Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011 | 2 a.m.
From the standpoint of sheer numbers, Sunday’s Zappos.com Las Vegas Rock ’n Roll Marathon was a huge success. The sold-out event drew some 44,000 racers who paid between $130 and $179 to run a half or full marathon, a portion of it on the Las Vegas Strip.
Some are calling for the field to expand to 60,000 runners in 2012.
But the event has had a somewhat unwelcome hangover reflected in numerous complaints on a Facebook page dedicated to the race. The participants cited a number of issues, including overcrowding, a lack of water, water that was distributed in garbage cans and other issues.
Some comments from the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon & 1/2 Marathon” page on Facebook are positive, but a majority are complaints similar to these:
• AnnMarie Swanson, of Marinette, Wis.: “I had to withdraw from this race due to injury ... but as a nurse practitioner I am REALLY concerned with comments about getting water from fire hydrants and that people were placing cups with bare hands into the water to get drinks. This has been said by MANY people … I have also seen several people with reports of nausea and vomiting — while this is possible with distance running this seems out of the proportion of usual.”
• Britt Lee S., of Saskatchewan, Canada: “My mom after the race had no medical attention which she needed. She ended up in the hospital. I hope ... the organizers understand that if they have this next year a lot needs to happen — for one ... you need more medical personnel available. This is an epic failure and I would not recommend anyone to participate in this.”
• Michael Muehling: “This race could not have been run more poorly if you tried. Too many runners, not enough staff/volunteers and the facilities for the bag check & start/finish line were absolutely terrible. Go back to a day race and cap of 24,000 runners. You should issue a credit for future RNR races to those that paid for this mess in Vegas.”
Lee Haney, a spokeswoman for the Competitor Group Inc., which organized the race, said filling lined trash cans with fire hydrant water is standard in marathon races. (Instructions for water stations at the Carmel, Calif., marathon state: “Fill one trash can with water from the hose attached to the fire hydrant or nearby building/house.”)
Haney added, however, that a hydrant would need to be well-flushed before any water from it could be used for drinking.
Was that done? Clark County Fire Capt. David Croston said the department had little to do with the race because organizers contracted medical services with a private company. As for the hydrants, Croston said if they were used, race organizers never informed the Fire Department.
A spokesman for Competitor Group said the company is taking the complaints “very, very seriously.” CEO Peter Englehart has been answering some of the Facebook comments personally.
Englehart could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Some issues appear linked to the near-doubling of the number of race participants from a year ago.
Marathon runners started racing about two hours before the more numerous half-marathoners began their race. When the half-marathoners joined in, the course became so crowded that runners were forced outside the half-marathon lane, some complained online.
If numbers of runners led to some problems, might Clark County commissioners, who govern the Las Vegas Strip, consider holding the race over two days in 2012?
Steve Sisolak, vice chairman of the commission, said “it isn’t likely that we close the Strip on two days.” Instead, he said, perhaps different routes can be configured to cut down on crowding.
Human traffic jams were evident on Fremont Street in front of the El Cortez, where at about 8 p.m., marathoners were seen running off the course and onto sidewalks to avoid bottlenecks. One woman fell after running into someone in front of her. And runners were grousing at each other to “get out of the way.”
“It was like we were animals,” one half-marathoner said after the race. “Did we pay $150 just to get a lousy T-shirt?”