Run the Strip with me

If you’ve been thinking about running in the Zappo’ Rock and Roll Las Vegas Marathon and Half-Marathon on December 4 but haven’t been sure, this might tip the scales. You can–guaranteed–run the half marathon with me.

I’ll be leading the 1:52 half-marathon pace group, so if you don’t mind a somewhat leisurely pace, I’d love to see you on race night. Yes, race night. This year they’re running the race at night (well, early evening). The marathon kicks off at 4:00 and the half-marathon gets going at 5:30. That means that, if you’re running with me, you should be back at Mandalay Bay by 7:30.

If the prospect of spending nearly two hours of your weekend running up and down the Strip with me holding a pace sign isn’t inducement enough, I can offer you the “don’t” as well. If you want to run the race but absolutely don’t want to run into me, if you run it at any other time you’re just about guaranteed to have a completely Dr. Dave-free race. And if that’s not incentive enough, I don’t know what is.

I’m looking forward to the race being a little different this year–I’m not sure exactly how and when the parking is going to work (the official site says “coming soon!”), but I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

If you want to register or just check out the event, you can check the official race page.

Not-so-smart decisions at the Trop

As some of you know, I participated in the Las Vegas Rock and Roll Marathon this year, and I had a ball. But I’d like to share something that happened before the race that, hopefully, can make a point about what not to do with a Strip casino.

Parking at the race is always an issue. Even if you can get into Mandalay Bay (the host hotel), it’s not always easy to get out with all of the lane closures. So I usually park somewhere else. This year, a big chunk of the race was down Hacienda, and I didn’t want to chance circling around the west side of the Strip trying to find a place to park that wasn’t too far away. Last year I parked at the Tropicana and it worked out pretty well, so I figured I’d try it again. I suggested the same to my running group, adding that the casino had recently changed hands and might be a fun place to stop after the race. I haven’t been inside the hotel since the new regime took over, but I’ve read about the money and effort they’ve been sinking into it, and I think they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Around 4:30 AM, I pulled up and parked, and was stopped by a bike security officer who said that I’d have to move, that parking was for “Tropicana guests only.” The officer was completely reasonable and polite, and said exactly what I’d say if I was in his situation. He said that it wasn’t his idea, that the management had insisted that no one going to the race be allowed to park on the lot. I told him that whoever drafted that policy was an idiot, since the property could use all of the exposure and foot traffic it could get.

(The officer actually used one of my favorite lines–“It’s really not up to me, but they’ve got me on camera and I’ve got to do this.” It worked for me and, this time, it worked on me. It’s nice to see that it’s still effective.)

I made it over to MGM Grand where I parked, passed a bunch of runners in the lobby, and headed over the Mandalay Bay. I got there about ten minutes later than I would have liked and wasn’t shy about letting people know what the Tropicana thought of us runners.

This isn’t just about sour grapes or personal inconvenience. Booting the runners from the parking lot was actually bad business, in my opinion. Here’s why:

The parking lot is already built. It represents a sunk cost. Whether someone parks on it or not, it’s going to cost the same to pay off the construction and maintain it.

That being said, having a full parking lot is a more effective use of the asset than an empty one.

At most, a few dozen runners would have parked in the lot. With acres of open spaces, that wouldn’t have prevented any guests from accessing the hotel. Most of them would be gone by noon. It’s extremely unlikely that hundreds of new guests would be arriving between 5 AM and noon on Sunday morning.

Even if only a few of the runners who parked patronized the restaurants at the Tropicana, isn’t that better than none? Particularly at a property that’s trying desperately to rebuild its image?

This is the kind of thing that irks me because it doesn’t seem to make sense. If I was running the Trop I’d not only encourage runners to park on my lot, I’d offer them a 10% discount on their buffet if they showed their finisher’s medal. The marathon’s already happening; why not capitalize on the fact that it’s happening on your doorstep? The property doesn’t boast the best rooms in Las Vegas or, from what reviews on TripAdvisor say, the best service. It’s best asset is its geography. If you’re not going to use that to your advantage, you’re not thinking about your property strategically.

Maybe the hotel had 100% occupancy that weekend and all of the restaurants were slammed and they didn’t need the business, maybe not. But this is a case study, I think, of management not seeing the forest for the trees.

This policy might have effectively ensured that the Tropicana had a few dozen more empty spaces than they usually do. Unfortunately, it might convince some people to let them stay empty.

