Thursday, December 8, 2011

Las Vegas Rock & Roll Marathon (and Stiletto Dash) Commentary

Let me start with the most important thing up front -
I would not by any means recommend running this race. That said if you are willing to put up with a lot of disorganization and a race that is way too expensive you may be up for it.

It was fun to run the Strip at Night but quite frankly you can walk the strip at night with drink in hand and it's just as enjoyable if not more so I suggest doing that.

As far as the Stiletto Dash goes it was entertaining and I somewhat enjoyed it (I certainly enjoyed laughing about a lot of things including the people who were way too serious about it!) but it was definitely not worth the price of admission by any means.

When I teach Effective Communication one the techniques I teach is what is called the sandwich strategy where you try and start your feedback with something positive and end with something positive - it generally makes people more receptive to your feedback. The times I say that it isn't acceptable to do that is when something is so incredibly bad that anything good is completely outweighed by the numerous issues... this is one of those times. Below is the letter I have written to the group in charge of the races... this should give you an idea of how bad the issues were. And to be honest as I have been reading the Facebook comments etc. there are many more issues that other people experienced (such as a lack of medical personnel) that I don't talk about in my letter because I didn't see or experience them myself...

Dear Competitor Group,

I am a frequent participant in Rock-N-Roll events over the last 4-5 years. Perhaps not as frequent as your “Rock Stars,” but having run 8 different races, scheduled to run DC in March and having registered for 3 that I was unable to run due to other obligations that came up I feel that you guys have gotten quite a bit of money from me.  In addition to your registration fees (which seem to continually be going up) – I have yet to go to an Expo and not buy something from your merchandize area. I list all of this out for you so you understand how I fit into your “demographic” as I continue with the rest of this letter.

I have just completed the Las Vegas Half Marathon and I have to say I couldn’t be more disappointed. I was excited at the idea of running the strip at night but I now have to say it was without a doubt, hands down the worst race I have ever run (and that’s saying a lot given the number of races I have done both Rock-N-Roll and otherwise).  I did enjoy getting to run the strip at night but that pales in comparison to the issues I experienced. Specifically my issues include:

1.    The fact that the Zappos area had it’s own cordoned off area was very confusing and made it difficult to navigate. I recognize that they were the major sponsor but it made it difficult to find everything in the Expo.

2.     Gear Check – where the heck was it? I have heard so many people complain that they couldn’t find it and we were no different
3.     Getting to the Start Line – from inside the Mandalay we tried to follow the signs only to be turned around and told to go a different way and we had to muddle our way through to attempt to find the start line. Finally we gave in and climbed through the hedges in front of the hotel (a fact that I am sure the hotel is less than thrilled with).
4.     Corrals – Clearly you guys weren’t even remotely patrolling who went into what corral

5.     Wave starts were way too close together. Everyone was tripping on one another
6.     WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY (get the picture) too many people. Clearly you guys allowed in more runners than you were prepared to handle. The half was a total zoo. You could hardly move
7.     Clear lack of proper corralling – there were so many walkers in the way of actual runners that it was unsafe. Most of these people had high numbers on (such as 30-40) and I was in the 17 group and was surrounded by these people.
8.     Your designation of half to the right and full to the left by a cone that was less than a foot tall was a joke! Who could see that given the massive numbers of people? I felt really bad for the marathoners who were hoping for a decent time because they clearly couldn’t get it given the number of people they had to navigate when they merged with the halfers.
9.     Water stations – I was doing better than mid-pack for the half and when I got to water stations pretty much all of them were at least half empty and most of them didn’t have any Gatorade (or Cytomax or whatever you call it). This is absolutely unacceptable for any marathon but especially one in such a dry climate.
10. Volunteers – Clearly you guys were incredibly deficient on volunteers throughout the course. Given how much money our entries are at worst case you need to hire some people.
11. There were random cones and such that people were tripping over – again this was exacerbated by the fact that there were WAY to many people allowed into this race
12. Entertainment on the course – why no cheer squads? Far fewer bands than I expected. When I did this in 2007 there were acts like Blue Man Group and Cirque out there but there was none of that this year (or at least none that I saw)
13. I was actually worried for my safety at the finish line due the large number of people and the fact that it was clearly not large enough for everyone. It was a mass of people that could have been very dangerous had anyone fallen or gotten pushed up against a fence.
14.  The space or area and the number of photographer stations seemed to be the same number as any other race which would have less people. Do the math! More people means more space and more photographers.
15. Given the crushing mass of people I wanted to skip the photographers but it was difficult to do so which is unacceptable
16. Food? What food? There were so many people I couldn’t even get to it. My body desperately needed it but I was out of luck.
17. Upon exit of the secure runner area I asked literally a half a dozen people where I could find a shuttle (yes there was 1 sign but I had learned by the start line experience that I couldn’t necessarily trust it and good thing I didn’t) back to the hotel yet not a single one of them had any idea. They all told me to go to the Information booth. (Volunteers in that area should be better prepped by you guys with these types of answers.)
18. Post-Race Parties – The times were too close to the end of the marathon given how long it took to get out of there so we didn’t get a chance to partake.

