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Review of Rock N Roll Marathon/Half Marathon by Billy Freeman

Posted by: on January, 10 2012

The Pre Race Expo was held at the Las Vegas Sands Convention Center- The race just so happens to fall on the world biggest Rodeo weekend, so not only were there 40,000 runners and there families packing this convention center, thousands more Cowboys and families are attending there own expos in this same hall. Taxi service to this Convention Center is a nightmare and if you park in the parking garage, it takes about 20 minutes walking time just to get to the actual Convention center as you weave through the Venetian Casino and Hotel. With all that being said, when I arrived at the nightmarish scene of the expo, people were everywhere. The Space didn’t seem big enough to handle all the runners that were there. Usually Expos are packed (New York City/Disney) but there is actually a space to walk through the aisles and see what companies had to offer. This was not the case in Las Vegas. It was bumper to bumper in there like the Las vegas Strip on a Saturday Night. Little did I know looking back, this was a sign of things to come. I was lucky and able to pick up my T-shirt before they ran out (Which was super generic- I also was expecting a long sleeved shirt since it was only in the Mid 30’s in the desert in December)
Leading up to the Pre Race- The runners village was held in the Mandalay Bay Parking Lot- It was ample space for the 44K runners, but it lacked signage. Bag drop off was located way back in the Mandalay Bay which caused me to go into a dead sprint just to make the Full Marathon Start time since I had no idea where I was going. It also featured tents where people could pick up there packets last minute by paying a “fee” I heard it was in upwards of $45, I also heard they were registering more people there who never signed up for an already “Sold Out” Event. Maybe that explains why they ran out of Medals…Upon entering the corrals, there were no race organizers checking bibs, people were j everywhere jumping fences,this shouldn’t have been. There were 44,000 total runners, but only 3500 of us were running the Full Marathon-which started at 4:30 PM that size field could be managed with minimal staffing, but RNR Las Vegas failed miserably. There was no Pre race Concert for the Full Marathon Participants, I guess it something we missed out on since the majority of the participants were in the Half Marathon.

Once the Gun went off, there was a very small time window in between each wave- there were 11 waves, in the full Marathon. I was in wave 5 and I was running within 3 minutes of the opening gun. I knew this was a problem. As we took off the starting line was a lot of fun and filled with spectators since we were technically still on the strip. We mad one left hand turn and poof we were all alone- The full marathon 1st half of the course was literally the back roads of Las Vegas- we passed the “Hustler Club” and some other run down parts of Las Vegas, while passing maybe 3 bands total. The 1st half of the “Strip at Night” was a complete failure in terms of a course, there were also 3 hard U-Turns around a Cone, one would expect at a local neighborhood 5K. As we approached the Half Marathon Split at about 1hour 40 minutes, (5:40PM) we ran up on about 30,000 Half Marathon Participants just flowing from the 29 Open Corrals. Race organizers opened the floodgates and abandoned the wave start system after about Corral 7. RnR Las Vegas established 2 Left hand lanes for Full Marathon runners and the remaining 5 right hand lanes for the Half Participants. Only problem was these lanes were separated by a cone that was about 1 foot tall and spaced out 10 feet apart- Also I cant forget the laminated taped piece of paper with about 14 size font that read, “Half and Full with arrows pointing accordingly”. There were also volunteers on Bikes with a small light that would call for the crowds to stay on each side, but they too were just lost in the shuffle. Full Marathon Runners actually became running backs having to shift and dodge thousands of runners/walkers who sometimes decided to walk arm and arm allowing no other runners to get by.(My Garmin actually read 26.8 miles at the finish). Some of this I have seen before at other races but never to this extent. I think the allure of Las Vegas and people wanting to be apart of something without the proper training lead to many of these problems. I should also say that on Rock n Roll Las Vegas’s Website strictly said race times will be strictly enforced for a 4 hr- marathon and 2 hr -1/2 marathon times or they will be picked up by a sweeper vehicle. This was quickly thrown out the window once they eclipsed the 44k runner mark and the dollar signs added up. As we moved up the strip, it was really cool to run on it at night and run by some of the worlds most famous hotels. As we moved into Downtown and old Vegas, we cruised quickly by Fremont street and headed into a neighborhood that I was worried about losing my IPOD that I was wearing at the time, it was more of bad Vegas, but Im okay with it since you have to run 26.2 miles somewhere. One problem in Old Vegas and Downtown, is that the street has potholes and in many cases and in disrepair. I seen people going down and falling all over the place, there was portable lighting generators, but not enough and definitely not well lit enough to navigate the rough terrain.Moving toward the finish line, it actually felt like I made it back to a real race, the Finish Line was well lit up and there were a lot of people there cheering. I must also mention the water stations throughout the course and #1 lack of signage that they were coming up and 2 the lack of people out there getting the runners the water and or Cytomax. This became even more of a problem as thousands of runners had to drink Fire Hydrant water when many Stations ran out of Water and Cytomax. I even witnessed people going into convenience stores to buy fluids! Also what I thought was a problem was at least 5 timing stations were not operational, 2 of them were just laying on the ground. All in all a “C” for the Course is the best I can give the Full Marathon, and thats only because of the allure of the Las Vegas Strip,maybe if runners just wanted to try the Half it may be a better overall course and scenery.