Can anyone think of any other policies that, in the end, do more harm than good?

In motion

I don’t have much to post today–I’m just getting a few things taken care of before I head down to the Rock and Roll Las Vegas Marathon Expo to work the Las Vegas in Motion booth for a while. If you want to run the race but haven’t signed up yet, come on down! There’s also a cowboy expo next door if that’s your thing.

Also, it’s time for my yearly reminder that Las Vegas gets cold in the winter. It was about 30 when I went out for my run this morning, with real ice on the street. So if you’re planning on walking the Strip in nothing but your Ed Hardy t-shirt and jeans this weekend, you’re going to be pretty cold.

Seriously, if you’re coming out to the Aria opening from SoCal, bring a jacket or a sweater (though it doesn’t have to be cashmere). We’re at the point now where, if you stop off in Baker for gas, you say, “Wow, it wasn’t this cold back home” when you get out of the car.

And if you’re running in the marathon, pick up a layer or two at Goodwill that you can strip off as you get warmer. We’re going to be outside for about a half hour before the gun goes off, and at best it’ll be in the upper 30s.

Rock and Roll Las Vegas Deal

I got this is my email the other day–if you are thinking about running the RnR LV Marathon this December, this might be the time to sign up:

ROCKIN’ Summer Deal

Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon enthusiasts unite Join us for the Inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon & Half Marathon – the REAL DEAL you‘ve been waiting for.

SAVE $10

Enter Code: TDEAL

Offer Expires May 15, 2009

+FREE T-Shirt

For First 50 Registrants

Register Now

Elite Racing Events.

I’m really looking forward to the race. If you live in Las Vegas, you can get a jump on your training by running with Las Vegas in Motion this and every subsequent Sunday.

LV Marathon thoughts

Now that my quads have pretty much stopped hurting, I can offer a few thoughts about the Las Vegas Marathon 2008 and where it should go from here.

These photos of the official race t-shirt and finisher’s medal give you an idea of how minimalistic the race was this year. Just look at that shirt–no date, no snappy slogan, just the generic marathon logo. The medal, too, is a big step down from previous years.

There was no prize money offered this year, which might be why the winner’s time was 15 minutes slower than last year’s, no on-course entertainment, nothing besides water and gatorade at the water stops, and no mylar blankets at the finish. The last one is a big deal–if you’ve been running for about 4 hours then stop, you’re bound to have your temperature drop. So while they had the Elvi and the wedding chapel stuff, many of the basics just weren’t there.

The news stories made it sound like it was business as usual for the marathon this year, but actually there were many problems with the race’s management. Luckily, the company has sold the Las Vegas Marathon to the Competitor Group, which puts on Rock and Roll Marathons across the country. So in 2009 we’ll have the Rock and Roll Las Vegas Marathon. I’ve run in RnR events before, and they’re great, so this is a very good thing for those who want to run in Vegas.

That said, let me humbly offer a few tips to make next year’s race better.

1. No “celebrity” emcees at the race start. Inexplicably, we had Robin Leach welcoming us to the race and sending us on our way. I don’t think it contributed anything to the race at all. No offense to Mr. Leach, but he’s about the last person I need to hear talking about how hard it is to run a marathon. I don’t think you should even have a legit local sports legend like Andre Agassi, who would be able to tell us something valuable about training and competition. It’s just not the time or the place–we’re cold and we’re ready to run, and anything at the start is really just a distraction. I’d be fine if the race director just welcomed us and sent us on our way.

2. If you are absolutely bent on getting a celebrity for the race, make sure they have something to say about distance running or even just fitness in general and have them do a meet-and-greet at the race expo.

3. You don’t need any entertainment for the first six miles–you’ve already got the Las Vegas Strip for the first four, and then you’ve got downtown. Runners need the excitement most on that Carey/Smoke Ranch and Torrey Pines stretch, which is about 10 miles of a moderate incline. It would be great for the casinos to sponsor an act or two as we run down Frank Sinatra towards the end–great advertisement for the shows, too.

4. I think that the marathon will work as a serious run in a party town: don’t try to make the race itself too gimmicky. So no shrimp cocktails at the water stops or anything like that.

5. With the miscues of the past few years, the town may be short on goodwill to the marathon. But it’s a great race and an attraction that the city really needs. It’s crucial to keep residents engaged as participants, hosts, and volunteers. A little TLC for the local community will go a long, long way.

