Most newly minted professional runners take their time easing into longer-distance races, but not Craig Lutz. The 23-year-old, former four-time All-American at the University of Texas has done away with convention by toeing the line at this Sunday’s GEICO Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon—his debut at the 13.1-mile distance.
Lutz set the Arizona state record for the road 5K (13:51) this past summer and he isn’t mincing words about what he wants to do at Sunday’s race.
“First and foremost I want to win,” he says. “The field for Vegas is pretty strong with a good group of 1:03 guys and winning would most likely mean that I would accomplish my other goals too, which are to approach and break 1:03, negative split the second 10K, and have fun!”
Lutz, who runs for HOKA Northern Arizona Elite, admits his training going into Sunday’s 13.1-mile race has been “stronger than ever.” Specifically, Lutz says he’s been grinding out 100-mile weeks and that he’s weathered this intense taxing of his body. “I felt as though a half marathon during this training block was appropriate,” he says. “I just ran a 13:51 5K last week so I am not worried that I am losing my speed endurance before track season starts.”
It takes guts to win a race with a deep field like the one he’ll experience in Vegas and Lutz thinks he’s up for the task. “I want to be dominant in everything that I do, no matter the starting line. This week it’s a half marathon, December it will be a 10K, and maybe I’ll get to race in a mile or two in the early parts of 2016,” he says.
With this kind of racing schedule, Lutz could focus his efforts on potentially qualifying for the 2016 U.S. Olympic marathon team with a Trials qualifier this weekend (he would need to run 1:05 or faster), but he says he’s going to stay focused instead on the 10,000 meters on the track.
All Olympic dreams aside, Lutz says the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon comes at the perfect time in his training. He had planned to run the U.S. 12K Championships this weekend, but didn’t earn a qualifying mark for it and so the half fills the void for him.
“I told my coach [Ben Rosario] that I felt like a half marathon was a race event that I wouldn’t have to change workouts in order to be ready for, that the strength I’m acquiring from our large base would be good enough,” he says.
Besides the tough competition he faces and the self-determination required to gear up for a long debut race, Lutz says that there’s also a “fun” element he’s preparing for on Sunday. After all, he will be joined by thousands of festive runners along the flashy strip at night.
“I am so excited for this race!” he exclaims. “Vegas is a city that enjoys excitement and plays to the story of dramatic episodes so being that this is my debut, I hope I can play into that depiction of excitement.”
The GEICO Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon weekend kicks off on Thursday with a three-day health and fitness expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Saturday night runners will be lacing up their shoes to take part in the Brooks 5K Presented by SLS Las Vegas and then on Sunday, the action continues with the 10K, half, and full marathon that start in the late afternoon.
Before the half and full marathon, five-time Grammy-nominated legend Kid Rock will take the stage at the Toyota Rock ‘n’ Roll concert powered by iHeartRadio.