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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.