Disclaimer: I received an entry to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews.
Hold a race in one of my favorite cities on earth, and it’s sure to be a good time. Throw in a meet-up with my best college friend and anything can (and will) happen! When the opportunity to run the Strip at Night came up, I was all in! Las Vegas is one of my favorite places – it has everything I love: fabulous restaurants, great shows, good weather, and yes, gambling! My husband and I visit Vegas once or twice a year and now that all of our kids are of age, we’ve made a family tradition of it! While the boys wouldn’t be joining us this time around, my best friend from college and her husband (whom we also went to college with) would, and what perfect timing as this year marks 40 years of friendship! Seriously, where does the time go? While I’ve never run this race, I did run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Chicago last year, and since I loved the experience so much, I knew Las Vegas would not disappoint.
Though we all live in the Chicago area, we flew in from different airports on different airlines and met up at the airport in Las Vegas. Mary cracked me up with her little sign with our last name waiting for us at baggage claim. We hopped in a cab and the non-stop conversation and laughter began, just like old times. When we arrived at our hotel only one room was ready, so we dropped everything off and headed to the expo, which was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, just a quick taxi ride away.
We arrived at the expo early on Friday afternoon and it was not crowded at all. Everything was clearly marked and since we would both be running the 5K on Saturday, we picked up those packets first and then went our separate ways since Mary (and her friend Emily) would be running the 10K and I would be running the half marathon on Sunday. From there, we wandered around the expo, checked out a few vendor booths, and then headed back to the hotel. Since we are such gambling fools, we had two rooms comped at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel, my favorite place to stay. The hold up with one room not being ready was because we requested rooms on the same floor. Ultimately, we were set up just five rooms apart. Tom and Mary had a bit of a better view of the Bellagio fountains, but we didn’t plan to spend that much time in our rooms anyway.
We chilled for a bit and then headed outside to walk around and see the sights. Tom had never been to Las Vegas, so it was all about pointing out and stopping at some of our favorite places for him to see. We had dinner that night at Mon Ami Gabi so Mary could get her steak and frites fix. Thus began a weekend of eating and drinking and eating and eating, and eating some more! After dinner we walked around a bit more and checked out a few casinos, then headed back to our rooms for an early-to-bed since we were dealing with a four hour flight and a two hour time change.
After breakfast on Saturday morning we met up with Emily and Paul, Tom and Mary’s friends from Alaska. Sunday’s 10K would be Emily’s first race, and she was definitely ready to take on the challenge. We did lots more walking around (and a little bit more gambling) before Mary and I needed to get to the start area for the 5K. Having not read the instructions carefully, we wound up at the start area for the next day’s races, which was alarmingly desolate just an hour before race time. We made our way back to our hotel as we were trying to figure out where to go. Luckily the hotel porter had placed several other guests in taxis headed to the race venue, so he knew just where to instruct the taxi driver to take us. I might have gotten a little panicky as it took us over a half hour to move just two miles in the crazy Las Vegas traffic, but our driver was awesome and got us there with plenty of time to spare. Mary and I rushed ahead of the group so we could do a quick potty stop and then head to our respective corrals. Much to our delight, to the side of the porta-potties was a huge brick building with a good 30+ clean and warm bathroom stalls. That right there calmed all of my panicked nerves! We snapped a few pics together before the race, wearing our matching tanks commemorating our 40 years of friendship.
Unlike the races the following day, the 5K course did not involve running on the strip. The course was mostly dark with little spectator support and a few bands playing along the way. There was just one aid station at about Mile 2. I was feeling the effects of the dry desert air by then, so I stopped and grabbed two cups of water before I started to run again. The race ended at the same place it started. I saw Bob, Tom, Emily, and Paul just before the finish, then looped back around to them once I crossed the finish line so the five of us could cheer Mary on as she came through. I jumped on the course with her for a few yards before the finish, just to give her some support and encouragement as she ran to the finish.
The post-5K race party was fantastic with Kesha headlining the show. We stayed for just a bit and then headed back to our hotel to get cleaned up and ready for the obligatory pasta load at Lombardi’s Romagna Mia. After dinner we were all pretty wiped, so we headed back to our rooms and slept for what seemed like forever.
On Sunday morning the six of us headed to Hash House a Go Go for a very filling breakfast. With such a late start to the race (4:00 p.m. for the 10K and 4:30 p.m. for the half), we would have plenty of time to digest our meals. I tried to nap before the race but since I slept so well the night before, I just relaxed in my hotel room for a few hours. The 10K race would start in the same place the 5K started the day before, but luckily for me, the half and full marathon races started directly behind our hotel.
