What happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas!

Local woman and her brother run in Las Vegas Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon

This summer, when Raquel "Rocky" McGee of Barnesville turned 40, she decided to make a few changes in her life.

"I thought to myself, I really need to get healthier and take better care of myself and I need to make my life less stressful and more fulfilling."

She started running to get into better shape.

"I have always loved to exercise, I even would consider myself an athlete. I walk regularly and try to play some casual sports on the side, but to look at me - nope - not very athletic looking anymore. Running became my new challenge," said McGee who is an exercise physiologist at Barnesville Hospital.

McGee said both of her children are good runners. Sara, a sophomore, has run since junior high in cross country and track and Isaac, a seventh grader, started running cross country this year.

"The cross country coach, Mr. Brown, is always kind enough to let me hang out with the team and I have run 'behind the team' many times," McGee said.

"I loved these runs and felt great being with the kids and getting in better shape each week."

One day, McGee happened to pick up a Runners World magazine and saw many pages filled with marathon advertisements.

The advertisements prompted the idea to run a marathon.

"The next page sealed the deal because there it was, the advertisement for the Las Vegas Rock-n-Roll Marathon and Half Marathon, December 6, 2009!"

McGee said she liked the idea of the half marathon (13.1 miles) a lot better.

It wasn't just the shorter distance option that made the marathon the perfect challenge for McGee. McGee's brother, Eric Barr, lives in Las Vegas. "Not only would I run the half marathon, but I would get to visit he and his family," McGee said. "So I texted him and said, 'Hey want to run a half marathon with me in December?'"

McGee said she expected "a laugh and a no way, but within seconds I got a 'Sure!' texted back."

"Even though I thought it was too good to be true I said let's do it and sent all the details."

As fate would have it, McGee later got a call from her very excited brother stating that the race was for the Crohn's Disease and Colitis Foundation and that this was going to be the perfect journey for them to embark on. Eric has had Ulcerative Colitis for years and has had many struggles with this disease and it's side effects.

"Immediately, we both knew we had to do this race," said McGee.

As they started making plans for the trip and the race, training commenced. Eric was training in Las Vegas and Raquel began training here in Barnesville.

Eric joined Team Challenge in Las Vegas which was the team united in training and fundraising for Crohn's Disease and Colitis Foundation. This group provided running companions and training coaches and motivation and support for Eric.

"He really took off on his training and immediately was elated to be running for this cause," McGee said.

McGee on the other hand, was feeling very slow in her training and a little overwhelmed at the road that lay ahead of her - literally.

"Even though I ran a lot with the cross country teams, I still was running alone and on a lot of trails and back roads, mostly because I did not want to run downtown where everyone could see me," she said.

"Basically, I just talked to God while I was running and became more grateful every run for the things God has created and for the ability he had given me to run and exercise."

"What it came to be was that Eric and I both in our own ways were making peace with ourselves through our runs and we both were reuniting with each other by texting how far we had run that day and by calling and comparing strategies and training tips," she said. "It was such a blessing to be on this journey with Eric and it gave me the drive and determination to run for this great cause."

Both had their share of hardships during training.

Being a working mom, Raquel had a lot of late suppers because she had to get her run in after work, before dark. Her training schedule also meant that some of her family's weekend plans had to be altered until she could get her longer runs in.

"I had a few nagging aches and pains along the way, but just figured that was to be expected with running 20 miles a week," McGee said.

She said Eric too had a lot of changes going on in his body, a few knee aches, but most changes for him were for the good.

She said Eric too had a lot of changes going on in his body, a few knee aches, but most changes for him were for the good.

"His colitis was becoming more controlled than ever before. He was eating better and losing some weight."

A big hardship for both of them came in October when their 90-year-old grandfather passed away.

"He was the greatest man I have ever known," Raquel said. "Eric flew home for a few days for the funeral and even though we were glad to be together, it was hard to be excited about race things during this time." Neither ran much for a couple of weeks and when it came time to run again, Raquel said she was discouraged, tired, stressed and unsure of her ability to make this half marathon.

