Monday, Dec. 3, 2012 | 4:01 p.m.
2012 Opportunity Village Magical Forest
The runners came not only in all shapes and sizes, but also in different outfits ranging from Santa Claus to superheroes to Elvis Presley -- and one in just a multicolored feathered headdress and brown loincloth.
It’s sometimes called “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner,” but in the Entertainment Capital of the World, it’s one long, nonstop party where everybody joins in for the fun.
This was the weekend of runners, walkers and even couples who wanted to get married or renew their vows. It was another “only in Las Vegas” 48 hours of racing events.
Over at Town Square, our beloved charity Opportunity Village held its ninth annual Great Santa Run on Saturday morning. The Strip shut down Sunday for 32,000 runners from 50 states and 52 countries in the Zappos.com Las Vegas Marathon and Half-Marathon. Kenyan John Ndambuki won first place with a time of 2:32:24.
On the red carpet for the 26.2-mile marathon and half-marathon, for the first time from dusk to dark, were several celebrities: Nikki Reed (“Twilight”) and Paul McDonald (“American Idol”), Sean Lowe (“The Bachelor”), Kate Gosselin (“Jon & Kate Plus 8”) and Nicole Sullivan (“Cougar Town”).
Cirque du Soleil casts from “Ka” at MGM Grand and “The Beatles Love” at the Mirage were among the entertainers who joined bands playing at 1-mile intervals along the course, which took runners for the first time along downtown’s Fremont Street Experience, where Sick Puppies entertained as part of Zappos’ pre-marathon party Friday night.
A day before, Mirage headliner Terry Fator and his wife Taylor Makakoa served as grand marshals at the Great Santa Run. I was there with Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Sami Eskelin and James Davis of Chippendales at the Rio (James is currently competing in “The Amazing Race” with cast mate Jaymes Vaughan), while Luxor headliners the Jabbawockeez and “Fantasy” singer Lorena Peril and her gorgeous dancers entertained.
“Jersey Boys” at the Paris star Jeff Leibow sang the national anthem, and four sky-riding Santas parachuted safely into the crowd to join the run. The cast of the new 1980s musical “Legwarmers” at Planet Hollywood also was on hand with gorgeous champagne showgirls.
The Great Santa Run is one of the two big Opportunity Village fundraisers. The Magical Forest, now open at its campus with more than 1 million lights, is the other annual fundraiser. Our thanks to Christopher Rauschnot at 24kMedia on Twitter for his video of the Magical Forest opening posted on YouTube.
The Santa turnout just about hit 10,000 as of this morning’s count. We’re still waiting on the Marathon Expo registrations, but with 9,669, that means we defeated our competitor Liverpool, England. Opportunity Village also eclipsed Santa charity runs in Texas, Wisconsin, British Columbia, Ireland and Tasmania, Australia. One remaining competitor, Osaka, Japan, has to announce its final numbers before we can reclaim the Guinness World Record of Most Santas in One Place.
Opportunity Village volunteers are already busy planning special features for next year’s 10th anniversary.
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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