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Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas competitor all about giving back

Updated February 25, 2022 - 4:26 pm

Rick Visser didn’t grow up a runner. But about 10 years ago, he watched his daughter, Kayla Strong, compete in the Boston Marathon.

Visser was mesmerized, not only by the thousands of runners who took on America’s most famous race but by how the event felt like a big party.

A licensed counselor who has spent his life devoted to helping others, Visser knew he had to get involved, first as a volunteer and later as a participant.

So it is that Visser volunteers for marathons leading up to the race and then competes himself. He is back in Southern Nevada for the fifth time, volunteering for the Health & Fitness Expo at Resorts World Las Vegas before competing in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas over the weekend.

He will run in Saturday’s 5-kilometer race downtown and Sunday’s half marathon on the Strip.

Visser said he competes in and volunteers for 15 to 20 such events each year, crediting his wife of 34 years, Lauri, for helping make that possible.

His daughter tells Visser not to worry about his time in the races, reminding him that as a volunteer he’s “working twice as hard as me.”

Visser, 65, is retired, but is still a licensed counselor in the Salt Lake City area, having owned an outpatient center for those struggling with substance abuse.

Those days are behind Visser, but between four living children — his son, Erick, died at 20 in a car accident in 1996 — and nine grandchildren, finding things to do is not an issue for him.

In addition to competing in distance races, Visser hits the gym six times week to get a sweat going through fitness classes. He is careful to note, however, that “I also love food. There are more calories going in than going out. I don’t consider myself an athlete by any means.”

In that vain, the races are not about the competition for Visser. He simply loves the experience.

His daughter is a sub 3-hour marathon runner.

“She’s the runner, and I’m the finisher,” Visser said. “I used to cycle more than run. Then when she started running, that’s when I picked up the bug. I love the environment so much. I love watching the runners. I love supporting them whether it’s the first elites or the very last person across the line. Those are more inspirational for me than any of them.”

He said Las Vegas is the most fun race of all the ones he runs “because of the party atmosphere.”

The marathon is gone from this year’s Las Vegas event. Visser said he’s fine with running the half marathon because he said he’s still trying to get back into shape for marathons after the COVID-19 pandemic limited much of his training.

“I think the half marathon is going to be more of a party atmosphere. People won’t be so worn out,” Visser said. “We’re just going to have a blast.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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