Stiletto Dash
I also signed up and participated in this… to say I was disappointed is an understatement.
1.     There was such a lack of organization it was appalling. I understand this is your first time doing this but it was only 250 people so really you should have been able to do a much better job
2.     Communication issues – half the time we couldn’t hear what was being communicated to us because the bullhorn wasn’t enough to overcome the noise. Even in the back room it was very difficult to hear. Since we’d had no real instruction prior to arrival we were completely reliant on trying to hear what the heck the people were saying at the event.
3.     Your standards for shoes are questionable and need to be more defined. Some of the girls were running in heels that there was no way in creation that the heel itself was 3 inches. Maybe if you include the upper part of the shoe it was but that’s not how something like this should be measured. You also originally said no boots but then changed that. Pick a standard and stick with it. You can’t expect us to go back and continually check to see if you’ve changed your minds about the standards.
4.     If I recall correctly you said only women could participate but you let men in. That’s fine that you didn’t let them “win” but they got WAY more attention from you guys touting them to the media than us women who the event was intended for.
5.     You cold have done the event in half the time – there was way too much standing around and waiting
6.     The most disappointing part of the whole thing is the necklace. The WHOLE reason I did this was because you said (and I take this directly from your website ”The red carpet will be rolled out for our dashers. Each participant will receive:
                        Swanky, swag bag stuffed with products, exclusive offers and goodies!
                        Sparkling silver finisher’s necklace
This necklace is beyond a joke. It’s like a kids piece of jewelry. It’s cheap and I doubt if it’s even real silver. I expected something like the Nike Women’s Race necklaces (especially given the hefty $100 entry fee).
·      Please do not tell me – “Well it’s for charity” because I really am not concerned with that. That’s great that you guys wants to do something for charity – I wanted to run this event for the great necklace I expected to get.
·      And as far as saying the bag was stuffed you must be kidding…. There were a few items. The word stuffed is a gross overstatement
·      Bottom line is on these points alone I think this was false advertisement and as such I would like a refund for my entry fee.

To combat some retorts to some of these things which I have seen on Facebook
·      You never stated how many people you would allow into the race. Had I known it was 44,000 with the vast majority being Halfers there is no way I would have signed up for this race. But that said there are lots of very large races (see New York & Boston) who do just fine with this many runners
·      This may be your inaugural in Vegas but you do dozens of other runs so you are not new to this
·      I have no issue with walkers overall; however, for the safety of the runners they need to be AT THE BACK! And you need to ensure that they start in the proper corral.

So here’s what I am left with… whether I sign up for another Rock-N-Roll race is certainly dependant upon the type of response I receive from this letter. I cannot in good conscience recommend your Las Vegas events (marathon or Stiletto Dash) to anyone at this point. The question is whether I shout that from the hilltops or not…. I am torn because I have so enjoyed your other races but I feel people deserve to know what they are getting into especially given the steep race fees for all the Vegas events.  I ran this race back in 2007 before you guys took it over and frankly it was a better race then.

I’ve heard you want to expand this race – not only is it a bad idea from a satisfaction perspective but I can’t imagine that is safe. You guys weren’t prepared for a race this size you certainly would be even worse off with more people.

A Very Disappointed Runner,

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