Monday, December 8, 2008

Running with the Elvi: Barefoot Elvis runs Vegas

In December of 2005 I ran my first barefoot marathon in Las Vegas. At mile 18 someone just behind me yelled :

"So here's the deal.... you can have the shoes but you got to take the suit with them."

I turned around to see a tall fellow splendidly attired in a white sequined Elvis-Style jumpsuit, big gaudy sunglasses and a greaser wig that stood a good 8 inches above his head. Behind him were 30-40 similarly attired runners led by a guy pushing a baby-carriage holding a boombox playing nuttin-but-Elvis. Staring at my feet he claimed I was weird.

I ran with this troupe for about 6 miles and had a blast chatting with Japanese Elvis, Big-Butt Elvis, Pregnant Elvis and assorted other carictures of the Elvis legend. So when I convinced my wife, Oki, to go with me to Elvis to do Vegas again this year I contacted the Elvis Troupe at and talked myself into running as Barefoot Elvis. It helped that my employer, Garmin, was a sponsor of the marathon and I thought that I could do them proud dressed in drag as the King of Rock.

Brenda, the Elvis Wrangler, told me how to get an Elvis suit and within days I was training on my treadmill wearing the Elvis Suit and wig. Wearing the suit made me think of Jim Carrey wearing the Mask: Somebody Stop me!!. I wanted to take a practice run throughout the neighborhood but never did: I thought I might get picked up as a potential Sexual Predator.

By marathon day the Elvis website indicated we were up to 178 Elvi. I was looking forward to meeting my colleagues in comedy. An hour before the start we were to mass at the Food Court of the Mandalay Bay. Oki and I were staying down the street at the Excalibur and I was not looking forward to walking through the casino at 4 in the morning dressed as the king. My fears ere justified when on the way to the Tram a drunk in front of the Santa Claus throne at the Excalibur caught eye of me while holding a pitcher of Bud yelled out "Here comes the King" and insisted I take up my rightful spot on the Santa Claus throne. Oki and I sped off to catch the Tram instead.

It was not hard to find 178 Elvis in the food court. No two of them looked alike. BareButt Elvis remains a personal favorite as is SuperElvis: Elvis running a marathon would be nothing without some showgirls running alongside and the 2008 LV Marathon was no exception:

I introduced myself to the sinister ConeHead Elvi . It was never really clear which planet they were from nor why they dressed as if they were impersonating Roy Orbison. We would later pause at mile 5 to have our photo taken together. I am the funny looking one in the middle.

After mingling for photos and introductions the 178 Elvi, showgirls and Elvis Accessories were led out the Mandalay Bay to our own special Elvi Starting Corral, just next to the Elite runners. I could see the designated Ethiopian winner looking over at us; I'm sure he will run with us next year.

Our group was led by the very fellow who had yelled at me back in 2005. He had upgraded the baby carriage to a true running cart on which he had a new, louder boombox, a wedding cake and a giant photo of his favorite about-to-be-married couple at mile 5: more on this shortly.
When the organizers first toured the proposed course in 2005 the director noticed a small wedding chapel at mile 5, just where the course turns to the right. Jokingly he proposed having a Run-Through wedding chapel where couples could volunteer beforehand to either get legally married or renew their vows. When the Running-of-the-Elvi came about the 2 events came together and the Elvi became the official witnesses to the Mile 5 wedding.

Since Elvi run at different pace(s) and some hardly run at all it took 30-40 minutes of downtime waiting for Elvi and couples to show up for the ceremony. Elvi entertained themselves greeting the other strangely attired runners running by the Chapel.

Finally after greeting 5-6000 other runners the couples were all in and the ceremony began. More than one Elvis shed a tear or two at the moving ceremony on the side of the road as marathoners streamed past yelling "THE KING".

It was difficult but I managed to keep my Elvis glasses from fogging up.

After 40 minutes the wedding was over, family and friends left in taxis, the Elvi and freshly-bonded couples left in mass. One couple had put "Just Married" signs on their rears and had tied empty water bottles on strings and were now dragging the bottles as they ran. Barefoot Elvis had one couple pause and take a memory photo with BE. They look so cute and happy together. I had heard that in past LV marathons couples were seen as separated by mile 15 with each cursing the other for being so slow or so fast and unthoughtful. I think they should have a divorce court at mile 18 to undo the damage done at mile 5.

By the cutoff point for the half marathon I could no longer hear Viva Las Vegas booming from the lead Elvi's musical carriage. I slowed down to have the troupe catch up but they never did. By mile 15 I had not seen another Elvi for some 5 miles and was starting to get lonely. Then I ran into BurgerKing Elvis and he told me that 95% of the Elvi were only doing the 1/2 and that they were long gone.
I had wondered how most of them were going to do a full.
The lead Elvis had intoduced the Troupe to the official Elvis energy drink at the Starting Corral; breaking open a 24 pack of Bud Light. It was gone by the Wedding Chapel.

I ended up running most of the remaining marathon with BK Elvis. BK had a good sense of humor so we worked the crowd and volunteers with Elvis Schtick. Whenever we saw an owner with a dog on a corner, for example, we would break into a chorus of "You aint nothing but a HoundDog". Once the owner yelled back to us that the dog was deaf.

At mile 21 BK had to take a potty and due to the complexity of the outfit it was going to take some time to do this. He suggested I go on and I did.
At mile 23 I ran into Pearl Harbor Elvis. Race Day just happened to fall onPearl Harbor Day and my little Latino friend had decided to embrace the day with an Elvis Flavor. I ran with PH for a mile or so than let him sprint alone to the finish with his customary salute to the crowd. Later I would hook up with him at the hotel and insisted having my picture taken with this truely patriotic Elvis.

After 5 hours and 1 minute of running I crossed the finish line with the PA system announcing the arrival of Barefoot Elvis. It appeared that less than 10 of the 178 Elvi had done the full. This had been, by far, the marathon with the most fun of the 24 marathons I have run. With temps in the 40s the outfit nor the wig was not a problem; in fact it was comfortable. BE is already planning to run the Marine Marathon again as the Barefoot Flash, one of the many super heroes that will be running that pre-Halloween event.

To the Elvi organizer, Brenda Elvis Wrangler, I liked to say one final "Thank you, Thank you very much!"

Link to nice video of the race containing Barefoot ELvis crossing the finish line