"It was about this time that I went out for a long run, on the trail, out in the boonies, by myself. As I began my run I was thinking of how hard that run was for me and feeling really sorry for myself at how much I had let my body get out of shape and my spirit get out of shape and how I had just kind of lost ME all together. Then, all of a sudden, I stopped and looked around at these beautiful rays of sunlight coming through the trees, hundreds of beams of light. It was amazingly breathtaking. I started to run through the trail and the light would hit my eyes from each beam and almost blind me. It was so fun and breathtaking and mesmerizing that I just ran and prayed and thanked God for all his creations. The next thing I knew I had ran about five miles without even realizing I was still moving!"

That was her turning point.

About 100 miles of training later it was time to go to Vegas. McGee, her kids and her mom flew out a few days before the race.

"It was great to see Eric and his family," she said. "Race day came and we had to get up at 3:30 am and leave his house at 4:10 am, kids and all. We parked on the Las Vegas strip and mom, my kids, Eric's wife Kristen and their kids all picked a spot on the strip to watch us go by."

"It was 28 degrees at this time and I was pretty thankful to have trained here in Ohio."

Her favorite part of the experience was when she and Eric walked toward the starting line, talking about race strategies and how neat it all was being there together and having the day that they had been preparing for four months finally arrive.

"There were 30,000 people lined up to start this marathon, but to me there were only two, Eric and I," she said. "To share this with him was priceless."

"There were 30,000 people lined up to start this marathon, but to me there were only two, Eric and I," she said. "To share this with him was priceless."

Brother and sister were in corral #11, about 10,000 people back from the starting line. Raquel recalls that tons of runners were dressed as Elvis all around them.

"This made me feel slightly less nervous. We could see on the screen overhead the race starting and the runners going, but we had to wait until they let our corral move forward. We held hands as our corral approached the starting line and we told each other how much we loved each other. Once we crossed the starting line, we let go of each others hands and started our watches and began running."

McGee said she ran well until the 2.7 mile mark where her family was waiting, waving signs and blowing horns and cheering me on.

"They were cold but loving every minute of this experience too," she said. "As I ran the next 10 miles, I thought of all the people that had prayed for me during this experience and I thought of my Pap and the wonderful life he had lived and the examples he had set for me to follow," she said.

Many of her family and friends in Barnesville were following the race online and she wanted to run well and make them proud of me.

At the 12 mile marker her kids were waiting anxiously on her to run past.

"This time, I stopped and kissed each one (because I needed a break) and then headed into the home stretch, hurting, slow and a little teary, but heading home. I was coming up the last 100 yards and I could see the finish line and I heard my name and looked over and saw Eric. I thought my heart would bust out of my chest, not from the exhaustion of running, but from the pride of knowing he had already finished and that I would also be crossing that same finish line in a few seconds."

" I came across the finish line and what a sense of relief and accomplishment. By finishing a half marathon, I had completed something that less than 1% of all the people in the world have done."

McGee said she wanted to share her experience because, so many good things came about because of this race. Eric, with the help of many people here in Barnesville (who pledged money to the foundation's Web Site), raised $1,620 for the Crohn's Disease and Colitis Foundation. The race itself raised over $300,000 for the Foundation.

Raquel said Eric is still running and feeling renewed in his health and his spirit. She is also planning to keep running and has "really found a new way to keep my sanity in this crazy world we sometimes live in."

Brother and sister have talked about doing another marathon in the future and this time their kids want to run too.

"I am most grateful for the conversations, texts, updates and communications shared with Eric over the last four months. It has been such a blessing to share this experience with him. The miles separated us before, now the miles have united us," she said.

McGee said she is thankful to her husband, Brad and her kids for putting up with her crazy training schedules. She is also grateful to coach Mark Brown and the cross country team for letting her "tag along this season" and to Dale Landefeld and Beth Brill for their running tips and encouragement.

Also, she appreciates all the support, encouragement and prayers of her friends and family at Cardiac Rehabilitation.

"If anyone wants to do a little soul searching or take on an awesome challenge, start running! If I can do it, you can do it," McGee said.

Barnesville natives Raquel McGee and her brother Eric Barr are pictured before running a half-marathon in Las Vegas which raised $300,000 for the Crohn's Disease and Colitis Foundation.