Strip run

I had a pretty good marathon run on Sunday, and now that I’ve had a little time to think about it, here are some thoughts on running down the Strip. The headline is an allusion to the venerable “Strip Walk” feature over at Two Way Hard Three. Even though we ran only about 4 of the 26.2 miles on the Strip, I figure that you guys don’t really care too much about the view going past the North Las Vegas Airport and Texas Station, so there you go.

Just so you know, the marathon started at Mandalay Bay, headed up the Boulevard to downtown, then hit Bonanza and MLK before heading west on Carey/Smoke Ranch. We ran down to Torrey Pines, then south to Twain, made a right on Frank Sinatra Drive, and ended up back at Mandalay Bay.

— Mandalay Bay is huge…I’m always struck by how long it takes to get from self-park to the convention center, on the morning of a marathon everything seems a little more arduous. I think that we may be on the verge of “diseconomies of scale” with casinos. Of course, I had to park at the Trop, so after the race I had a whole new appreciation for the “Mandalay Mile.”

— City Center’s coming along nicely. I had a great view of the front and back as we started and finished. It looks monochromatic, but from the back you can see that they’re hiding something very bright and orange, which is a welcome relief. I tend to like being saturated with colors, so the CC exterior, as impressive as it is, is something that’s going to have to grow on me. Whatever this orange thing is (Aria convention space? Part of the Crystals?), it looks cool, though.

— No Bellagio fountain show this year, though P-Ho had a customized marathon graphic running on their big sign, including a “Run Eddie Run” screen meant, I’m told, for KLAS’s Edward Lawrence.

–Caesars construction is also coming along quite nicely. In addition to the tower, there looks to be a lot more convention space in the back.

–The Fontainbleau’s also looking very good. It really towers above the Strip, and with the condo across the street you almost, but not quite, get that “Manhattan urban canyon” feeling for about 10 feet. And you can see it from Torrey Pines and Edna. It’s going to be a real landmark. At street level, there are some interesting angles taking shape.

–That new McDonald’s north of Echelon looks quite ambitious for a fast food restaurant.

— Running down Frank Sinatra you get an even better appreciation for the size of City Center.

–Thanks to the construction on Echelon and the Plaza halting, there is a huge empty lot/abandoned construction site on the west side of the Strip stretching from DI to Circus Circus. It gives you a sense of true imbalance, with Wynn, Encore, and Fontainebleau on the other side of the street. For the time being, I don’t think Strip-view rooms will be at a premium.

–On a related note, the Circus Circus RV park has the best street names ever:

View Larger Map
Wouldn’t it be great to list your street address as “123 Dumbo Street, Las Vegas, NV 89109?”

— I think the skyline is taking the shape it’s going to have for the next few years. Everything that’s going to be finished in the next 2 years is topped out, and everything else (like the Palazzo condos, Echelon, and Plaza) is just sitting there.

That’s about all that comes to mind. It’s definitely a different perspective from the usual one, and it’s a view that you’ll only get once a year, unless you want to dodge traffic.

Las Vegas Marathon news

It’s apparently official: Devine Racing will be out of the Las Vegas Marathon after this Sunday’s run. From the LV Sun:

Devine will not manage the race after this year. A company that operates successful marathons across the country is taking over. San Diego-based Competitor Group Inc. thinks it can eventually draw as many as 30,000 runners to the course, with its starting line on the Strip.

The 2009 race will be renamed the Rock ’n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon, joining a lineup of nine marathons the Competitor Group will hold next year across the country.

In those races, the company features unique courses — near the Alamo in San Antonio, through Music Row in Nashville and along the ocean in Virginia Beach — coupled with rock bands lining the roads and big concerts at the end.

Peter Englehart, chief executive officer of the Competitor Group, acknowledged the formula will need some tinkering in the next year for it to work in Las Vegas.

“We usually do a big headliner rock concert,” Englehart said. “But in Las Vegas there’s concerts every night.”

Not to mention the Cirque shows, the comedians, the magicians and the ever-present allure of the casinos.

Competitor Group’s record gives the Las Vegas running community good reason for hope.

Las Vegas Marathon on a new course – Las Vegas Sun.

It’ll be great to have some new leadership at the event. I’m going to be running in the race this year, and with all of the uncertainty about the event it seems almost anti-climactic. I’m sure it’ll be fun, but it sounds like it will be a bare-bones race this year.

I’ve got no doubts that a marathon can work in Las Vegas, but running a marathon has got to be the most anti-Vegas thing in the world. It’s not about decadence or instant gratification–quite the opposite, in fact.

