How to Fix RnR Las Vegas

Chas Marathons, Race Reports, Reviews 13 Comments

Although the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Las Vegas was, despite any positive spin attempted by Competitor Group, a fiasco and #EpicFail,  I didn’t feel right just leaving a negative review and moving on. One runner described the marathon as “… being like you broke up with a long-term girlfriend. For days you can’t stop talking about it to anyone who will listen because your expectations were so high for the relationship.”

But there is hope for the RnR Las Vegas. It will depend on what actions they take next. If anyone has any further suggestions, leave them in the comments and I’d like to hear it. Maybe Competitor Group will listen. Their actions in the coming days will show just how serious they are, and just how much they actually listen to their customers. Then, as consumers, we can decide whether or not we wish to support the organization in the future. I would like to do that, but it will depend on their actions going forward. So how to fix Las Vegas RnR Marathon? Here is how I would do it:

  1. Financial Culpability. Saying “We’re sorry” is hollow and worthless without action. When the Iroman series of triathlons had a similar disastrous event, they very quickly issued vouchers for free entries into a future event. Competitor Group now faces a choice: They can take the action of giving something back to the runners who suffered and were injured by the race, or they can take the path of Congress – do a lot of talking, and take no action. The Ironman organization has a lot of respect – Congress does not. Restoring the respect of your customers is paramount.
  2. Stop Dismissing Your Customers. The actions of the CEO of Competitor Group have raised quite a few eyebrows. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the President, Scott Dickey, has apparently dismissed the runners who brought it to the attention of the community, by saying there are  “bigger concerns.”  The problem with that is the CEO’s actions show a complete disregard for his customers, and has placed Competitor Group once again on the same level as Congress. Additionally, hundreds of posts on the Facebook page of RnR Las Vegas has people complaining of specific illnesses which are most likely a result of the race. Saying they are “isolated incidents” shows a disconnect at the level of leadership. A level of trust must be re-established between the customer and the corporation. They must do more than use empty words. They must back them up with tangible forms of action.
  3. Responsible Leadership. I do believe in second chances. While in Japan both the CEO and President would have resigned in disgrace, that might not be necessary here.  However, stating, “I take full responsibility” is not actually doing so. Strong, positive actions from the leadership team must be taken quickly to show just what responsibility they have taken. Otherwise, they are the same empty words we get from Congress. The CEO and President of Competitor Group, a for-profit corporation, must answer to their investors (that is the way of business) and to their customers. Just how they will do that will show what leaders they are.  At the moment, the investors are happy, and the customer is not.
  4. Establish a Local Runner Committee to Work with Competitor Group in Las Vegas. I do not know if this was done, or is regularly done, or was even considered. However, it was obvious to me, a non-local runner, that whomever designed the course and post-course layout didn’t have a clue about the unique challenges of the Las Vegas strip, its businesses, and the flow of runners. Establishing an experienced committee of local runners with experience on the challenges faced in a night marathon will help alleviate a lot of potential pitfalls from occuring again. And those runners should be from the 6,000 runners that endured “The Merge” and the other poorly planned, poorly considered potential problems with course design. Blaming, for example, the collapse of corrals on volunteers instead of bad planning is simply failing to take proper responsibility. You can not say “I take full responsibility” and then blame volunteers in the same interview for the problems. Proper planning should know that volunteers are only as good as they are trained, and even at that – you should plan for possible poor execution. In aviation, we have  saying: Plan for the worst, hope for the best. It appears that Competitor Group planned for the best, and hoped the worst wouldn’t happen.
  5. Limit the Size of Next Year’s Event. Now this is taking responsibility and taking firm action. Competitor Group needs to first prove that they can, indeed, put on a good race in Las Vegas with a far more manageable crowd. Once they have re-established the infrastructure, then and only then can they expand the size. They could not handle 44,000 runners. What should the limit be for next year? The answer would be found within a  runners committee, and not those looking at only profit. Because if Competitor Group in Las Vegas continues to get poor reviews, eventually it will catch up with them financially.
  6. Respond to Complaints With Specific Actions. On the facebook page there were numerous complaints and I listed many in a previous blog entry. Competitor Group must publicly, through all forms of media but specifically social media, address those specific complaints with specific rectifying actions that will occur next year, and not dismiss any of them. Just allowing them to be posted isn’t enough. Specific fixes need to be identified, addressed, and public resolutions made.
  7. Set Realistic Goals for Next Year. Although certain problems are always bound to happen, realistic expectations and goals for next year need to be identified, published, and a system of evaluation established. These items should be made public, with public accountability.
My father always said “Actions speak louder than words.” Today, that phrase is all the more important. The actions of Competitor Group will determine whether they will succeed or fail in their next Las Vegas race. I hope they do, but I will be waiting to see what actions they eventually take moving forward.

