Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008 | 9:16 p.m.
Not only did injured illusionist Roy Horn defy his doctor’s orders twice, but he also doubled the distance he walked during the last year in today’s Great Santa Run in downtown Las Vegas.
About 6,000 Santa-suited volunteers cheered Siegfried & Roy when they walked on stage at the Fremont Street Experience Saturday morning. I was told that they almost didn’t even make it to the event today.
Late Thursday, Roy was feeling ill, and his doctor said he was suffering from flu and chest congestion. As a safety precaution, the doctor ordered Roy to cancel his appearance and definitely not even attempt to sap his strength by walking in the one-mile stroll.
Last night, Roy overruled his doctor’s orders and said he couldn’t disappoint the Santa teams. At 9.30 a.m. today, Roy showed up at the Opportunity Village fundraiser. After listening to Red Rock singing duo Zowie Bowie perform and Mayor Oscar Goodman wish the runners and walkers good luck, Siegfried & Roy welcomed Santa Claus.
They then perched on the rear seats of a Bentley convertible and led the procession of runners through the Fremont Street Experience to the starting line. But even before they reached it, Roy ordered the driver to stop -- and then he got out of the car and said he was walking the rest of the way.
At the starting line, as Opportunity Village President Linda Smith led the countdown, Roy jumped the gun, sounded the siren and announced at 10:15 a.m. that he was going to fulfill his goal of a one-mile walk without his support cane. Then he turned to me and said: “You’re coming with me -- the entire way!”
So off we went! Somehow we missed the turn at the half-mile mark and we continued on down the marked 5K run. Only when three Metro motorcycle officers wondered why we were going the long way did we realize we’d overshot the turn. Roy was too busy cracking jokes, posing for photos with fans and signing autographs — even for babies — to notice.
The strength and stamina of Roy is incredibly amazing. Remember that after the tiger accident, he was in a wheelchair unable to walk. Three years ago, he began slowly to walk again (for Roy's first interview with Las Vegas media after the incident, click HERE for this story from October 2005, which was in the first edition of the new morning Las Vegas Sun). Last year he walked one mile in the Great Santa Run challenge. Not only did he not use his cane at all this year, just leaning on his partner Siegfried’s shoulder, but also many times he simply walked completely by himself.
You can call it a miracle — and it is — but it’s also his extraordinary determination and decision to be an inspiration to others about achieving success against all the odds.
It seemed to me that he got better as the crowds cheered him on for support. He told me at the beginning of the day that he just wasn’t his usual sparkly self — but as we walked to the finish line, he laughingly told me, “I’m feeling fabulous! Who cares what doctors say?!”
He managed to even double his stride — almost in a glide — for the last 100 yards, completely by himself. In all, two miles in one hour, 54 minutes.
Said Roy: “I couldn’t disappoint everybody and not show up. So I decided to ignore what the doctor said and showed up anyway. Then once I was here, why not go for it? I’d been training for this, working out, going to the gym.
“It was my dream to do better than last year. So this year we doubled the distance accidentally, but I walked the course without using my cane once. I’m very pleased we did it.”
The Las Vegas Great Santa Run was part of a contest involving similar Santa gatherings in Liverpool, England; Tasmania, New Zealand, and a county in Ireland to claim the title of “World’s Largest Gathering of Santa Clauses” for the Guinness Book of Records. We’ll know later in the week the official Las Vegas registered entry number and also the counts from the other three global cities to see how we fared.
This coming week, Siegfried & Roy will bring a party of friends and fan club members up to the Magical Forest at Opportunity Village. It’s one of the largest holiday lighting and Christmas decorations displays west of the Mississippi and the biggest fund-raising event of the year for our local charity that cares for more than 900 mentally challenged adults.