Las Vegas ballerina, chef among runners ready to Rock ‘n’ Roll
Ninety-two percent of the runners in this year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series Las Vegas event come from outside the city, but locals cherish the chance to run at home.
Thousands of runners will help shut down the Strip on Sunday.
They are here to participate in the 2023 Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series Las Vegas event, which includes a half-marathon and 10-kilometer race down Las Vegas Boulevard on Sunday. A five-kilometer race was completed Saturday downtown.
The event attracts runners of all ability levels, leading to a fun and festive atmosphere. According to race director Nicole Christenson, 92 percent of the registered runners are coming from outside Las Vegas.
However, for the 8 percent of the racers who call Las Vegas home, this event can have even more significance.
Ellie Stevens has done this too many times to count. A successful middle-distance athlete, she won the women’s division of the 2022 Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas half-marathon.
“To be able to win any race is amazing,” Stevens said. “But to be able to win this one just meant so much to me.”
Stevens, 39, is planning to compete again Sunday, but there will be one small difference compared to her past runs. This will be her first time competing in what she considers her home race since becoming an American citizen during the past week.
Originally from Derby, England, Stevens has lived in Las Vegas for the past five years, where she’s become ingrained in the local endurance running community.
“I consider this my home,” she said.
Winning the 2022 Las Vegas half-marathon was a magical experience for Stevens. She said friends who aren’t involved in the distance community reached out to say congratulations, reminding her that this is an event that people around the city recognize. People even reached out to ask if it was actually her they saw on the TV.
“It was really fun to give that back to the community,” she said.
Selena Knowlton has done this a few times. The 22-year-old ballerina discovered distance running early in high school, and ran her first half-marathon almost on a whim at 14, spurred on by her family.
“We’re pretty competitive in the athletic sense, always trying to one-up one another but in a loving way,” Knowlton said. “That sparked it all, but meeting up, going outside and getting active with one another keeps us close.”
Knowlton’s only been a Las Vegas resident for about a year. Originally from Clifford Township, Pennsylvania, she moved to the city after earning an apprenticeship with the Nevada Ballet Theatre.
It’s far from the first time she’s moved away in pursuit of her dancing dreams.
The first time Knowlton left home, she was still in high school. She’d begun dancing at a local studio when she was 5, and when she was finally allowed to go en pointe (on the tips of her toes) at 12, Knowlton knew she wanted to become a professional ballerina.
So before her junior year, she enrolled in a ballet boarding school in Philadelphia, 2½ hours away from her hometown. Knowlton then became a trainee with a ballet company in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she lived for three years.
Since moving away, running has become an opportunity for the family to reunite. One of Knowlton’s sisters, Samantha Wescott, enjoys destination runs. She chose the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas half-marathon to ensure Knowlton was able to participate. Their mother, Sherry Knowlton, is also flying out to run.
“To be able to have them come visit me and spend time with them, but also run with them and have a bunch of fun will be memories I’ll always look back on,” Knowlton said.
Knowlton also enjoys running because it goes against the stereotypical image of a ballerina. She said when people hear what she does, they assume she’s delicate, but Knowlton said distance running and ballet also have similar mental approaches.
“When I mention I’ve done half-marathons or duathlons, people realize, ‘Oh, she’s strong,’” Knowlton said. “‘She can do other things.’”
Aymeric Delouis has never done this before. Sunday will be his first half-marathon, but stepping into the unknown has always been his way.
“Life is full of surprises,” he said.
Delouis, 34, is an executive chef at Partage, a French bistro in Las Vegas. Hailing from the town of Rouen in Normandy, France, he moved to Las Vegas six years ago after spending several years working at a Michelin star restaurant in Paris, despite originally going to school to become an engineer.
Las Vegas wasn’t originally part of Delouis’ plan. He’d always wanted to live abroad, and was interested in moving to South America before his friends approached him about Partage.
Delouis figured he’d live in Las Vegas for a few years before moving again, but quickly fell in love with the city. He met his wife, Mayra Garay — who is running the 10K while he runs the half-marathon — and found Las Vegas’ food scene surpassed his wildest imagination with its diversity and quality.
He discovered distance running because he was once again looking for a new challenge. An avid soccer player and fan as a child — he plans to watch the rivalry game between Paris Saint-Germain and his beloved Olympique Marseille before heading to the start line Sunday — Delouis said he enjoys the single-minded focus distance running requires.
As an executive chef, his work is dependent on his ability to handle multiple tasks, be organized and lead each service efficiently and effectively. Running gives him a chance to clear his mind ahead of a stressful shift at his job. Sometimes, Delouis said he’s even been able to solve problems at work while on his runs.
Delouis hopes this is just the beginning of his new running journey. He plans to continue training and expects to compete at the Big Sur Marathon in California in late April.
“You forget everything which is happening around you,” he said. “You discover new places and I like to share the training and races with other runners. In one way you challenge yourself and only yourself, but at the same time you can share this experience with others.”
Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.