Comments 13

  1. I’d add, “Remember who you work for.” In essence, Competitor works for us, the runner. Without the entry fees of 44,000 runners, there would have been no event. To dismiss your customers (the ones who pay your salaries and have the potential to stop and influence others to stop) is not wise.

    If we do not feel like a.) we got what we paid for or b.) we’re exposed to unsafe practices, then we have the right (and obligation for future participants) to be vocal about it. At this point, it’s not just about me and my experience, it’s about friends and family and other “strangers” who might be exposed to the same thing.

    Competitor does not work for Las Vegas and their dollars, they work for us. So when their greed leads them to cut corners, skimp on porta potties and clean/contained water, continue to accept registrations on race day between the marathon and half marathon events, buy green bananas, buy not enough of pretty much EVERYTHING, then we have a right to cry foul.

    Just my two cents…

  2. In addition to the above I would add :

    1) Volunteers, RNR gets paid enough, put more paid boots on the ground for essential roles, like policing the corrals. I was a Volunteer at the Expo on Friday and I also ran on Sunday. I was just told to sit down and do my job. Granted it was a easy one to figure out, but I am wondering if that was all the training that volunteers got ? Also I wouldn’t blame the volunteers for leaving their post. Like in war when your leaders have abandoned you and all hell is breaking loose you retreat and get the hell out of dodge. I have heard that volunteers were being yelled at by RNR staff. Give your volunteers something more than a t shirt and a cold meal if any meal, train them and have a paid RNR staff member with them showing them the way.

    2) Wave Start: 2 Waves A & B . Wave A has runners that can run sub 1:55. Each of these runners must supply proof that they have run a 1/2 in the past x months at a sub 1:55 pace. Inside Wave A set runners off in corrals at 1 minute intervals. Wave B is a open wave no proof necessary, but still have corrals in there as well.

    3) Police the Corrals !

    4) No Running Chip.. No Medal… (Bibs are to easy to photo copy)

    5) Photos — after you clear the recovery food sections and before family reunion.

    6) Gear Check: — Outside in UPS Vans !!!!

    7) Switch it back to AM race..at least it gets warmer as you run !, Less Traffic Problems and No Shows getting out !!!

    8) For the money we are paying, get a water company like arrowhead to supply the water !! We do it for the ironmans in vegas !!

    9) Issue a race refund coupon for 50% off any other RNR race (including vegas). none of this vegasexpo survey code crap !

    10) EXPO.. Had to be the worst laid out expo I have ever seen.. Keep it the same as 2010 that worked !

    11) Date: Why oh why do you have to hold it the same week as the NFR is on in town ???

    12) Location: Consider starting and finishing at the Thomas and Mack arena and running the strip as well

    13) Marathon Runners: Put up REAL barriers for them that 1/2 marathon people cant stray into .. what were you thinking when you put up soccer training cones ???

    14) Green Bananas ! No Comment !

    1. I agree with all of Patrick’s suggestions.
      I’m a walker (singly, no hand-holding!) and I LIKE starting in the last corral. I want the thundering herd out ahead of me so I can stroll the Strip at my own pace.

      But I also would like the medal I paid the same price for as the 1:55 finishers, thank-you!

      Gear check needs to be outside. I had no real chance to use it as police were directing us to walk up the strip at 4:30 pm when I headed out from my hotel (vs. going through MB).

      Corrals need a completely different arrangement, more like what they do at Disney. A daisy-chain arrangement with corral enforcement and WIDE access lanes to/from the corrals.

      Porta johns AT EACH CORRAL. Those of us in corral 26-40 had no access to the porta-johns pre-race unless we forced our way through the lower-numbered corrals. Remember, a lot of us didn’t go through MB, we walked up the Strip to our corrals.

  3. Their inability to handle this situation and then point fingers at volunteers and even the racers shows they cannot be trusted.

    Coming to us NOW, over a week later and provide us a plan to fix the fiasco for next year would fall on deaf ears. Those who would believe their parade of lies are doomed to stuck in the same situation. We have NO proof of what they are doing.

    As far as Vegas. I live here. I know of NO community nor committee that took part in that decision of the course. In fact, we were very vocal about our distaste of that course, from day one.

    Offering me a discount to a future race is insulting. I will not put my name nor my life in the hands of RnR again. Period. I was TURNED away from medical care TWICE on the course and pushed aside in the medical tent. I was eventually transported by ambulance to the hospital where all the medical staff repeatedly commented they have never seen such disregard for human life, as they have seen in this race.

    How to fix RnRLV? Don’t let them come back to Vegas. Deny their special events permit. Hit them where it hurts – their pocket book. They obviously don’t care about their reputation. Their reputation is shattered.

