Updated February 28, 2022 - 7:18 am
Thousands of spectators lined both sides of Las Vegas Boulevard as 35,000 runners approached the starting line for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas half-marathon and 10-kilometer races.
If this had taken place three years ago and not Sunday night, few would have thought much of it because the races had been part of the local sports calendar.
But if the canceled 2020 event was another example of the stranglehold COVID-19 held on Las Vegas, the 2022 Rock ‘n’ Roll runs were the latest indications of the virus’s apparent waning influence and the city’s re-emergence.
“Our registration is basically where it was in ’19, but we really haven’t slowed down since we opened registration,” race director Nicole Christenson said. “Even the people who are walking up on site and trying to register is greater than it was in ’19. I think it’s signs that people are feeling more comfortable being in larger groups and gatherings. I think people are just excited.”
She said each runner brings on average 1.5 people with them, which in 2019 created a direct economic spending impact of $110 million, according to Las Vegas Events. Christenson said 92 percent of this field was from out of town.
“This is a tourist event,” she said. “You’re talking a massive amount of people traveling into the city for the event.”
Now that this year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll is over, organizers will review the results and continue the process of what changes or improvements to make when it returns in 2023.
Las Vegas resident Ellie Stevens won the women’s half-marathon with a time of 1 hour, 17 minutes, 52 seconds. Canadian Justin Kent blew away the men’s field with a time of 1:04:37.
“They have some great ideas to increase their numbers,” said LVE President Pat Christenson, Nicole Christenson’s father. “It really comes down to the experience for the runner. It’s like what we did with the (National Finals Rodeo). It isn’t just about the race experience, it’s everything else around it.”
To that end, organizers moved the dates from November to February or March, depending on the year, and did away with the marathon. Making the half-marathon the prime event invites more casual runners.
“The thing you’re going to see in the next three years — and what the city is so good at — is continually re-inventing themselves,” Pat Christenson said. “We had these two years with COVID, but it gave a lot of us the time to sit back and look at our business and how we do our business. And this is a good example. They’ve reinvented this event. It is more social.”
Newly opened Resorts World Las Vegas was the host property for the races and home to a three-day expo.
Resorts World President Scott Sibella said the races were the next step in Las Vegas’ return to more what it was like in 2019 than 2020. But, in true Las Vegas fashion, with 2023 and beyond in mind.
“It’s confirming that we’re moving on and things are getting better,” Sibella said. “This city is known for bringing these great events. This race has always been popular, and it gets more popular every year.”