Las Vegas Sun

November 16, 2018

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Las Vegan has gotten serious mileage out of a one-time hobby

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Steve Marcus

Marathon runner marathon runner Christina Vergara Aleshire poses in the Las Vegas Sun studio Saturday, April 14, 2018.

Christina Vergara Aleshire remembers training for her first marathon. It wasn’t exactly a high-tech affair.

A lifelong runner, the UNLV grad began extending her weekend sessions in 2010, strictly out of curiosity. When she realized she was capable of pushing herself to 15 miles and beyond in relative comfort, she signed up for that year’s Las Vegas Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon almost on a whim.

Aleshire’s training for the event—her first organized race of any kind —consisted of walking out the front door of her Henderson home and running up and down Boulder Highway for hours at a time. She would run 16 miles, or 12 miles, or 20 miles, whatever she felt like that day. When she got thirsty or hungry, she’d simply stop at a convenience store to refuel.

“I just kind of pieced it together,” she says about her low-tech operation. “I searched online. My father-in-law gave me a book, and I read that. I would run during the week, and I just started adding a mile or two on weekends until I got up to 20. I wasn’t thinking about speed work or tempo runs or any kind of structure.”

Her novice approach paid off when she completed the Las Vegas Marathon with a surprisingly competitive time of 3 hours, 30 minutes, 44 seconds, which placed her 54th among the 2,141 female runners (and just 45 minutes behind the winner).

Aleshire had to ask herself the obvious question: If she was that competitive winging it, how fast might she go if she fully devoted herself to distance running? To learn the answer, she has refined her methods in the eight years since she typed “marathon training” into an internet search engine. Her current plan involves a personal running coach, meticulously planned practice runs, sophisticated data and all the modern resources that go into making a top-flight marathoner.

And Aleshire is seeing results. On March 18, she finished as the top American woman at the Los Angeles Marathon—fourth overall—with a time of 2:34:24. Overtaking a final American down the stretch was a pinnacle moment for someone who considered herself a “fun runner” not long ago.

“I got a surge of energy,” Aleshire says. “There were a lot of people in the crowd cheering me on. I saw another girl ahead of me not too far, so I said, ‘Let’s see if I can pass her.’ I was gaining on her for a couple miles, and with four or five miles left, I started increasing my pace. I didn’t pass her until the very last bit, but I just put it all out there.”

The sport might have lost some of its DIY charm since her naïve debut, but Aleshire remains focused on running as far as she can, as fast as she can. Does she miss the old days? Sure. But she’s just fine running at the front of the pack.

“It was more of an adventure back then,” she says. “Now I have a coach and they provide me with a schedule and workouts, and they give me guidance on what other races I should do, how I should approach competitions. It’s a totally different world now, because I’m more serious about it. I want to get better and improve my times and be in the elite field. So, absolutely, I’m glad I’m doing it.”

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.