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Going the
Distance, Part 2

Going the
Distance, Part 2


The second installment by The Advocate's resident marathoner, Shawnn Slaughter, details the oddities and exhilarations of running a half marathon on the Las Vegas Strip.

I did it. On December 2 I ran the Las Vegas Half Marathon! Two days prior a Las Vegas television station, KLAS, interviewed me about running it and living with HIV. The station did a wonderful job and even interviewed my mother for a perspective from a parent who has an adult child with HIV. Part of why I do this is because I get to play poster boy, which I thoroughly enjoy.

The morning of the marathon I awoke at 3:30 a.m. and proceeded to lube up with Bodyglide, a type of ChapStick for the body. This is necessary to prevent chafing, especially between the thighs and on the nipples, since there is a common condition that we male runners simply call "bloody nipples." (Some men may like this sort of pain. I don't.) I then dressed in my running tights, shirt, and sparkly shorts, all in red. I also wore red sweatpants, which I shed just before the start.

My father was gracious enough to drive me to the starting line at Mandalay Bay hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. There were over 17,000 runners that morning. The temperature was in the 30s, but there was no wind and the sky was clear. A record number of Elvises were running, and 54 couples were getting married in the run-through wedding chapel on the course. I'm unaware if any same- sex couples were married; however, I did see a man running in a wedding gown.

The race started at 6 a.m. complete with fireworks and an Elvis impersonator singing "Viva Las Vegas." As I made my way down the strip, recording everything with my small video camera, it was most electrifying to be in the middle of it all. There were several entertainment stages and other festivities throughout the route, most notably the Blue Man Group. I had a large name tag on my chest along with my website URL,, so people on the sidelines could cheer me on. My all-red outfit also provoked cheers of "Go red devil!" and "Diablo!"

I met and spoke with a number of interesting people on the course, sharing my experience about training with the National AIDS Marathon Training Program for March's Los Angeles Marathon with runners from San Francisco and Chicago. It was delightful to see others who were doing the same thing I'm doing -- raising money for AIDS service organizations. I'm fund-raising for AIDS Project Los Angeles, a nonprofit organization that, among other things, provides essential services to people living with HIV.

As I approached the final mile I began to feel a shin splint in my left leg. This is an uncomfortable injury to the muscle attached to the shin; luckily, the discomfort was minor. Around that point I passed a table of people who were handing out beer -- it wasn't even 9:30 a.m.! I declined their generous offer and pushed forward to the final stretch. My time at the finish line was 3 hours, 5 minutes, 47 seconds, putting me at a pace of about 14 minutes per mile. Not my personal best, but I was not in it for time; I was in it for the challenge and endurance. This was simply a practice marathon for the 26.2 miles I will run in Los Angeles in three months. I felt immensely proud and elated to be a part of the Las Vegas event for the second year in a row. I also received an awesome medal depicting the world-famous Las Vegas sign and two running shoes.

Now it's time to slow down. Three weeks before Las Vegas I injured myself (not seriously). I had what is called iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS). The iliotibial (IT) band is a muscle band that begins at the hip, extending to the outer side of the shinbone (tibia) just below the knee joint. ITBS is an irritation to that band, usually occurring at the outside of the knee joint. When inflamed, the IT band can become excruciatingly painful. ITBS has many causes, such as running on a banked surface, inadequate stretching, running too fast, or simply overdoing it, all of which I did. Remedies include icing the area, proper stretching, and anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen. I previously experienced ITBS in both legs when training for the San Francisco Marathon. It was almost debilitating. My legs felt like uncooked macaroni, and I was walking bowlegged.

Fortunately, stretching and using an occupational therapy/physical therapy roller have alleviated the symptoms. The roller, three feet long and 20 inches in circumference, is black molded firm foam with a smooth surface. It's not too comfortable to roll on, but it does the trick and stretches out the IT band. I'm now also running at a slower pace of 15 minutes per mile; I was running at a pace of 13 minutes, 30 seconds per mile. Going slower has worked out extremely well for me, as I have had no further ITBS issues.

A few weeks ago I had received some encouraging news from my doctor. My T cells -- which fight HIV infection -- are now over 200, which is the minimum we want; and my viral load, the amount of HIV in my body, is considered undetectable.

That's it for this month. To follow me and keep up to date with my training, check out my video blog at

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Shawnn Slaughter