Everybody, including celebrities, was on the run over the weekend in Las Vegas. There were stars at the Great Santa Run for Opportunity Village’s attempt to wrest back the Guinness World Record; “Dancing With the Stars” host Brooke Burke-Charvet hosted the first Stiletto Dash through the Palazzo; and “Kate Plus 8” star Kate Gosselin turned up for yesterday’s marathon with a message on her T-shirt.
Lookalike redheads model Angie Everhart and former “Fantasy” headliner Angelica Bridges added to the glitz and glamour of the first nighttime marathon. A record 44,000 runners took part in the Zappos.com Las Vegas Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon, and the sheer volume took them 1-hour just to cross the starting line.
Despite this year’s cutoff, marathon officials say that they’ll let it increase next year to 50,000 to 60,000 competitors, making it the world’s largest nighttime race. This year, Las Vegas placed third behind New York and Chicago in marathon attendance. Kenyan Peter Omae, who lives in Texas, won in 2 hrs 29 min. Hungarian Zsofia Erdelyi, who could barely walk after the run, won the women's title in 2 hrs 48 min.
Once again, it was a magnificent marathon with the expected Elvis Presley-garbed runners, and more than 100 couples exchanged vows at the run-through chapel outside the Mirage volcano in a 3-minute ceremony officiated by the Running Reverend. Couples came from all over the country, with one twosome, Doug Kurth and Kimberly Fryatt, from Las Vegas.
Anthony Smith and Samantha Vu became engaged this year on the Grammy red carpet. After winning a contest for a Venetian stay, they decided that the Run-Thru Wedding Ceremony was the way to wed. Kristine Cain and John Altiere were old friends who reconnected through Facebook. They started running together -- and dating. In 2009, Kris was diagnosed with breast cancer, and John supported her through recovery. This race marked their second half-marathon together.
Thanks to contributing photographers Scott Harrison and Glenn Pinkerton of Las Vegas News Bureau for the chilly shots. Glenn also was on duty at the Great Santa Run as our beloved Opportunity Village sought to win back the Guinness World Record. It’s official! Las Vegas won this year’s World Santa Challenge Guinness Record with 8,123 participants, beating second-place Liverpool, England, at 7,326. The overall world record was set in 2007 in Derry, Ireland, with 12,965 participants.
Linda Smith, chief development officer and associate executive director of Opportunity Village, said: “This year’s Great Santa Run broke records in many ways. It was visually spectacular with world record-setting numbers, but most importantly, it will have an incredible impact on the lives of people with disabilities served at Opportunity Village.”
Among the celebrities taking part were Madame Mayor Carolyn Goodman; grand marshal Terry Fator from the Mirage with wife Taylor Makakoa and pet Alsatian Rebel; the “Fantasy” glamour girls from the Luxor with headliner Lorena Peril, who performed the national anthem; Jabbawockeez from Monte Carlo; Recycled Percussion from Tropicana; Red Rock Resort star Zowie Bowie; and yours truly as honorary chairman. Santa-clad Terry and Taylor led a 1-mile walk.
As far as the eyes could see, it was nothing but Santa-suited runners, and on cue before the race, five more parachuted from a helicopter. More incredible was that in Afghanistan, 500 men and women of the Army National Guard with Las Vegas connections had their own Santa Run in the war zone, and thanks to technology, a video of their race was played during the festivities here at Town Square.
TV beauty Brooke joined hundreds of runners as they strapped on high heels and ran a 50-yard red carpet also to benefit Opportunity Village at the first-ever Rock ’n’ Roll Las Vegas Stiletto Dash from the lobby of the Palazzo past the slot machines and gaming tables into the casino.
Hundreds of spectators packed the casino floor to cheer on several hundred runners decked out in fabulous fashion-questionable outfits, but they did complement the heels. The staggering and unexpected number of entries forced multiple heats, including a men’s round, plus a celebrity event won by Olympian Suzy Hamilton.
First-place winner Melissa Sanders, a Las Vegas third-grade teacher, received a $5,000 purse, a gift certificate to Canyon Ranch SpaClub and other prizes. The event benefited Opportunity Village and Operation Smile. Each runner received a gift bag and an invitation to a post-dash party at Chef Sammy Demarco’s First Food & Bar.
With the three events, Las Vegas traffic came to a halt, especially for the 9 hours that the Strip was closed, but everybody agreed without exception that it was a success for Sin City, with officials estimating that it brought in more than $60 million in revenue for our tourism industry. Next year, even more!
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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