Team Challenge Las Vegas – Race Day 2011

We met as a team at 4:00 PM on race day inside the Mandalay Bay near the food court and had to navigate the crowd to get to the start line by 4:20 PM.  The media wanted shots of the local team at the start line hooting and hollering. On our way through the crowds gathering for the half marathon start (the full marathoners started their race at 4:00) we passed by Coco the Colossal Colon at the Team Challenge tent.

Coco the Colossal Colon

It shows healthy and diseased portions of a colon and people can crawl through it. Kind of gross, but kind of funny. I didn’t get a chance to play with Coco though… it was go-go-go for the whole day!  I was out there for about 7 hours.

The coaches

After our little photo op with media, we gathered the team together to take them through a quick warmup and answer any more questions that came up. We let them all try to head to the bathrooms as needed and around 5:00, when the corrals were officially opened to participants, we navigated our way to gather in the corrals.

Before I get into the breakdown of the race, I just want to say that my team all finished (Except for the few people that didn’t even show up! Thanks for making it hard on us coaches as we tried to figure out where you were when you didn’t check in to the Team Challenge tent after the event!) despite some personal and logistical challenges. I was super proud of all of them.

Alright, let’s break this race down some…

The Weather
The whole week leading up to the race was crazy… forecasts changed every hour. All I knew was that race day was going to be cold or not as cold, windy or calm, clear or cloudy… it was all over the place. It started out clear and in the low 40’s. Every year people who travel to Vegas seem surprised that we do get cold during the winter. A lot of people were incredibly under-dressed on the course. Rain started to fall about 3 hours into the half marathon. Mainly it was just a misty rain that made you even colder and served to dampen you just enough to be uncomfortable. Weather is one of those uncontrollable things that you need to plan for anything.  This is nothing against the event this year, just a fact of what this year held.

The Course
Going into this I thought it was a fantastic idea that the full marathoners did their first half in the more boring part of town and got to finish on The Strip. In past year’s it was done reverse of that and I really thought the energy and excitement of The Strip would help the marathoners energy. But the course was so poorly designed and there were so many half marathoners in comparison to the full (6000 vs. 38000) that the half marathoners overtook the “lane” (a portion of the road separated by cones placed far apart) that was designated for the full marathon. The half marathoners were starting just as the 3:00 full marathoners would be meeting up with the same course, thus the faster marathon runners were left to deal with hordes of participants (often slower) in their lane. If they can’t do full-fledged barricades to keep the two groups separate, they need to redo this course, because that was a mess.

The Crowds
There were entirely too many people on the course. As a coach, my bib allows me to run forward and backwards on the course as well was cutting across the course. It was soooo hard to run backwards. The stream of people was so thick. But that’s not the problem… the problem is that runners were running off the road and onto the sidewalks and through medians in order to find the space they needed to pass others. Obviously people were in wrong corrals for their anticipated race pace. It is one thing to jump ahead in corrals if you are planning to do a faster pace than when you initially signed up, it’s an entirely different and wrong thing if participants skip ahead corrals just to be closer to the front if that is not the pace they will be running. I hear rumor that they are not going to cap entry on the race next year… that is a HUGE HUGE HUGE mistake based on this year’s event. Unless they come up with a different type of wave start, this will not work. The crowds never thinned out, I came across several people who were having panic attacks from this.

The Water
Aid stations didn’t have enough water. Plain and simple, if people have to do the last half of their race without aid station support, that’s just wrong. If you have a 4-hour time limit on the course, you need to be supporting all of the people including the ones that take 4 hours. A lot of people were dehydrated from not having the fluids they needed. Several aid station toward the end looked like ghost towns, even though there was still an ample crowd on The Strip pushing forward in the race.

The Vomiting
Oh boy… I have never seen GI distress cousewide as much as I have at this. I imagine there was a good portion of it due to the nighttime race and people fueling improperly. But if I never have to watch runners vomiting on the sidelines again, that would be fine. And so many people complaining of diarrhea as well. I had two gals on my team end up pretty ill, as well as some friends. I can’t say that everybody fueled wrong, but it is my only guess as to why this was so rampant. I rode in the elevator back up to my hotel room after the race with a woman wearing a medical crew shirt and she said the med tents were swarmed with people, mainly suffering from GI issues.

The Medals
They ran out of medals. A lot of people who finished the half toward the very end of the time limit were being handed full marathon medals. And those that didn’t get any medals at all are apparently going to get a medal mailed to them. But… that just sucks. For an event of this magnitude and from a company as experienced as Competitor, this shouldn’t have happened.

