I finished it. That’s about all I can say since the Zappos.com Rock n’ Roll Las Vegas half marathon experience was almost a 180º turn from 2010.
Before anyone thinks I’m busting on Vegas, keep in mind I live here. I know how fast the weather can change (like last night), how fast it cools off once the sun disappears over the horizon, and that it does rain on occasion. All of which happened yesterday. There’s nothing the race organizers could do about that. It’s nature. It happens. It’s the desert!
I had my compression tights on, a thermal shirt with my Zappos long-sleeved running shirt over it, plus I tied another pull-over jacket around my waist for the run. I had gloves. I had ear warmer band in case it got windy. I’m glad I had all of that since mile 12 I felt the air change: damp, chilling to the bone air. Put on my jacket. Put on my gloves.
I’m learning that Mile 12s are not my friend!
There were people running in shorts and tank tops in upper 30º weather — and these weren’t elite runners. Their bib numbers were 30,000 or higher, meaning 2:30 and above finish times.
I wish I could find the This post I was reading a few days ago when researching day-of marathon fueling, but the article said they weren’t as concerned with the fueling for the runners as the chance for hypothermia. Think about it: Runners get hot and sweaty as temperatures drop. Kinda like swimming in your own personal 30º water for two hours or more. I saw people puking in bushes, people doubled over with cramping… more than I’ve seen at any event this year. Tons of hurting people. Craziness.
I don’t know if they were all running tourists or what, but — yikes — at least watch the weather report for the run in which you’re participating. Run smart. Then run with your heart. I know not everyone fell into this category, but I can only imagine a good number of the people pouring out of the aid tents could have prevented some of their ailments with proper planning and gear. That would have allowed the medical responders to treat the people that truly needed the help.
There wasn’t a true wave start like there was last year. Once Corral 20 hit the start line, it was just a stream of runners to get the race started — and get the Strip open to traffic. Again there was no corral police, so even though I was in corral 31, I was starting with mostly people ABOVE that number. Which meant that I was weaving in and out of walkers for the first 3+ miles. And there were spectators in the corrals, too. Seriously? Get off of the course, please!
On the Course
I couldn’t keep a steady pace. I couldn’t move to the right when I wanted to slow down. Walkers often were five or more abreast and wouldn’t move over when you yelled “passing on your left.” And 90% of these walkers were not Team Challenge members. Most of Team Challenge were respectable to faster participants, staying towards the right of the course unless trying to pass other walkers. The course was often that packed that there was no way around slower participants unless you went in the full marathon lane — which was not well marked (orange safety cones with small signs? Trip hazard for everyone!).
I was verbally shouted at for giving a “passing on your left” warning to people. I was elbowed. I was shoulder checked. I was almost tripped. More than once. That is not sportsman-like conduct. Running is not a contact sport!
Aid stations (water, Cytomax, Gu) were ill equipped. I was just over half way through the field of half marathon runners, and supplies were already running low. Many aid tables by the second half of the race had been broken down, leaving the course slick with wax-covered paper cups coated in water. I walked through all aid stations to make sure I didn’t become road pizza. The volunteers took some slack for that, but they were doing the best they could with the supplies they were given (a huge THANK YOU to all the volunteers out there on a chilly night).
About mile 9 I abandoned all hopes of finishing in under 3 hours. Sometime around there, my plantar fasciitis started to flare up as well. Stopped. Stretched the Achilles on a curb for a few minutes, then continued on walking the rest of the way to the finish line at a slower pace, trying to enjoy the night and the race. Up to that point, I was enjoying my 13:30 run/walk pace!
Spectators at the finish line? Some hecklers yelled at me to run. In my mindset, I considered giving them the bird, but refrained. I wasn’t going to injure myself for such a poorly executed race when I have two more half marathons coming up next month.
The finish area was chaos. I was pushed out of the way by a runner behind me so she could grab a medal. They were handing them out straight out of the boxes without enough time to unwrap them. Apparently they ran out of Half Marathon medals and were handing out Full Marathon medals to half finishers — and then ran out of those, too. Everyone dammed up the mylar blanket area, so I skirted around the sheep to the last mylar blanket distribution where no one was waiting. I bypassed the photo area all together (no showgirls this year), and moved on to the post-race noshes.
