When Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas organizers canceled the 2020 event because of COVID-19, they didn’t want the unexpected extra planning time to go to waste.
They envisioned what changes could be made so that when the running event returned, it would feel almost like a new production.
That brainstorming produced the following changes:
— The half-marathon has replaced the marathon as the marquee event, keeping the main race entirely on Las Vegas Boulevard.
— The 10-kilometer race will start at the same time as the half-marathon and mostly follow the same course.
— Raiderettes and the Golden Knights’ Drum Line and team DJ Joe Green will greet runners at different points.
— A live stream of the races will be shown on the 100,000-square foot LED screen at Resorts World Las Vegas.
All that is just on Sunday around the half-marathon and 10K, which begin at 4:30 p.m. on the boulevard between Harmon and Park avenues. A 5K took place Saturday in downtown Las Vegas, and Resorts World hosted a three-day Health & Fitness Expo leading up to Sunday.
“What we’ve really done is taken the last two-plus years (and) re-imagined the entire experience and are super excited to get back on the Strip,” race director Nicole Christenson said. “It’s probably the most unique running experience in the world. We really create this unforgettable experience where a person can travel down a closed Las Vegas Boulevard at night.”
Christenson didn’t rule out bringing back the marathon at some point, but made clear it wasn’t likely, at least in the near term. Going to a half-marathon attracts more of the casual runner.
“We are kind of this incredible running party in the entertainment capital of the world,” she said. “So our participants are really more here for the party and the experience of running down the Strip at night and less the serious runners who are trying to PR (personal record). We obviously welcome all runners, but if you look at participant demographics, that’s what we see.”
About 35,000 runners have registered, about the same number as in 2019, the last time the event was staged before COVID. The direct spending from that year was $110 million, according to Las Vegas Events.
LVE president Pat Christenson, Nicole’s father, said the economic impact will be more widespread this year because downtown hosted the 5K.
He also called the move to the half-marathon “so much better for Vegas. Quite frankly, do we want a guy who’s going to come in here and run 26 miles? What’s he going to do? He’s going to sit in his room. The rest of this crowd is out and on the town.”
Nicole Christenson said there was a hunger by the runners to travel and specifically return to Las Vegas. They were steadily signing up even before the recent plunge in COVID cases after the December and January surge of the omicron variant. She said 92 percent of the field is from out of town.
Organizers are pleased to attract such a large field, Nicole Christenson said, but they also aren’t satisfied with maintaining the status quo.
“As we look forward to ’23, ’24 and ’25, we’re definitely hoping to grow the event,” she said.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas schedule
2 p.m. — Start Village opens, behind Planet Hollywood
4:30 p.m. — Half-marathon and 10K, Las Vegas Boulevard between Harmon and Park avenues
5:10 p.m. — First 10K finisher expected
5:40 p.m. — First half-marathon finisher expected
10 p.m. – Last participant expected to cross finish line