Summerlin Half Marathon set for Saturday at JW Marriott

A lot of people are gearing up for the Summerlin Half Marathon, which is slated for Saturday. One of them is Harry Emrick, 80, a cancer survivor.

“I’ve always been a moving person,” he said.

He likes to run early in the morning, he said, partly because there’s no traffic. Traffic was the reason he gave up cycling. But without cycling to occupy his time, he said he needed an outlet.

His wife of 56 years, Barbara, said, “I could see it coming. He needs to have things going on, killing his time physically. He’s always been healthy but not to this point.”

A morning person, he usually gets up at 5 a.m. He normally runs around Sun City Summerlin every other day, doing 45 to 60 minutes each time.

“I like getting out and exercising,” Emrick said. “Then I come in and have my coffee.”

He began training for Saturday’s event in mid-January. He has run seven half marathons since the mid-1990s.

“I’ve been doing it, off and on, my whole life,” he said of running. “I was jogging around the neighborhood, and a newspaper man (delivering papers), … said, ‘Hey, I understand they’ve got a marathon going down in Las Vegas. Maybe you should try it.’ ”

It sounded like a good idea, so the retired Air Force colonel started preparing for it by adding more miles. He wound up injuring himself and wasn’t healed by race day. But the spark had been lit.

Once healed, he entered a half marathon and liked it so much that he entered some more. Last year, he ran the Summerlin Half Marathon.

He signed up with Desert Sky Adventures, the company coordinating the event, for training and to benefit from the guidance of longtime runners. Desert Sky’s staff includes Dr. Donna Woo, who oversees each runner’s progress. The runners meet once a week at the doctor’s office near West Charleston Boulevard and the Las Vegas Beltway and head toward Red Rock Canyon.

Emrick said being around others with the same goal was inspiring.

“It keeps me motivated,” he said.

Training for a half marathon means increasing one’s mileage a bit at a time. By the end of January, Emrick was up to six miles.

“A half marathon is 13.1 miles, so it is a lot of miles to complete for the average person,” said Cynthia Ganey, Desert Sky Adventures owner and an ultramarathoner who trains Emrick. “People want to make sure they get the proper training necessary so they can complete the distance. People also join training groups so they can be held accountable for their training. It’s way more fun to train with others than to train on your own.”

During the week, Emrick trains by himself. Barbara –– whom he calls the “treadmill queen” –– expressed concern about the route he’d chosen for his self-training distance, which takes him to Costco, 801 S. Pavilion Center Drive, and back to Sun City. It requires crossing several intersections.

“Once he gets outside Sun City, I don’t think it’s particularly safe if he’s running by himself,” she said. “I’m really glad he hooked up with the group, Cynthia’s group. To me, that made things a lot safer and made sense.”

Emrick said the only difference between neighborhood running and running a big race is the scenery for the three hours it takes him to hit the finish line.

Emrick credited always being active –– he also enjoys tennis, basketball, handball and swimming –– for his good health and not looking his age.

“I do as much as I can,” he said. “I’m lucky; my knees and ankles are still working. I don’t have anything artificial.”

Up until a few years ago, he ran an 11-minute mile. Now, it’s more like 13 minutes. It’s not age that’s brought about the change. It was a battle with prostate cancer about 2½ years ago.

When he began radiation treatment, Emrick was training for a race.

“I kept running, but it depleted me … it took a while to get back up to speed at my age,” he said. “The endurance, I can do it, it’s just that I don’t have that extra thrust.”

Luckily, he tolerated the 44 treatments, done five days a week, with only a bit of nausea. His doctors told him his active lifestyle was a plus in battling the cancer.

Emrick said he has no desire to run a marathon. It’s not because of the thought of going 26.2 miles but rather the time commitment it takes.

Emrick said everybody in his training group cheers him on.

“I can use all the encouragement I can get,” he joked.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at or 702-387-2949.

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