Bottles of cold water, Snickers was handing out their version of a granola bar, there were mini-bagels, bags of pretzels, GoGurt, and green, crunchy, unripe bananas. I rifled through the bananas until I found a somewhat ripe fruit. No oranges or any type of warm beverages (note to race organizers: oranges are my favorite post-race treat).
And leaving the runner’s secure area? Also chaos. Instead of waiting for their runners at the designated meeting area, spectators crowded the exit. I could barely get through so I could continue on my way to the Zappos VIP area. All I wanted was a potty, to stretch, and get some water and food in me. After talking with some of my co-workers for 20 minutes or so, I walked back to my room in the Luxor.
The inside of Mandalay Bay looked almost like a war zone. I didn’t go in the conference hall entrance where the gear check was located, but another entrance closer to a loading dock area along the Strip. I walked past a Mandalay Bay employee carrying a stack of blankets to a few hurting people curled up in a corner. No first responders to be found.
Apparently this route allowed me to avoid the mêlée of tens of thousands of runners trying to exit the convention center at the same time The Immortal show dumped 8,000 people from the events center. Human traffic jams and emotional panic mode were apparently in full effect at that juncture.
I made it back to my room after a 15 minute obstacle course of people, deciding to eat whatever I had in my room or could grab from the 24/7 store in the lobby. Many restaurants were closed because it was Sunday night or late, and the rest of the eateries had lines out the door and hour waits. Dinner ended up being the mostly ripe banana, apple juice, pretzels, GoGurt, another nutty fruity granola bar (not the Snickers one b/c that didn’t have enough protein for my needs), water, and my nightly vitamins. Not nearly the correct post-race food, but it would have to do.
I showered in my non-smoking room (thanks, Luxor, for allowing me to swap rooms that day so my asthma wouldn’t be triggered anymore. Also related: Spraying the room does nothing for the allergens that trigger asthma — they only cover the smell), stretched out really well, rolled on my foam roller a bit, iced my feet for 10 minutes and then warmed them back up by slowly rolling on a tennis ball. And then a restless night of sleep ensued where I was woken up by stabbing pains in my heels a number of times. Woke up this morning, stretched out good for another 40 minutes before trying to walk, took some Advil, and continued on my day (albeit 2 hours later than I normally start my day).
How can it be improved?
- Properly stock the aid stations for the amount of people registered, not estimated number of runners after drop-outs.
- Reducing the number of participants if you know you cannot guarantee the support staff (volunteers, hotel staff, etc.) to meet the needs of the amount of registered runners.
- Adding a sheet of paper to the race packets about running etiquette — or as part of the signature required piece on race packet pick-up. Not that everyone would read it, but it would be part of the rules and people could be removed from the course for not following them.
- Overall runner education about the event. Post the weather forecast at the entrance / exit of the expo so people can pick up last minute gear if needed. Show the course map and highlight the places where the full and half marathon should keep separate lanes. Display any other course specific rules on large posters at the packet pick-up area.
- More medical support so first responders aren’t overwhelmed and can properly treat their patients.
I could go on, but most of the other suggestions are common sense.
This is my Rock n’ Roll Las Vegas half-marathon experience. Apparently the full marathoners had similar complaints, but you can search the web for their stories. Better left for them to tell it first hand than for me to convey it a la a game of telephone. Other people had fantastic experiences for this, but it’s all a matter of perspective: Those who have completed a number of races seemed to have found this one severely lacking in runner support.
Overall, this was not a well-planned event. I’m not sure if it was because Competitor Group had never organized an event with 44,000 registered participants, the fact that it was the first year of the Vegas marathon being held at night, or the inverse weather patterns than most marathoners are used to experiencing. All I know is that if they plan on holding this at night next year and/or increasing the amount of participants, I will not be running in this race. I didn’t feel safe on the course, not due to the areas we ran through (there was ample law enforcement around — all very attentive!) but because of the lack of support and participant courtesy on the event course.