In more good news, the rodeo is in town! Which means the scent of animal dung swirling around campus. Of course it also means lots of thrilling roping and riding and millions of dollars in consumer spending, but I’m just giving you my perspective.

Marathon done!

The 2007 Las Vegas Marathon is over, and it was a great run. We had ideal weather–cool, slight cloud cover, with not much wind–and it was a pretty good run. I managed to run get run over by any Elvi, which is harder than you might think.

Running with the pace group was great, and we finished right on target at 4:15, which is always good.

I’ve got an 8-hour teaching gig tomorrow (Monday) so short of MGM Mirage buying Harrah’s Entertainment and then announcing that it’s turning its casinos into roller rinks, I won’t be posting anything.

One last note–running down the Strip, in front of the Caesars fountains I yelled out, “EVEL KNIEVEL FOREVER!” The world lost a real original on Friday. I interview Evel back in May for a book I’m working on, and he was a great, classy guy. He talked about his life and the fact that he didn’t have that much time left, and didn’t seem to have any regrets. They should really dim the lights at Caesars, at the very least, to remember a guy who helped to put the place on the map.

Marathon publicity

It’s not that often that I read something in a major East Coast paper promoting the cause of running in Las Vegas, so I’ve got to link to this Bill Ordine piece in the Inquirer:

I have a daily ritual when I’m in Las Vegas that’s probably a little different than that of most visitors.

About 7 a.m., I run the Strip. Well, jog actually – a modest four-mile jaunt from Caesars Palace to south of Mandalay Bay and back. With the Strip nearly deserted at that hour, I’ve always enjoyed having what’s usually one of the busiest ribbons of concrete in the world mostly to myself.

But I’d hardly be alone on Dec. 2, when thousands of runners will flood the Strip amid fireworks and fanfare in one of the fastest-growing events in the country. The Las Vegas Marathon will start in the predawn darkness on Las Vegas Boulevard and follow a 26-mile, counterclockwise loop through Sin City.

Last year, the combined marathon and half-marathon drew more than 16,700 runners, up from nearly 11,000 in 2005, when just the full marathon was held. Before that, the race – now in its 40th year – never drew more than 2,000 runners, say the organizers who took over two years ago.

The breakthrough came as the new promoters recast the race as a “destination marathon,” sort of a fun jaunt that would attract not-so-serious runners as well as hard-core marathoners. More than three-quarters of the people who show up are from out of town, with many combining the run with a vacation. At the same time as the marathon, the half-marathon goes up the Strip to downtown and back. The day before, there’s a children’s run.

And, of course, there’s plenty of attendant Vegas flash.

Gaming Traveler | Las Vegas the place to run, play | Philadelphia Inquirer | 10/21/2007

The marathon is going to be a lot of fun–as frequent readers know (or don’t), I’m running it for the 3rd time this December. If you’re in Vegas on Sundays, come out and train with the Las Vegas Roadrunners. We’ve got a 22-mile training run this Sunday that’s sure to be a blast.

LV Marathon training starts

If you want to run the Las Vegas Marathon or Half-Marathon this year and are looking for a way to get in shape (long) before the December 2 race, you should wake up early this Sunday and head down to the 215 and Stephanie for the first Roadrunner’s training run. From their website:

Who: You and 500 of your best friends from southern Nevada
What: 2007 Las Vegas Roadrunners
Where: In the parking lot of the Stephanie Promenade, a strip shopping center on the northwest corner of Stephanie and American Pacific in Henderson
When: Sunday, May 27, 2007, 7:00 a.m.
Why: Because we can, we will and we do love to succeed

Las Vegas RoadRunners

I guarantee you’ll know at least one person there: I’ve helping to lead the 4:15 pace group. No, that doesn’t mean our average mile time is 4:15; it means that we’re shooting to finish the race in four hours and fifteen minutes. It’s a great way to get into or stay in shape, and there are pace groups for every speed level from six hours to 3:30. There’s a program for the half-marathon, too, which is a more manageable distance that anyone in reasonable health and without knee/foot/hip issues can do with a little preparation. It’s a great training program, and quite worth it.

Don’t let the fact that you’ve never run before hold you back. A few years ago I decided I wanted to run a marathon and, despite never having seriously run before, was able to do it. On race day you’ll get to run straight down the Las Vegas Strip, which is a great experience.