Upon completion and crossing the Finish line, runners endured a “Dead Stop” separated by a fence that lead to a narrow walk way that led to medals (if you were lucky enough to finish before they ran out) I helped myself to my own roll of heat sheets as volunteers (who are much appreciated) were very overwhelmed and understaffed. There were a few tents set up with Snickers Marathon Bars and Very Unripe Bananas, they were greener than green, which offered no refueling for people who just finished 26.2 or 13.1 miles of running. There was water bottles and Cytomax available at the Finish Line.

I finally walked all the way back to the Mandalay Bay where bags were originally stored (about a 10 minute walk to this area where people there found refuge from the cool temps that night. Picking my my bag back up was no problem,but as I tried to exit the back of the Mandalay Bay and head to the front for either a shuttle or a cab, there were 3 other events just getting over filling the hallways with thousands of people. It was bumper to bumper a sea of humanity. Half of them just finishing an exhausting run, which made people very frustrated and in some cases pass out and need medical attention in more than 10 cases that I witnessed. We walked like we were a herd of cattle what had seemed like an eternity. We finally made it to the casino floor where people can actually walk at a normal pace. As I made it to the front of the hotel there was already a line of about 300 runners in the taxi line. I stepped into line and thats is where I waited for 2 and half hours standing waiting for a cab. I finally got into a cab at 11:15pm (I crossed the finish line of the race before 8:30pm) after jumping in the cab, I proceeded to sit in the cab to be stuck in bumper to bumper traffic underneath the Mandalay Bay Entrance- The meter on my Cab had made it to $18 before I even got from underneath the overhang of the Mandalay Bay Front Entrance (Approx. 500′). While sitting there, at least 7 ambulances pulled in while Paramedics seemed to be wheeling runners out on stretchers every 2 minutes. I finally was able to make it to my hotel (2 miles away opposite of the strip at 12:30am and $47 later) I tweeted to RnR that night from the back of that cab about the lack of foresight for this event, an disorganization. Of course it went without a response. I read many reviews and read hundred of runners feedback on this race after a couple days it became apparent that there were hundreds of runners who fell violently ill to something during this race. Many people pointed the finger at the Hydrant water, while many others chalked it up to lack of conditioning, I can’t say for certain what it is but when you get Hydrant water and dump it into trash cans while volunteers are dipping cups into them and not using gloves, this may have had something to do with it….

I have run 2 NYC Marathons, 3 Walt Disney Marathons and many other races around the country. I have never had a bad time or not enjoyed a race.This race by far was the most unorganized, ill-equipped, and down right dangerous race I have participated in. It was a fun novelty and thought to “Run the Strip at Night” ,but Race organizers were clearly more worried about making money than giving the same people who made them them this money a fun and safe product. After all we as runners pay for these things.

Many people conveyed there frustration through Facebook and to Rock and Roll Sponsors and Competitor Group of how mismanaged this event was. All in all, we were given a $15 off coupon to participate in the Rock N Roll Arizona Marathon a week later….yeah..think about that…Another slap in the face.
I encourage people to go on websites and read different stories, many people had fun and enjoyed it, I don’t doubt it, but this is my story and I know I speak for thousands. I probably will end up running another Rock N Roll Event (they have the monopoly) but not until they do right and own up to what they put people through that night. For them to come out and say “we know things did not go as planned and we know we have a lot of work to do to get things right for next year, clearly says it all, but thats where it ended. Im not looking for a handout, but if you go to a restaurant and order a steak medium rare and it comes out Burnt..would you send it back or at least tell the waiter? Think about it…

-Billy F