Post Race Review: Las Vegas Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon
Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro by going to https://www.bibrave.com/bibravepro. Find more race reviews like this one at www.bibrave.com.
This race had been on my radar for a number of reasons, but in particular because the race course is on the actual Las Vegas Strip, at night, with all the lights and neon that Las Vegas is so famous for. The uniqueness of that scenario promised to be memorable and it did not disappoint.
The expo/packet pickup was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, towards the northeast and just a couple of blocks away from the Main Strip. After flying in and checking into the hotel, I took a Lyft ride there to meet a cousin of mine and his friend; they were running the half marathon as well. By that time, Saturday afternoon around 4pm, there was still a bit of flow from participants like us picking up packets, but it was evident that most people had picked up theirs already. That made complete sense since the Expo and Packet Pickup event had been going on since Thursday morning. We were thus able to walk straight up to the counters and get our bibs and participant shirts. The shirt size I had ordered was larger than expected, but I was allowed to exchange it for the correct size at a solutions tent post-race.
There was a large selection of vendors all throughout the Expo floor, with all the gear, hydration, or nutrition you probably need to run a race. But I used a packing checklist at home to make sure I travelled with all I needed for the race and have so much gear already that I didn’t need to buy a single item.
One of the many things that Rock ‘n’ Roll race organizers do well is the design and promotion of other events in the Series. For example, with this neat banner they got me thinking about signing up to run their destinations in Latin America.
I am already signed up to run the Medellin Half in 2020, so now I need to look into Oaxaca and Santiago de Chile. Gotta keep expanding those horizons!!
Race-day logistics and start line
The start for this race was at 4:30pm on Sunday afternoon. Given that in Las Vegas that time matches up with sunset, I imagine that it is done that way in order to not only take advantage of cooler, more favorable temperatures for running, but also because running the Strip at night with all its lights adds to the appeal of running the race.
There was a large, large area adjacent to the Planet Hollywood hotel designated as the Start Village for all participants to stretch, turn in gear bags, hydrate, use port-a-potties, and be entertained by a cover band playing a variety of music. There were also tents for VIPs and race merchandise for purchase.
I used the port-a-potties there and there were plenty of them, enough where there were very few people waiting in line, only about 3-4 deep on each at most, so it only took me about 5 minutes to wait for my turn.
At approximately 4:00pm, we were then able to transition from the Start Village to the corrals, which were organized according to the assigned bib color and projected finish times submitted during registration. We walked approximately ⅓ and ¼ mile in distance between the Start Village and our corrals, which were located directly in front of the Paris hotel and extending all the way to the Start Line, nearly to where the New York New York and MGM hotels are located. All of this process was extremely well organized and handled, in particular when you consider that between there were approximately 20,000 of us participating in the half and full marathon events.
We were on corral wave #8, so we watched all the buzz and excitement as each corral was released at the start, with an announcer counting down to zero along with pyrotechnics going off right at the start line banner, signaling the time to go.
Course & Support
Once our wave was released and we started, it took me about a mile or so for the crowd of runners around me to thin out enough to find the steady pace I was targeting. I was also being a bit cautious to keep an eye on the road, as we had noticed while we were at the corrals waiting for the start that there were many cracks and holes on the pavement. While we managed this throughout the course without any issues, I feel that it is due time for the city of Las Vegas to repave the Strip and make the road smoother.
Once I found the pace I was targeting, I was able to hold it for the bulk of the race and until about mile 11, when my legs started to feel extremely heavy and I started slowing down. I remember seeing the Stratosphere tower coming up on the distance to my right, motivating me to keep pushing strong, as I knew that after passing the tower, it would only be Circus Circus and Treasure Island before reaching the finish at The Mirage. Thankfully I had enough focus and energy left to make a good push in that last stretch and finish the race strong.
The medical aid and hydration stations were very well spread out and placed every couple of miles along the course. They were well staffed with plenty of volunteers handing out Gatorade and SIS energy gels in the later miles.
The crowds were great throughout, but were the loudest when the course reaches the older section of the Strip and turns around mile 8-9, heading back on the last stretch towards the finish line. And obviously, a key element of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Series races, there were plenty of music bands spread throughout the course, something which is definitely a lot of fun and energizing each time you run by one.
The finish line was located directly in front of The Mirage hotel, with a chute that was perhaps the longest one I have ever seen, stretching for approximately half a mile, all the way from the Mirage to the corner of Las Vegas Blvd and Flamingo Road, between Caesars Palace and The Bellagio hotels. Inside of the chute there were tons of volunteers handing out medals, water, Gatorade, chocolate milk, bananas, and other post-race refreshments, such as Michelob Ultra beer. In order to have a beer, we were required to have a special wristband provided after confirming valid ID showing age of 21 and over. The medal has a neat and colorful design, and will be one that will bring back good memories of this fun race over the years.
I feel this is a high-quality race, with a unique and entertaining course that is run at night, and with thousands and thousands of people cheering along the way. Race management does a great job planning and putting on a memorable event. I would recommend it to anyone who is considering it, as there is so much to see and do in Las Vegas on top of the actual race.