Race Report: 2011 Sin at RnR Las Vegas Marathon

After the disaster that was called the “Zappos.Com Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon” the reputation of RockNRoll (@RunRocknRoll) marathons was not only tarnished and hammered on Facebook/Twitter and other social media, but everyone from competitive to back-of-the-pack runners seemed to tell the similar stories of horror. And despite injuries many runners incurred from too many runners trying to squeeze into too small a space, the organizers are advertising they want to increase from 44,000 runners to over 61,000 runners next year.

I can not, in good conscience, give a good review or recommend the Las Vegas Marathon. In fact, nothing about the race is unique or can not be experienced for free, 365 days a year, on the sidewalks of the strip.  (Photos and Video at the end!)

And before you think it was just me, a slow runner, with bad experiences, my best friend ran the race on a pace for 3:20 finish, but found herself also stuck in the crowds and finished at a 3:39 time. It seemed that the typical amount of time lost in the race due to bad planning and crowding was approximately 15-30 minutes. From the talk on the airplanes, waiting rooms, and busses, my voice is in the majority, not the minority. Hopefully, organizers will read and listen to all the feedback, and make some serious, drastic changes to next years race. First and foremost, the race can not handle more than 20,000 runners. Any number greater than that is just a disaster. And I can be very forgiving and positive when things truly are beyond control of the directors, as you can see from my report on the SlickRock 57km (50k) Ultramarathon. But the mistakes and lack of organization of this race is inexcusable.

You can see a graph of my own race below:

My Race from TrainingPeaks

If you look at the pace times, you’ll notice a very large slow-down in the latter half of the race. This was a bit me, but mostly it was caused by the crowds. In fact, the huge negatives from the race are so overwhelming that my own race and issues pale in comparison. I’m just hugely grateful I got the following for Christmas:

Nathan Endurance Race Vest

I am very grateful to My Girl for giving me my Christmas present early! Many runners seemed to have feelings like they were food poisoned after drinking or eating items provided by the race.

