For several years Turlock resident Christie Marriott and Ceres resident Mary Sylvester have enjoyed the physical benefits of running, but over the last year they have also found it to be a vital boost to their emotional well-being, as the two women have used running to help them cope with the trauma they experienced on Oct. 1, 2017, at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas.
On Saturday, the two women hit the pavement again to run for themselves and in memory of the fallen and the other survivors from the tragedy that claimed 58 lives and injured more than 500 people.
"Running has done a lot of good for the both of us," said Sylvester. "It gave us some direction, a schedule and a chance to talk to each other. At the time we were training for a half marathon in Monterey and we continued with the training after because it was the only stable thing we had going on at that time.
"Going through something like that, it can takeover your whole life, but you can't let it," Sylvester continued. "You have to do something to get to the other side."
Sylvester and Marriott had gone to the music festival with a third friend and sprung for a pair of reserved seats because their friend had recently undergone knee surgery.
"We were sitting in two different areas," Marriott said. "Mary and our friend were in the reserve area and I was in what hey call the chair corral. When I first heard the sounds I thought they were fireworks, but I couldn't see where they were coming from. Then there was a longer volley and then everyone just started running. It was complete chaos."
In between rounds Marriott ran for cover behind a food trailer and from there into the parking lot. She was ducking behind pickup trucks when she saw a photographer hiding behind a car and popping up to take pictures in between the volley of shots fired.
"I asked if I could stay there with him, and he said yes, but that we had to get out of that area," Marriott said. "I didn't argue with him. I jumped into his car and a married couple got into the back seat."
Before leaving the area, the foursome came across a 31-year-old man who had been shot in the torso and needed medical attention.
"He was wearing cargo shorts and they were drenched in blood," Marriott said.
One of the men in the car was an emergency medical technician and was able to begin first-aid on the man while they drove him to Desert Springs Hospital.
"It was a crazy and surreal scene," Marriott recalled. "They were doing CPR on somebody on the curb when we pulled up. There were dozens of ambulances, and so many wounded and they were triaging people there."
Marriott eventually was able to get back to her hotel room around 1:30 a.m. She hadn't seen her two other friends but had reached them via text and knew they had both made it out unharmed.
Sylvester and her friend had found a bar cart they were able to huddle behind during the duration of the shooting. The two didn't want to take the chance of running towards an exit because one had to rely on a cane.
"We were there through a few of the volleys, until eventually the police told us to exit the venue," Sylvester said. "From there, we were kept at the Tropicana for a couple of hours."
In December the race management company Jus Run organized the virtual race Vegas Strong that raised more than $68,000 for a victims' fund. The two women were unable to do the run at that time, but now they are ready to lace up their running shoes and complete a 5k run.
The women have formed a team of fellow runners, family members and local members of Project Remember to join them on the run and are hoping members of the community will come out to run as well or even just cheer them on.
The runners met Saturday morning at Cornerstone Covenant Church in Turlock. The route took them onto Christoffersen Parkway, Geer Road, Taylor Road, Walnut Road and Crowell Road.