Sometimes when Sarah Pagano competes in distance races, she gets lonely.
It makes sense. A successful long distance runner who represented Team USA at the Pan American Games in 2019, she is often ahead of the pack, even among her elite-level competitors.
Sunday was no exception, as Pagano became the women’s division winner of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Series Las Vegas Half Marathon.
But the 31-year-old said the joyous environment, paired with the picturesque setting of the Strip, meant she never felt as if she was on her own.
“It was way more lively than a lot of other races I’ve done,” Pagano said. “A lot of people on the course, a lot of lights and everything, music, which was cool.”
Pagano, who lives in San Diego, was one of about 16,000 runners who competed in the Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathon. They were joined by about 5,000 runners who participated in the 10-kilometer race, which ran simultaneously with the half-marathon.
Trevor Hofbauer, 30, of Kelowna, British Columbia, won the men’s half-marathon. Juan Gonzalez, 31, of Envigado, Columbia, won the men’s 10K, and 17-year-old Izzy Frost, of Rolla, Missouri, was the women’s 10K winner.
Official times were not available for any of the races.
“It was good,” said Hofbauer, who represented Canada at the Tokyo Olympics. “It was windy for the first little bit there, but when we came back to the Strip, it was gorgeous, had good energy out here. It was a lot of fun.”
The half-marathon started heading south down Las Vegas Boulevard across from the Waldorf Astoria. Participants turned around at the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, then ran north to Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas before running back south and crossing the finish line in front of The Mirage.
Participants running the 10K turned around near Spring Mountain Road instead of going to Downtown Las Vegas.
While the elite runners might have set the pace, other participants helped create the atmosphere. Tutus of every color were on display, while others dressed up as superheroes or wore their favorite sports uniforms.
One participant wore a banana costume, only to be outdone by someone who dressed up as the Eiffel Tower.
“It’s fun,” Hofbauer said. “It keeps your mind off things, right? Like you start to hurt throughout the race, so to have things to keep your mind off how the body’s feeling goes a long way.”
Pagano and Hofbauer were first-time participants at the Las Vegas event, but said it compared well with other Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series races they have run.
Hofbauer said he entered the race wanting to win. He took an early lead, but was passed by two runners entering the final stretch. Hofbauer regained the lead on the subtle uphill section from Downtown Las Vegas to the finish line.
Pagano’s strategy simply came down to effort, but she made sure to save some energy for the finish, knowing they were running into the wind down the final stretch.
“I just tried to run my own race,” she said.