Race Recap: 2011 Zappos Rock n Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon

What a race! First of all, congratulations to everyone who finished the race.

It was definitely a fun yet challenging course, based on all of the feedback I’ve sifted through online. All in all I think the race was a success — with 44,000 runners on the Vegas Strip at night, there was bound to be a number of problems. However, I think most of the issues that came up were all preventable if the race directors had taken the Murphy’s Law approach — whatever can go wrong, will go wrong — and anticipated these problems beforehand.

English: The strip in Las Vegas
Image via Wikipedia

First off, Vegas is a fun destination. Combine that with a race and you’re bound to get lots of excitement. Seeing as though this is the Rock ‘n Roll series, you’d think that the Vegas race would be the most special of all. I’m not sure if it was the vibe or the cold or just the throngs of people but the excitement was something that was missing from this race. (It might’ve also just been me, since I got some pretty bad news on Friday.) I’m not sure how I would’ve performed if I were running the actual marathon on Sunday but the half marathon seemed like a perfect distance and a decent workout.

Because of my experience in Athens, I knew that running in the cold was going to be very tough. I was hoping that Vegas would be a little warmer but unfortunately, when I arrived, it was pretty cold (40 degrees F) and windy. Despite my better judgement of not trying anything new before a race I went out and bought some cold weather gear. I’d rather have to deal with breaking in my equipment DURING a race than to race through very cold conditions and getting sick for a week afterwards.

For the race I picked up:

  • Base layer Champion running tights
  • Base layer Nike long sleeved running shirt
  • Top layer Champion windbreaker jacket
  • Champion running beanie
  • Nike fleece gloves

During the race, I also stuck with my essentials:

  • Brooks Addiction running shoes
  • Champion thin no-show running socks
  • iFitness race belt
  • iPod shuffle
  • iPhone + RunKeeper
  • Champion technical tank top
  • UnderArmour sports bra
  • I even dabbed on a little eye makeup for the eventual finish line photo!
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 05:  Runners fill the...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

I left a few hours early for the race, even though my hotel was a mile away. We parked at New York New York and LVPD had already shut down most of the Vegas strip. The start line corrals were set up and I arrived on time to watch the final marathoners take off on their 26.2 mile journey. There was a lot of downtime to head to the portapotties, snap photos, and get into the corrals. I was surprised that by the time we circled around it was not the familiar wave start I had grown accustomed to (like the RnRLA race), but rather a sequential mass start. This caused a lot of problems since the start was not particularly well policed and walkers were ahead of runners. (I think anyone could see why this would be a problem.)

The race started with a decent pace. The key is to always start a little slower than you are used to so that you keep a decent overall pace. I felt better than anticipated and tried to conserve my energy before weaving too much in the crowd. It was pretty dark on the course since it was a night race — my first! — you had to be extra mindful of every footfall. The strip was pretty well lit and it was fun seeing the spectators cheer us on. We ran down the strip all the way to Old Las Vegas (Downtown Las Vegas, for some of you) and then back to the strip again.
As a child I remember walking around and snapping photos with my family all around Vegas, so it was very interesting to see the landmarks from such a different perspective. It was my first race in Las Vegas and I have to say that I am officially hooked on destination races. I can’t wait to scope out what is available next year! Overall this race was great — I didn’t PR but I had a great run, I finished feeling great, I never once got cold, and my boyfriend was waiting for me at the end. What more could I ask for?

Let’s get some of these issues out of the way so that I can just focus on the positives of the race!

  1. Start corrals/waves were not enforced, which led to walkers and runners clashing throughout the entire course.
  2. Marathoners eventually had to merge with the half-marathoners during the last half of the race, which meant people were getting in each other’s way.
  3. Water stations were not optimally set up, so runners were having to go without water.
  4. There was a massive bottleneck at the finish line because of the small number of step and repeats (photo backgrounds) for race photography. Therefore, people were passing out and/or getting cold.
  5. The finish line festivities were hosted outside during a winter night with NO external sources of heat (i.e. gaslamps or heaters).
  6. Most of Las Vegas Blvd + Tropicana Ave was shut down so if you came by car, you were stuck in traffic for at least a few hours.
  7. Mandalay Bay was very overcrowded and could barely handle the extra foot traffic inside their casino.
  8. The staff ran out of medals, which meant that course bandits were able to jump into the race, finish, and grab medals without having registered.
  9. Swag bag was empty per usual, but at the end of the day that’s not a really big problem.
Okay, admittedly that seems like a pretty big list of bad things. However, that’s not to say that I had a decent race. Unfortunately I did not set a PR (personal record) for the race that I was hoping to but I’ve come to terms with that and a way to achieve it next time!