LAS VEGAS >> Amid the blare of music and the glare of neon, more than 30,000 runners are expected to take part in the fifth annual Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and related races this weekend on a new date and a new course.
Runners began picking up race numbers Friday at an expanded fitness expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center featuring about 100 exhibitors, race spokesman Dan Cruz said.
“This race doesn’t have the history and prestige of some of the major marathons like Boston and New York,” Cruz said Friday, “but it has excitement and the Strip.”
About 5,000 runners in the 26.2-mile marathon and 24,000 in a 13.1-mile half-marathon start at 4:30 p.m. Sunday near the Mandalay Bay resort to head up the marquee-lined casino corridor past pyramid- , castle- , New York- , Paris- and Venice-themed resorts and iconic dancing fountains.
Another 2,500 are registered for a 6.5-mile “half of the half” race beginning at 3:30 p.m. and finishing downtown, where they’ll be able to watch marathoners pass twice beneath the Fremont Street Experience casino mall canopy before finishing after dark in front of a faux volcano and The Mirage resort at the heart of the Las Vegas Strip.
Cruz, of San Diego-based Competitor Group Inc., said security has been increased since the Boston Marathon bombing in April, and weather is expected to be milder and winds calmer after the race date was moved up from the first weekend in December.
The new date also avoids a conflict with the heavily attended National Finals Rodeo, and allows race organizers to stake a claim as an economic draw in Las Vegas.
Competitor Group says the 2012 event drew more than 50,000 out-of-town visitors, produced nearly 90,000 hotel room bookings, and had a $183 million total economic impact. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau doesn’t compile such figures on the marathon.
Live bands will again perform at each measured mile, and the race will again feature runners dressed as Elvis and participants marrying or renewing vows at a run-through wedding chapel.
Race organizers are providing logistics support to help about 200 runners take part this year in both the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Half-Marathon on Sunday morning, then fly from Texas to Nevada for the Las Vegas half-marathon.
One, ultrarunner and U.S. Olympic marathon qualifier Michael Wardian, will try to run both the San Antonio and Las Vegas marathons.
“It’ll be quite a story if the guy who runs a marathon in the morning wins the marathon in the evening,” Cruz said.
Wardian, 39, is expected to face stiff competition from Yon Yilma, 25, of Edmonds, Wash. Yilma won the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon in June with a time of 2:29:53.
The top women’s marathon contender is last year’s winner, Nuta Olaru, 43. She won the Big Sur Marathon in April and the Seattle marathon with a time of 2:50:02. Her time last December in Las Vegas was 2:51:31.