Las Vegas Marathon

December 6, 2009 by  

Las Vegas Marathon,

LAS VEGAS — The Las Vegas Marathon has received a makeover.

This year, organizers are adding music and promotional muscle to a race that will send competitors up Las Vegas Boulevard at dawn on Sunday. They’re hoping to hit the fitness tourism jackpot in Sin City.

“Vegas is an international destination,” said Scott Dickey, chief operating officer of the new race owner, Competitor Group Inc. The San Diego-based company took over the race this year after buying it from financially troubled Chicago-based Devine Racing.

“We believe the unique experience that we’re going to deliver on the Strip makes this race so much different than any other race in the country,” he said. “Our goal is to put this on the ‘bucket list’ of racing” for runners to do in their lifetimes.

Competitor Group added Las Vegas to its series of 12 other entertainment-themed Rock ‘n’ Roll marathons around the country. Other race sites include Phoenix, New Orleans, Seattle, Philadelphia and San Antonio. It’ll add a 14th, Denver, in 2010.

Dickey said he expects the Las Vegas race will become more popular than the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon, which drew more than 33,000 runners last January.

More than 27,000 runners are registered for the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas race, Dickey said – more than twice as many as the 12,544 who ran last year. They are from all 50 states and 39 countries. Some 2,000 will be from Canada alone.

One in three will be running their first marathon or half-marathon. Almost three in five will be female.

Eighty-five per cent will be from outside the Las Vegas area, and that means most will be renting hotel rooms.

“We’re very focused on record numbers of people,” Dickey said, speaking a language that Las Vegas tourism officials appreciate. “We’re very focused on heads in the beds.”

Just as they have since 2005, runners will start north past resorts including the Tropicana, MGM Grand, Flamingo, Harrah’s, Venetian, Wynn and Sahara before looping back.

They’ll be treated to showgirls, Elvis impersonators and fireworks. Along the course, some will veer in for quickie weddings at run-through chapels.

Rock ‘n’ Roll race organizers promise a new layer of entertainment, including white tigers at the start recalling the heyday of the iconic Siegfried&Roy show, and 35 bands of all musical genres playing on 24 stages along the course.

Half-marathoners will complete their entire 21.1 kilometres on the Strip – south past the Stratosphere tower, Treasure Island pirate ship, Mirage volcano, Caesars Palace columns, Bellagio fountains and new CityCenter development.

Marathoners will log about half their 42.2 kilometres heading west toward Red Rock foothills and Spanish Trails Country Club before heading back to finish near the start at the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino.

Of the more than 70 elite runners entered, Kenyan Matthew Koech and American Justin Young are considered front-runners, race spokesman Dan Cruz said. Defending champion Abebe Yimer, a 30-year-old Ethiopian-born naturalized American who lives and trains in Las Vegas, is returning.

Koech, 26, won a 25-kilometre Berlin Race earlier this year. Young, 30, of Colorado, represented Team USA in the marathon at the 2009 world championships in Berlin, Germany.

Russia’s Alevtina Ivanova, 34, and Kenyan Alice Timbilili, 27, are expected to lead the women’s race, Cruz said. Both ran personal marathon bests of 2:26:39 in 2008 – Ivanova in Nagano, Japan, and Timbilili in Paris.

The Las Vegas course remains flat and fast – much different from an underfunded and under-promoted point-to-point race run every January from 1983 to 2005 from a hamlet south of Las Vegas to a county park well off the Strip. About 4,400 runners braved chilly headwinds in the last marathon on that course.

But don’t expect world records, Dickey said.

“Our focus as an organization is not to compete with the Boston, New York, London or Chicago marathons,” he said. “We’re not about how fast you’re going to run. We’re about the enjoyment and journey along the way.”

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