The Competitor Group had a real challenge to improve their Las Vegas "Strip at Night" Marathon and Half Marathon after serious problems in 2011. Many people swore they wouldn't attend until they worked out problems that led to dangerous course congestion, water stops unable to keep up with the crowd of racers, and crowding after the finish. I'm happy to report that a new course design in 2012 cured those problems, with only minor suggestions needed for further improvement. The race's Facebook page exploded with compliments rather than wrath as it did in 2011. The race had 32,000 participants rather than the 44,000 seen in 2011.
Problem Solved: Starting Wave Changes
The first correction for 2012 was to move the Start Village to the east side of Las Vegas Boulevard rather than using the Mandalay Bay parking lot as in previous years. No longer would racers get to the start through the Mandalay Bay resort and casino, but rather by walking down the Strip to the Start Village across the boulevard from Luxor. The start corrals wind around a huge parking lot, with access to portable toilets from three sides. I was in the last corral and had no problem using the restrooms. Signs pointed to the corrals for the faster racers (1-12) and the slower racers. In 2011, the corrals were hard to get to and many slower racers got trapped in the faster corrals, whether they wanted to "jump corrals" or not.
Race Day Guide to the Starting Line - Corrals and More
Getting to the corrals and Start Village involved walking down the Strip. A couple of friends took a shuttle bus provided by their hotel and complained about arriving late. With the new design, racers should arrive at the Start Village before the starting gun for the half marathon, or their access to the starting line may be blocked by the race itself. This is an issue for those of us who know, being in the last corral, we won't start for an hour after the starting gun.
The wave start came off as planned, with corrals starting about one to two minutes apart. This meant that the last corral started over an hour after the starting gun. We had to endure wind gusts with little dust devils, but it was expected. We didn't have easy access to porta-johns after the starting gun, although I think I could just have lurked longer in the starting area and gone to join the last corral later.
Starting Line Problems at the 2011 Race
Problem Solved: Marathoners Colliding with Half Marathoners
The 2011 race design was poor. After their first half of the marathon, the runners joined the freshly-starting half marathon course. They ran into a wall of runners and walkers, with a poorly-designated marathon lane. For 2012, the start time and course design didn't reunite the two races until the last couple of miles, when racers were better spread-out. The event has about 5000 marathon runners and over 25,000 half marathon runners and walkers.
Problem Solved: Water Handling
Because the starting waves broke down into a mass start in 2011, the water stops couldn't keep up and some racers got no water at the first couple of water stops. The proper starting wave procedure in 2012 eliminated that problem. Many racers complained that in 2011 the race used fire hydrant water, dipped out of food-grade trashcans with pitchers and many volunteers did not wear gloves. For 2012, the race partnered with WaterMonster to have large water canteens outfitted with filters and spigot hoses for sanitary filling of water cups.
Water Handling Complaints from 2011
The race does not provide Gatorade at every water stop, which I find odd. I carried my own water but wanted Gatorade at mile 10. Nope, I had to wait till after Mile 11. The race also ran out of GU energy gel for the slower racers. They had provided one in the goodie bag from the Expo, so if you think you'll need one, bring it along.
Problem Solved: Finish Line Changes
In 2011, the finish line was extremely congested for runners as the mass start led to a mass finish. But even worse, the gear drop pick-up was inside the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, as was access to shuttle buses. The wall of 44,000 racers met concert and convention-goers leaving their events and people were trapped wall-to-wall inside Mandalay Bay.
The 2012 finish line was moved to the Strip itself, beginning at Mirage. Racers had the wide three-lane street to pick up their medals, heat sheet, photo ops, drinks and snacks. The crowding was solved. The finish line was very long, stretching about half a mile to the intersection of Flamingo and Las Vegas Boulevard before racers could exit. That drew complaints from racers whose hotels were in the opposite direction.
The race ran out of some items by the time those on a walking pace finished, specifically the chocolate milk they had promoted. However, I was very pleased to be handed a Jamba Juice, a bottle of water, a bottle of Gatorade, a bagel, bag of pretzels, and two Marathon bars. I didn't miss the milk. We didn't see any sales area for those who might make a late decision to buy a finisher shirt, so if you think you want one, get it at the Expo or the Start Village.
In 2011, they ran out of medals due to an order not coming through. I didn't receive mine for about four weeks after the race. I was happy to get my medal at the finish line in 2012. It glows in the dark!
The 2012 course took the half marathon south to the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign before we turned north, going all the way up the Strip to downtown Las Vegas and Fremont Street. As the wind was blowing from south to north, this gave us a good tailwind through most of the race. Only the final four miles were back into the headwind.
The wind blew over most of the mile markers. I knew there was a mile marker wherever I saw a race clock, but it was down on the ground. There were no race clocks or mile markers between Mile 7 and Mile 9 for the half marathon, where the course diverged from the marathon route. The event needs some windproof mile markers.
The course was well-lit and it wasn't necessary to carry a flashlight except to use in the portable toilets after dark.
There were a good number of portable toilets on the route and I only saw lines at the set at Mile 1. But you need to carry a small light so you can see inside them after dark, and always carry your own toilet paper. I used the toilets at Mile 10 and they had no paper.
There are bands each mile, except they seemed to have fewer bands in the boring downtown area.
The race is pretty dull through downtown, which is between miles 8 and 11. The mid-Strip finish area meant that you had less time in the lights of Vegas at the end of the race.
Only the half marathon is walker-friendly with a time limit of four hours. The marathon is limited to runners. There are thousands of walkers and you won't be alone on the course. I found good on-course support for walkers, although they ran out of GU and chocolate milk.
Bottom Line on the 2012 Las Vegas Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon
- This event now lives up to its premium pricetag. All the complaints from 2011 were addressed and corrected. It's safe - come and enjoy!
- I had friends who renewed their wedding vows during the race at the run-through wedding chapel. I also met up with old friends doing the race for the first time in a decade. It's a fun time to dress up in sparkles, dress as Elvis or a showgirl, and have a fun time.
- The Expo also experienced crowding in 2011 but had no crowding problems in 2012 as the organizers arranged for more space, plus the crowd of 32,000 was smaller than the 44,000 of 2011.
- The Expo had an excellent selection of vendors and was fun to browse. I got a free Zappos technical t-shirt for visiting 10 booths on Friday.
- You have the camaraderie of all of the other racers throughout your stay in Las Vegas. I enjoy talking with marathoners and half marathoners before and after as we met at the gaming tables and in the restaurants. Come and enjoy.