Las Vegas marathon course altered after 2011 glitches


Organizers of the Zappos.com Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon and Half-Marathon will readily admit that the 2011 race had several issues.

Difficulty getting corrals of runners through the start line. Crowding on the course and even more so in the area beyond the finish line at Mandalay Bay. Complaints about water distribution on the course.

Those concerns and others, according to race executive director Adam Zocks, were the reason why it took four months after last year's race before registration was opened for this year's event.

Zocks said that time was well spent righting wrongs, making sure everything was addressed to runners' satisfaction before sign-ups began for the fourth year of the Rock 'n' Roll Vegas event, and the second year it will be contested at night and primarily on the Strip.

"We came out of last year with several items we had to review and address," Zocks said. "Overall, I think all the adjustments we have made are going to have a significant positive impact on the runners' experience."

Significant course changes account for much of the adjusting. The marathon, with a 3 p.m. start, and the half-marathon, which starts at 4:30 p.m., will both again begin near Mandalay Bay. But both races will now end mid-Strip at The Mirage, rather than at Mandalay Bay.

"The start village and the start line setup, the finish line, the size of the secure zone beyond the finish line, the space we're using to accommodate the runners (have been improved)," Zocks said. "And the extended timeline at the start of the race."

In 2011, that timeline was just 45 minutes for the dozens of corrals of runners entered in the far more popular half-marathon. The event drew about 38,000 participants for its first night running, and more than 33,000 ran the half-marathon. The timeline proved too tight to keep runners from getting bunched up throughout the race.

"We're going to take 75 minutes to bring everyone across the start line," Zocks said.

A few hundred runners developed stomach illnesses after last year's race, and water distribution at the hydration stations took the brunt of the blame, although the Southern Nevada Health District later stated that wasn't the source.

Competitor Group, which owns and operates all the Rock 'n' Roll events, took steps to alleviate those concerns, hiring a water delivery professional to handle that aspect of the event.

"The water is not coming from a hydrant, through a hose. It's water coming from a tanker, pumped into protected Water Monster devices," Zocks said. "It's essentially just taking that extra step to ensure the safety of the product and our operation of the water stations. We're making sure there is no doubt, by taking away the one step where something could happen. The safety of the runners is the primary objective."

The number of participants is well off last year's pace, but Zocks said much of that can be attributed to last year being the first for a night race on the Strip. He also said that, in order to regain the running community's faith, Competitor's focus on the changes became the focal point, rather than marketing.

"Just the fact that we didn't open registration for months (after the 2011 race) showed that," he said.

The event still has about 30,000 entrants - 25,000 for the half-marathon, which is run almost entirely on Las Vegas Boulevard and winds through Fremont Street; and 5,000 for the full, which covers much of the same ground, but also several miles west and northwest of downtown before winding back to the Strip.

"Thirty-thousand plus is still one of the biggest in the country, and it's still bigger than two years ago, before we moved it to night," Zocks said. "The course layout, the start, the finish, we are confident it could handle what we had last year. But at the same time, with a smaller field, it gives us a year to test out (the changes) and make sure they work.

"We're confident that Sunday night, Monday morning, the social media world will be blowing up with reviews that are positive."

Contact reporter Patrick Everson at peverson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0353.

 

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