The Aftermath
Walking through the Mandalay Bay after the race to get to my room, it looked like a war zone. Garbage everywhere, puddles of puke, dirt and spilled drinks/food. There were people lying on the floor everywhere you looked. Medical responders were not even able to respond to everyone that was lying there injured. Two girls from a Team Challenge team in another state came up to talk to my co-coaches and me and they were about in tears about their whole experience. They kept asking us why there wasn’t enough water for them and if it was normal to have so many people passed out on the ground and sick everywhere and to not receive medals at the end. We hugged them and reassured them that this was not normal, it was extremely ABNORMAL and that they shouldn’t let this color their impression of all events. They hugged us and apologized for venting to us, but it was okay. They didn’t know where their coaches were at that time and they were a little freaked out. And as a Team Challenge coach, I am a coach for every team member nationwide on race day… not just my 74 participants.

The whole event just felt unsafe and disorganized. I feel embarrassed that this is the race from my hometown and while I want people to come back to Vegas to do races, I don’t want others to have this same kind of experience. If this is the way the race is going to be at night, take it back to the morning… it was a great event then. This just felt like… insanity.


  1. I’m glad I am not the only one that felt this way. I went into the half marathon thinking about trying to get a sub 2 hr and possible PR. I was fully prepared to have to go slow during the first couple of miles, but as you said, the course never thinned out. After 3 miles, I essentially gave up trying to get a pace and stride going, and just tried to enjoy the event as it was.
    I truly felt sorry for the full marathoners. They had people on bikes that were supposed to help separate the the two lanes, but most of them weren’t loud enough to be heard in a crowd that were wearing headphones.
    As a Vegas local, I too am disappointed in the race organization especially the finish line.
    After 13 miles of movement, to just stop, was very difficult. Having a corral for finisher photos right after the finish line is not good. I understand that the photo guys want to make their money, but have the photo op stuff outside the finishing corral.

    Congrats to you and all of your teammates that finished!

  2. So unfortunate. I am reading horror stories the likes I never would have imagined. Congratulations to your team members who finished and I have to wonder about those that went through it all and didn’t show.

    Very strange.

    Well done Coach!

  3. This was the worst race I have ever done. I should mention that I have done this three years in a row and will never do it again. I did want to comment though on you mentioning that walkers were in the wrong corrals. We could not get to our corrals. I had friends who were trying to get to their corral and were pushed into corral 13 by the crowds. They could not get out and had to start with that corral. I have also never experienced so much hostility on a course. Usually people are happy to be out racing. Bottom line, this was NOT fun. If Competitor plans to have these huge masses at all of their races I will no longer be doing any more Rock and Roll races.

  4. Wave releases? I think those stopped at wave 25 (out of 40), then they just let everyone stream through. Which is super-frustrating for those of us slower runners who still wanted to run. I was elbowed, stepped on, and pushed on the course by people trying to get through or protecting their space on the course. I understand that the roads were to be opened up at a specific time, but sheesh… to push over half of the field through the start in less than 15 minutes? Not cool. Very poor crowd control.

  5. Gosh, I’m so sorry to hear this (but you’re not the first one I heard this from). I sure hope it doesn’t deter Team Challenge participants from returning to such an amazing program!

  6. I didn’t run this year but did last year. It was one of my favorite RnR experiences – as a matter of fact, until the Vegas race last year, I was on the verge of giving up on the Rock & Roll series. It seemed to run very smoothly last year and I actually PR’d. And, they were very, very strict about what corrals people lined up in last year.

    I suspect the change to an evening race made it more difficult….and the Rock & Roll races have become too popular….and way too expensive. I am an experienced runner but love that these races exist to get newer runners involved. However, I’ve begun looking for smaller half marathons to run and only run full marathons that do not have a half running at the same time (part of that is because I personally don’t trust myself to not make the turn for the half….but also because I think the full will be fully supported and not treat the full marathoners like an after thought).

    It’s a shame this year was such a disappointment for everyone, especially after last years successful event.

  7. Jill, you have explained perfectly!! Not a good 1 st time experience at at all!! Team Challenge experience was great, but marathon not so good! Thank you Jill for everything tho….

