If you’re the kind of runner that likes to celebrate life’s milestones by running half marathons, it doesn’t get any better than Rock n Roll Las Vegas. The Las Vegas strip shuts down only twice a year, and one of those times is for this race, making it a truly epic experience.
Few races can host a packet pick-up like Rock n Roll, and the Las Vegas event did not disappoint. We had heard rumors of the madness that exists at the expo due to the sheer size of the race, and as a result had considered signing up (and paying extra money) for the VIP race experience. The VIP experience allowed certain runners an express packet pick-up of sorts, as well as access to their own port-o-lets post-race, and (depending on the level of VIP one registered for) post-race massage, VIP gear check, monorail passes, and more. (For more information on the VIP options, visit http://www.runrocknroll.com/las-vegas/the-weekend/vip/) Truth be told, there was no need, and we were glad we didn’t invest the extra cash as the race expo and the entire race experience were more than manageable.
We arrived at the Las Vegas Convention Center, site of packet pickup, via the monorail on the Saturday before the race. We were lucky to be staying at the Tropicana Resort, which is the first stop on the Las Vegas monorail. This meant we had no problems squeezing into a car, or even procuring a seat on the way to the expo. Runners staying at stops closer to the convention center may have had a more challenging time.
Packet pick-up followed Rock n Roll’s usual procedures. All runners needed to have a printed confirmation sheet in order to pick up their bibs and race shirts. We arrived at the expo with our half marathon confirmation sheets in hand, but due to an odd glitch, were unable to print our 5K confirmations. The aforementioned glitch was easily remedied in mere minutes at the resolution booth (in spite of a modest line).
We began by retrieving our half marathon bib numbers, and did not need to wait in line at either the 1,000’s table or the 7,000’s table. From there we retrieved our 5K bibs and proceeded to t-shirt pick-up. For any women running a Rock n Roll event for the first time, be sure to select a shirt one size larger than your usual size. One of us learned this lesson a half dozen Rock n Rolls ago, and now the shirts always fit. Runners who signed up for both the 5K and half marathon received a shirt for each race. Everyone was provided with a clear, drawstring, plastic Rock n Roll bag in which to carry goodies received throughout the expo.
The remainder of the expo housed hundreds of vendors selling their wares and offering free samples to the thousands of runners who passed through. The Brooks Run Happy Island was in attendance at this expo, offering runners a chance to win prizes and challenge themselves on the Brooks mechanical sneaker-bull. Travelers insurance had both a sign making station for friends and family acting as spectators, and a photo-op for anyone wanting to capture the experience.
In a rush to make it to a comedy show later that evening, we raced through the remainder of the expo, and managed to board the packed monorail back to our hotel.
You can stay just about anywhere on the Las Vegas strip and easily get yourself to the race start. With that being said, we were partial to the Tropicana for a few reasons. First, Tropicana was an easy walk to the pre-race concert at the MGM Resorts Village. In fact, it was so close we needed only to open our hotel windows to hear the music. Second, with Tropicana being the first stop on the monorail, we never had trouble boarding when leaving our hotel. With the 5K the night before the half marathon starting at the SLS casino on the opposite end of the strip, we utilized the monorail, as the walk would have been miles long. Finally, the Trop was an enjoyable hotel. Our rooms were tastefully decorated and clean, and the staff was friendly and helpful. An added bonus was the free cookies provided to us care of this Hilton Doubletree property.
Also within easy walking distance to the half marathon start were the MGM, New York New York, Luxor, and Mandalay Bay.
Because the start and finish were separated by about a mile, Rock n Roll strongly urged runners to make use of the gear check at MGM Resorts Village. As the race weather was expected to be windy and cold, event organizers wanted to make sure all runners had a warm set of clothes to change into post-race.
For those runners who prefer to stay near the finish of a race, the Rock n Roll Las Vegas ended right in front of the Bellagio. A stay there, at Paris, or at Caesar’s would make it easy for a runner to return to her hotel room and change clothes before heading back out for the evening.
Places to Eat
Trying to advise someone of where to eat in Las Vegas is like asking someone to choose a diamond at Tiffany. There are so many options you could make yourself crazy trying to choose.
