Marathon boosts presence on Strip to change fortune

Over the past two years, the Las Vegas Marathon hasn't had a "wow" factor nearly as much as a "what now?" factor, with previous owner Devine Racing struggling to meet myriad financial obligations.

With one broad stroke Wednesday morning, new owner Competitor Group hoped to prove the race's course is changing -- by literally changing the race's course.

The Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon will debut Dec. 6, and the biggest news coming out of a news conference held at the iconic "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign was that runners will get to compete on more of the Strip than ever.

The half-marathon, run concurrent with the 26.2-mile main event, will take place entirely on Las Vegas Boulevard, closing down all lanes in both directions. The marathon also will log more miles in the Strip area, though neither event will go through the Fremont Street Experience any longer.

Since the event gained access to Las Vegas Boulevard in 2005, only the first six miles of both races were held on that stretch, and only the southbound lanes were closed.

It's an unprecedented occurrence, and just the touch that Competitor Group was looking for to revamp the race's tarnished reputation.

"We wanted to make a significant break from the previous event," said Adam Zocks, vice president and general manager of the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon. "Now we get to come in with a huge announcement.

"We know the event had left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths and that we have to prove ourselves. The city and the county have put a lot of trust in us, and we're going to deliver."

Competitor Group has a history of that. The company's flagship race, the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon, had its 12th running two weeks ago, drawing 16,000 participants for an event that doesn't include a half-marathon. The company has 13 events around the country, annually drawing 300,000 total participants.

In November, Competitor debuted in San Antonio by drawing 30,500 entrants for a marathon and half-marathon. Its June 27 Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Marathon was capped at 25,000 for its first running and had to close registration two months ago.

But even for such a successful company, acquiring an event in Las Vegas, then securing a complete shutdown of the Strip, was a major coup.

"Getting the Strip closed, that was something we aspired to do, but we were told it would be very difficult," said Bruce Herring, Competitor's senior vice president for events. "We received incredible support from the city, the county and the main corridor properties. I think they were all anxious for change."

Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid, one of the event's biggest proponents but one of its most outspoken critics as it struggled to pay its bills, was on hand Wednesday, as was Mayor Oscar Goodman.

"This is an example that persistence pays off," Reid said. "The problems this event had brought the community together in a way that we could solve those problems. This took a lot of cooperation to do something unprecedented, and I'm really happy that it's come together the way it has."

An exuberant Goodman, who joked on the sun-soaked dais that he could sip on adult beverages for 21/2 hours but couldn't possibly run that long, echoed Reid's pleasure.

"This group has a good track record, and I know they are totally committed to making this a world-class event," Goodman said. "It's important for me for this to be successful. This time, it looks like we have the real McCoy."

The event attracted approximately 15,000 runners in December. Zocks is expecting a significant boost, setting a goal of 20,000 for this year, and he and Herring said the number of entrants might be capped, though they wouldn't attach a number to such a move.

"We can do 20,000; we can do more than 20,000," Zocks said, noting entries are already running 30 percent ahead of last year's pace. "We just have to determine how much the course can handle."

Contact reporter Patrick Everson at or 702-383-0353.