  8. Thanks for your write up. I was really looking forward to this race and while I had a great weekend with my friends, the race itself was hell. I couldn’t enjoy the strip from all the ducking and weaving I had to do. Part of the problem with the corrals was that a LOT of people couldn’t get to their corrals past corral 14. There was no signs telling you how to get to your corral so several thousand followed out and got to corral 12/13 on the MB side. Problem was when you tried to go to the right to go to your corral it was blocked and we were all stuck there. I was afraid for my life a few times, I thought I was about to fall (thankfully I had ahold of my friends) and get trampled. So thousands of people got in at the opening at 13 when they could so a lot of folks who should have been in the last corrals (i saw a ton of hogh 30s and i shoild have been in 22) entered when corral 13 began to move forward entering with corral 14 and continued to enter well before the corral they should have been in. So for me it was 13.1 miles (although my gps said 14 miles because of all the weaving) of what I normally experience only during the 1st mile of a half marathon.
    Another problem was they only had the Gu on one side, the left side which was supposed to be the side for the marathoners. My friend who really needed Gu couldn’t cut across to get to it. Also at one water station they were out of water completely on the right side so we had to go cut in front of marathoners to get water.
    This was the worst race experience I’ve ever had and unless they make some major changes I won’t be running this race again.

  9. Exactly.

    I’ve run a lot of races, and the bulk of them have been Rock ‘n’ Roll events, but this was an epic fail, especially post race. I did like the course and ran it three years in a row, but I’m rather surprised that Competitor didn’t plan this right. I know it wasn’t deliberate, but I came home with several bruises on my arms from getting elbowed so many times — and it wasn’t from faster runners trying to get through, it was from being so compacted and people not being able to navigate in the dark. I was happy to see a lot of my friends at meet ups, and that made the trip worth the effort. My husband and I were thinking of coming back next year to run through the run through wedding ceremony for our 30th wedding anniversary, but we might not do that because of our post race experience this year. They either need to go back to an AM start time or properly accommodate for the weather, time of day and amount of people. Kudos to you for being so supportive of those who needed it!

  10. Wow, I can’t even imagine how unpleasant this must have been not only for you as a coach, but also for all those runners. My heart goes out especially to everyone who was doing an event of the half or full marathon distance for the first time–what an awful experience it must have been. I really hope, like you said, that it doesn’t deter anyone from doing a half or full in the future, and that it doesn’t negatively effect anyone’s feelings about their experience with Team Challenge.

    It’s so disappointing that a race put on by such a large organization could be so problematic. There’s just no excuse for running out of water at aid stations, and running out of medals–the organizers know how many people are going to be running the race. They should be able to plan accordingly, especially if they’ve shown the ability to do so in previous years.

  11. Thanks so much for your post! This my 2nd Vegas RnR and my 4th RnR – I have always been super impressed with the RnR races, but i agree… this was too many people, too little light, and as someone who is only now on Tuesday evening feeling recovered from the GI “issues”, too much of something else. Still undecided about running it next year but will definitely still visit your town again!

  12. Wow, it sounded crazy!!
    Funny how just changing the time could lead to so many mishaps. Since they had it at night, were there that many more racers than last year?
    A lot of the reason I didn’t run it this year was the fact that it was at night. Even though it’s a neat idea, I just figured i would be nervous all day!!

    • They had nearly double the participants from last year… I think they did a REALLY good job of marketing the race and pumping up the whole “Strip at Night” concept. But it seems like maybe too many dollars were spent on marketing as opposed to operations!

    • GI troubles are common in running, mainly because blood is shunted away from the digestive track and to the hardworking other areas. Most of the time that is simply a matter of the individual figuring out what foods work best for their system with running.

      However… the GI troubles on this course were not what would be considered common running GI issues. These was illness course wide. It was disturbing!

  13. The crowd at Corral 13/14 by the access to/from the portajohns/Mandalay Bay was scary. As said, don’t think people were jumping corrals, they were TRAPPED in a corral by the crowd. The event needs a completely different corral arrangement for safety. As a walker, I don’t want to start ahead of my corral and be stampeded by the hoard. I was lucky to make it back up into the porta-john area where I could wait for my corral (39) to come by and join it. It was next to impossible to cross over and get to it with the crowd. AND there were no porta-johns on the east side of the Blvd. Starting with corral 39, we had a much more pleasant, uncrowded race than the 42,000 people ahead of us. There was water at every water stop (just at the last 2-3 tables!) but no Cytomax. And if the rumor was true that they were using fire hydrant water, maybe it was flushed out better by the time they served it to us in the back of the pack.

  14. It’s crazy to read how horrible this race was for so many people. I’m so sorry 😦 My friends and I did the half in just under 2 hours and had lots of water, minimal crowds, and an easy tram ride back to our hotel after the race. It was insane later on to find out that many people had had an entirely different race all together. What a shame. I hope RnR can get it together in future years. Completely unacceptable! Apparently they were giving later runners fire hydrant water since they ran out and that’s why everyone got sick. 😦

  15. […] was excited to run 10 miles, that was my first double-digit mileage since coaching at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas half marathon in December 2011! I’m trying to get better about actually following a fueling plan, I’ve always been so […]

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