of the full marathon Sunday, Walsh said. That was nearly double the usual staffing for the event. Metro also deployed its recently debuted $9.6 million helicopter to monitor the event. Normally used for complex search-and-rescue missions, the helicopter is used only for patrol during “significant” events, police said during an August media event.

Among other increased security measures on the day were police snipers with long-range weapons. Empty Regional Transportation Commission buses and other vehicles — both from public agencies and private businesses — lined up on intersections of the boulevard to create barriers preventing other vehicles from entering the race course.

The marathon start line was moved a mile north to New York-New York from the planned start in front of Mandalay Bay, given that property’s involvement in the tragedy. And the marathon’s annual concert, performed this year by the Goo Goo Dolls, was staged earlier than normal and moved from the site of the mass shooting to the Las Vegas Festival Grounds across from SLS Las Vegas on the north Strip.

“More than anything, we just want everybody to be safe,” Walsh said during a Nov. 9 press conference ahead of the marathon.

Police already have initiated stronger security measures for upcoming outdoor events on the Strip, Walsh added, including New Year’s Eve.

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