Because of the race’s 4:30 start time, we needed a full lunch, but not one that would be overly filling. Additionally, we didn’t want to walk far to get it as we would be running 13.1 miles later. As such, we recommend eating a late lunch at whatever little sandwich shop you can find in your hotel. Post-race, we enjoyed eating at Maggiano’s, which was a short walk from the race finish, and allowed us to consume the carbs we desired after running a good race. With that being said, you have your pick of places to eat. It seems to us that because there are so many places to choose from, unless you want to eat at the hottest restaurant in town, getting a table in Las Vegas is relatively easy.
Due to the later start of the Rock n Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon, the post-race party was actually a pre-race party. Held in MGM’s Resort Village an hour and a half before race start, the 2015 race concert featured Kid Rock. The Village was also the site of gear check and massive amounts of port-o-lets. Not wanting to stand around too much prior to running, we caught the tail end of the concert before heading out to begin our race. While we worried about being able to get to our corrals (1 and 7) due to the massive size of the event, this was actually the easiest of all the Rock n Rolls we’ve done. As long as you stay on the sidewalk, you should have no problem walking from the very back (site of corral #42) to the very front. Gates located at regular intervals allowed runners easy access to their corrals before the official race began.
Course & Fan Support
The experience began on Las Vegas Blvd. with loud music, a talented MC pumping up the crowd, and fire rocketing from the top of the Rock n Roll banner. The starting line is just south of the MGM Resort Village, site of the pre-race concert. Runners initially head south on the strip, and then make a U-turn, allowing all a glance of the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. From there, the course heads north, and passes the starting line, allowing runners another chance to be cheered on by the crowds at the start. From there the course heads as far north as the Fremont area before turning around and finishing at the Bellagio. For those in the later corrals, this offers them another opportunity to be cheered on by massive crowds, as all will pass the finish line on their journey north to Fremont.
In a nutshell, this course is one of the best. In true Las Vegas style, there is something to see everywhere you look, and that makes for a quick 13.1 miles. In addition to the novelty of actually running on the Las Vegas strip, sans vehicles, the entertainment along this course was the best of any Rock n Roll event we’ve participated in.
Aid stations were located approximately every two miles, if not more. Gatorade and water were being distributed at all stations, and GU was out there somewhere, though we did not stop for any.
The finish area was epic. The same infinitely energetic MC, along with flashing lights, techno music, and massive crowds all greeted runners as they approached the finish line. The army of volunteers continued in the finisher chute where they presented runners with finisher medals and distributed water, Gatorade, pretzels, Snap Pea Crisps, PowerBars, and other goodies. We’ve never seen so many photographers on hand to snap photos. In addition to those stationed at frequent intervals along the course, at least a dozen photo-ops were set up with photographers begging runners to pose for one more picture. The chute emptied out to the caravan of UPS trucks that hauled all of the gear check bags from start to finish. Before grabbing our stuff, we stopped by the Remix Medal booth, where we picked up our third medal of the weekend. Anyone who ran both the 5K and half marathon earned a third Remix Challenge medal to add to their bling.
Las Vegas is the crowing jewel of the Rock n Roll Marathon Series, and is certainly a race to add to your bucket list. Don’t be scared by the massive size of the event. Racer organizers know what they are doing and have magically found a way to make a race of this magnitude a really special experience for everyone who runs. If you have anything special to celebrate, and you plan on celebrating through running, work Rock n Roll Las Vegas into your plans.
Tips for Running a Successful Rock n Roll Las Vegas
- Utilize the gear check. On the day of our race, winds were high. Because of the race’s late start, temperatures also dropped by the time we finished, so extra clothes are a must-have, even if they are just to get you back to your hotel or the monorail station.
- Be well trained. Due to the out and back nature of this course and November being a windy season in Las Vegas, the weather may impact how you perform. A strong foundation will make any potential headwinds more manageable.
- Stay in a hotel near the start, finish, or near a monorail station. Las Vegas can be a challenging place to drive under normal circumstances. Neither one of us would want to drive on the roads during the one of two times a year the Strip is close.
For more information visit http://www.runrocknroll.com/las-vegas/.