There's no doubt the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon and Half-Marathon has made immense gains in popularity since its start in 2009.
But likewise, there's no doubt the event has had significant growing pains that left many participants disgruntled, particularly in the wake of December's race, the first one held at night. With a total field of 38,000, mostly in the half-marathon, the finish-line area became chaotic as the evening went on, with finishers struggling to get through the crush and ultimately make their way back to their hotels or homes.
Competitor Group, the San Diego-based company that oversees all the Rock 'n' Roll events, unveiled a seven-point plan Tuesday to address that issue and a few other pressing needs, along with a major change to the courses.
The marathon and half-marathon still will start at the south end of the Strip, near Mandalay Bay. But the courses now will include more of the downtown area -- with the marathon getting a stretch under the Fremont Street Experience canopy -- and the marathon will cover several miles west/northwest of downtown.
"We wanted to get more of downtown for both races," Competitor vice president Adam Zocks said. "Fremont Street Experience management and tenants and their board all were interested in bringing the event through their part of downtown. We met a couple times and were able to get that part of the course approved."
And both races now will finish mid-Strip, by Caesars Palace, giving even a glitzier aspect to the Dec. 2 night event.
Perhaps more important, Competitor said the move will help with the overcrowding issue, since many participants can opt to walk back to their hotels, with more than 50,000 rooms located within one mile of the finish area -- and 90 percent of those rooms within a half-mile.
"Now at postrace, we won't have everyone trying to load into one hotel," Zocks said, noting the issue that affected runners at the Mandalay Bay finish area last year. "Now they can disburse to all the hotels in the area."
Another issue that drew complaints in 2011 was the water quality at hydration stations along the course. Although tests by the Southern Nevada Water Board and Southern Nevada Health District showed no contamination from the water source, Competitor is taking steps to further assure runners of water quality.
Competitor said WaterMonster -- a company specializing in water delivery systems -- will aid in the delivery of water and Gatorade to the course, using food-grade container systems and National Sanitation Foundation-approved hoses. There also will be more oversight of volunteers at the stations.
"We want to make sure everyone is comfortable," Zocks said. "We want to make sure the water is safely stored and safely distributed -- just take the extra step to ensure the safety and health of all the runners."
Along with the finish area, there also were crowding issues at the point where the marathon and half-marathon courses merged. Competitor said that has been addressed by providing a marathon-only lane on Las Vegas Boulevard where the two courses meet -- at the 10.6-mile mark of the half and the 23.7-mile mark of the full.
And at the start line, the wave start will increase from 45 minutes to 90 minutes, allowing two to three minutes between the release of each corral of runners, a move Competitor expects to ease crowding throughout the course.
Also aiding that issue will be earlier start times, with the marathon going off at 3 p.m. -- rather than 4 -- and the half at 4:30, allowing more daylight racing while still keeping the finish under the Strip lights at night.
"Essentially, we've been studying, reading comments and talking to runners since December," Zocks said. "We really defined the key areas that needed to be adjusted and improved to make it a better experience for every runner.
"The overcrowding was an issue at the start line, on the course and at the finish. The extended wave start will make a big difference in controlling the crowds."
Other aspects of the plan include:
-- Increased corral security, to ensure participants start at their correct pace times.
-- New start village location, on the east side of Las Vegas Boulevard across from the Luxor, allowing more access points to the start-line corrals.
-- Expanded weekend expo at the Sands Expo and Convention Center.
Contact reporter Patrick Everson at email@example.com or 702-383-0353.