Reasons the Las Vegas Marathon was a disaster

  • The website indicated where to park, but when you arrived security, hotels, and police said that information was false and the hotels were never aware that the event promoters were telling people where to park and therefore were keeping people out. If they are going to hold the marathon again, they need to do a better job with parking, as there is plenty of space if the organizers do a better job with planning.
  • Despite 30 corrals for the ½ Marathon, it became so crowded that people couldn’t even reach their assigned corals or even the entrances to the corrals (people were jumping the barricades, injuring bystanders, themselves, and fellow runners in an attempt to do the right thing, and start with their proper pace group).
  • People were not even aware of what corral they were supposed to be in. If they used LETTERS for corrals (like Comrades), and numbers (Say, A1005), there would be no confusion. People just joined any corral because they couldn’t reach their assigned coral, which caused slow runners to block faster runners. Another sign that the whoever planned this course had never done so before and did so in a very lazy, amateur way.
  • Not enough porta-potties (course or start/finish). Although at any large event there never seems to be enough porta-potties, the lines at the start went well beyond any normally expected long line. Another sign that the organizers improperly planned ahead, they also didn’t have enough porta potties on the race course – the lines along the race course were at least 20 minutes during the second half.
  • Several AID stations ran out of water. Some runners went almost the entire race without any fluids.
  • The phrase, “The Merge” has emerged as a swear word on Twitter. When the marathoners hit the 1/2 marathoners, any sense of rhythm, race, or space disappeared. Many, many runners lost 15-30 minutes just because of the crowd. Although for the marathoners the first 13.1 miles wasn’t bad (if boring) for the 6,000 runners, the second half was horrible.
  • People waited 4 hours for a cab after the race
  • Corrupt bell hops were taking bribes for cabs
  • Somebody needs to figure out a real finish time (12:47 pace is not 4:30). On the website they said the marathon cut-off was 4:30, but then said the pace time was 12:47 – which is correct for 5:30. Another sign of incompetence, the people behind this race couldn’t even figure out what the cutoff was. It obviously wasn’t 4:30, as seen from this graph from marathonguide.com showing the average finish was 4:19:
  • Las Vegas Marathon – Results
    Las Vegas, NV USA
    December 4, 2011
    Finishers: 3766, Males – 2380 , Females – 1386
    Male Winner: 2:29:12 | Female Winner: 2:48:58
    Average Finish Time: 4:19:38 | STD: 0:51:59
  • Pacers from the Pace Groups completely fell apart after the merge. A large group of runners trying to maintain a pace were completely unable to do so due to too many runners in too small a space.
  • Not enough propane heaters. Numerous people needed medical for hypothermia.
  • After crossing the finish line, the crowd of runners came to a screeching halt because not enough photographers were available to take finish-line photos, and thousands of people began to shiver and get sick because the crowd was funneled into too small a space too far from warmth. Although I have to admit, hearing 1,000’s of runners all go “BRRR!!!” at the same time with a gust of wind was rather funny, I almost barfed due to being stuck in the crowd and unable to move.
  • At the expo, marathoners were told they would have a separate lane. What we weren’t told was this “separate” lane was a cone placed about every 300 feet’. This is inexcusable and was completely worthless.  A fence must be placed along the course. Although the bicyclist volunteers screamed and shouted “walkers to the right!”, people couldn’t hear them or ignored them because…
  • The race allowed headsets. Why in the world anyone would wear headsets to a rock ‘n’ roll marathon is beyond me. But despite that, many, many participants (I’m not going to call them runners) were texting, talking on the phone, and listening to their own music, and therefore unable to hear anything – and in my case, a scream of “On your left!” as I attempted to pass to the left (in the marathon lane) all the 1/2 marathon walkers.
  • Despite knowing how many runners were in each race, they ran out of 1/2 marathon medals. You should ALWAYS have extras!
  • Bananas were raw – ALL of them. That was cool – not.
  • 60,000 is recipe for real disaster
  • Early Shutdown of AID stations
  • Due to the crowd, Marathoners did almost .5 mile farther due to marathon lane on the outside of many turns. Although a little extra mileage is in just about every race, this one is particularly bad.
  • Having the drop bag location almost 45 minutes away from the finish is probably another reason so many got sick. Additionally, many people had issues with the the bag drop (I didn’t use it, so I can’t comment directly).
  • Poor overall organization of the race portion. Entertainment was fine.
  • For a NIGHT marathon, September or October would be better, because freezing temperatures do occur in Las Vegas in December.
  • Expo was good, but parking was an issue again – normal for many marathons, but this is Las Vegas.
  • Parking attendants said parking was not set up by the organizers.
  • Mandalay Bay was directing people to the TRAM and not to correct places.
  • Apparently insufficient preparation for an event of this size.
  • Placed AID stations in the middle of the marathon “Lane” on the strip, causing many runners to collide with those seeking water.
  • In the 1/2 marathon, volunteers collapsed the corrals way too early, mixing numerous faster/slower runners adding to the confusion.
  • Volunteers not sufficiently trained
  • Although short on volunteers, the design layout of the pre-race and post-race areas was insufficient.
  • Trying to download my “Finisher Certificate”, the web crashes – so I can’t get it.
While compiling this list, I received an email from Competitor group, who may have been flooded with negative feedback. The email:
Your Feedback is Important to Us!

Thank you for being a part of the Zappos.com Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon & ½ Marathon! Competitor Group appreciates the feedback we have received so far, and we are processing the responses. The survey will provide additional outlet for you to help us make your future race experiences better! Here are some areas we have identified for improvement based on your comments:
–       Crowding at the Start Line and Finish Line
–       Mandalay Bay post-race
–       The merge of the marathon and half marathon courses
–       Difficulty distributing participant amenities
–       Aide stations along the course
We are actively working to finalize our improvement plans and changes for next year will be announced soon.


Let’s hope they listen to the feedback. Even if they do, such a poor showing will take a great deal of effort to overcome. Drastic and severe changes in leadership, for example, will need to be made beyond simple, empty promises. Even with this, I highly doubt I would return next year, particularly if the race is going to have an impossible to manage number of 60,000+ runners.

I’ve run a lot of races, but in conclusion, to find something positive, I can only tell you this: This was, by far, the worse race of my career, so if someday I become a race director, I will know for certain what not to do, and details I need to plan!