At around 3:00 p.m. I headed out. The weather was great as I walked around the staging area. I recognized Konfedence, AKA Ken, a mutual follower from Instagram and said hello as he was heading to gear check to drop his bag. There was a stage with a band playing, so I listened for a while before heading to the start gate. It seemed we were standing around forever before the crowd finally started to move. We probably walked a good half mile to the actual start line on the Strip. As we walked I met a runner with Chicago roots, now living in Florida. Oddly enough the name on her bib was Gary. I couldn’t help but wonder if I was face-to-face with a bandit but decided not to get into it as the race was about to start. We parted ways and I never saw her (or him) again.
We headed south on Las Vegas Boulevard (AKA the Strip), past the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. There was a band playing and many people stopped and waited in line for a photo in front of the iconic sign. I kept moving. We looped around and headed back north. There’s not much to see at that end of the Strip unless, of course, you are into airports. Once we approached Excalibur, New York, New York, and the surrounding venues the bright lights appeared and it with it now being dark, it finally felt like we were running the “Strip at Night”. We ran the length of the Strip all the way downtown to Old Las Vegas and Fremont Street. We spent very little time in that area which was fine given the fact it seemed a little more remote and off the beaten path (read: sketchy). We headed back south on the Strip and the lights once again appeared. Full marathon participants veered to the right while those of us doing the half veered to the left.
Around Mile 11 we were told there was no more water at the aid station, but were assured there would be plenty just a few hundred feet ahead. I brought three Gatorade Endurance gels and decided to take my third at that point. Because my throat got so dry at the 5K the day before, I brought a bunch of cough drops with me and I pretty much had one in my mouth the entire time, which was my saving grace. I hydrated like crazy the day before and the morning of the race, but that desert air is no joke.
I knew to start watching for Bob and the gang once I made the turn toward the Mirage. About a half mile before the finish I spotted Paul as he called out my name. He said the others were just a bit ahead, which gave me a much needed boost. It is always so good to see friends and family along a race course! Paul started running alongside the course and with about a quarter mile to go I saw everyone else and waved to my husband and friends as I ran to the finish. The finish line was located in front of the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, but we had to walk for what seemed like forever to be able to exit the course. Because we participated in races two days in a row, besides the individual race medals, Mary and I also earned the Remix medal, which is shaped like an old boom box to match the Rock ‘n’ Roll theme.
The six of us reunited, took a few pictures, and then Paul had the bright idea that Mary, Emily, and I should lay in the middle of the Strip for a photo op. Seriously, when else can you lay down in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip and not be run over or arrested? Never mind the fact that the lights behind us were from the row of police cars heading our way as they were re-opening the Strip to traffic. After that we headed back to our hotel to get cleaned up and ready for an always-amazing dinner at my favorite Las Vegas restaurant, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak, and Stone Crab. I can’t believe I ate the whole thing. Yes I can.
The following morning Emily and Paul headed out early and Bob and I met up with Tom and Mary for breakfast. They checked out of the hotel and left for the airport, but Bob and I stayed for an additional two days. We went to Giada for dinner and saw Penn & Teller (comped tickets because gambling fools) on Monday night and then went to dinner at Mesa Grill on Tuesday, before rallying to win back any money we had lost over the course of the previous few days. A good time was had by all!
This was a fabulous race weekend and I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was especially fun to be with great friends, old and new. The expo was average – not too small and not too big, nicely spread out with plenty of vendors to visit. The 5K race was a bit chaotic at the start with people self-seeding in obviously incorrect corrals. The course was quiet but the fest at the end of the race made up for all of that. The half/full marathon start was much better organized and the pre-race festivities/band were great. The course was mostly fun with just a few dead zones. There were spectators along the course on the main area of the Strip, but it seemed as if the majority of them were there for Vegas and not necessarily interested in seeing a race. I’m sure many of them didn’t even know a race was going on until they came across a Strip that was closed to traffic.
As far as swag, the participant shirts were kind of meh but the finishers’ medals were awesome. This is a fun race weekend and while there are serious racers out there, I’d say the vast majority of runners/walkers are out there for a good time. Las Vegas is one of my favorite places to vacation, so adding a race to an extended weekend visit gives me one more excuse to visit.
Have you ever run any of the Rock ‘n’ Roll races? Which was your favorite? Are you a fan of Las Vegas?
On my 2020 Race Calendar:
March 1, 2020: Tokyo Marathon
March 15, 2020: Amita Health St. Paddy’s Day Half Marathon