  4. I’ve been watching the fallout on Facebook with great interest. First, people were demanding an apology. Then, they got the typically corporate apology with no admittance of liability and a promise that things would be fixed. Then people said the apology wasn’t good enough. Yesterday I even saw a post complaining about the tiger at the start line! It’s getting to a point where people are just looking for things to bitch about. The race was FUBAR, no doubt, but Competitor can’t have a do-over. You can read my own review of the race if you want to. I certainly didn’t have a good time, but:

    I believe that the people who won’t let it go are a very small minority of the people at that run.
    I believe that the people at Competitor have a HUGE interest in fixing what went wrong.
    I believe that they have been in meeting after meeting analyzing and pointing fingers among themselves and discussing how to make it better.
    I believe I’m glad I don’t work for Competitior!
    I believe next year it will be a pretty good event because they will know they’re really being watched.

    I knew going into this that it would be my last Rock and Roll race for a while. I’ve done 5 in three cities and there are so many smaller races popping up where I live that I want to explore what is out there. This was my fourth time doing Vegas in five years (I missed one year due to illness). I do the race because it gives me an excuse to visit friends who live in the city, and up until this one, I’ve enjoyed the event. This year I found that I hated the night race. I didn’t just dislike it, I HATED it. And I won’t return to the race again as long as it is run at night in the cold part of the year.

    For the people who won’t let it go, the best thing to do is vote with their dollars. I wonder just how many of the people who say they’re through with this event and with Competitor in general actually follow through and abstain from their events.

    Time will tell.

  5. I ran the half marathon in 2010 as part of Team Challenge the charity that the race sponsored. The event was well organized and I was very impressed. This year was completely different. If this was my first race it would discourage me so much that I would probably never run another one. I hope they fix the issues. Of they don’t the charity, CCFA will be who really suffers.

  6. First, I tweeted about the Tigers at the start. I know that most people don’t give a damn about animals, but that was just awful. Even if you don’t like animals, you should realize that putting any animal in a cage in the midst of all this chaos is not a good thing. For me, it was the first sign that this organization didn’t give a damn about any thing except themselves.

    I agree that the only thing that could fix this event is to get a competent company that WANTS to be there year after year, offering a successful experience for everyone. There is no way that Competitor Group is going to up their budget for professional support for a race this size (or the 50% growth they want for next year) sufficiently to pull it off. My guess is if they are allowed to do this again they will make minimal changes. Maybe no longer offer bananas. Maybe get taller fencing for the corrals that are chainlocked together. Maybe reroute the Fulls. Maybe get more bands. But they wont’ fix the underlying problem – poor management, 20% of the staff they needed everywhere, lack of clean food-safe water, lack of crowd control, lack of the medical support, sufficient potties, enough medals or food. Why? because all those things require more money.

    The fact that they’ve offered no real compensation for us like more reputable companies have shows me that this is all about the money, for miles over anything else. Yes, they need to profit. But the running community does not need for them to do that at the expense of the health and safety of the community.

  7. Post
    Author

    Today I received the following email from Rock ‘N’ Roll. Maybe they are listening :).

    We Want to Earn Your Trust Back

    We apologize for the less than satisfactory experience endured by many at the 2011 Zappos.com Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas. Your feedback is helping us make improvements for the future. Though the new plans will take some time to implement, once they are announced, a special offer to this year’s participants will be made available for the 2012 event.

    In the meantime, we would like to restore your confidence in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series and extend a $50 discount for the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon & ½ Marathon to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. You are race ready and we are ready to show you how a race should rock. We hope to see you on January 15th!

  8. From the moment we got back to the hotel and started look at the facebook & twitter comments, this has been a train wreck. And you’re right we just can’t stop talking about it!

    Another thing that I find really interesting is that Zappos – “powered by service” – is the key sponsor… I would imagine that Tony Hsieh is not very impressed.

    More thoughts on the subject:
    http://www.c-squaredassociates.com/rock-n-rolls-social-media-response-to-marathon-fiasco

  9. To whom it may concern. I was an employee for Competitor and was an operations mgr. with Elite Racing for 5 years and then 3 years with Competitor Group. My responsibilities as lead operations mgr. consisted of trucking logistics/ Build out of start and finish line structures/ audio systems for start and finish lines/ build out of 1/2 mile of fencing start and finish/ press trucks/ qty.36 mile marker clocks/ and much more. The problem with corporate america is companies like Competitor Group or for that matter the parent co. out of New York by the name of Falcon Head. They have fired all the people from Elite Racing that brought the company to where it was when Competitor aquired it. I find that ironic since we the former employees made it attractive for Falcon Head to buy from Tim Murphy the original owner. Since the take over the corporate monster has taken full effect and ruined a perfectly great running company that actually cared and took care of the runners in an uncompromiseing manner. The whole quality control has gone out the window by hireing alot of filters and people that are unexperienced to say the least. Please give me a call if you would like or email me at showmaker2011@hotmail.com 760-408-8942
    Sincerely Lennie Howell

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  11. This was my first race and I had a great time because I didn’t know any better and I finished in under two hours.

    Sadly i just found out I got mono which has been affecting me for months now. I didn’t kiss anyone, so I’m sure I got it at the race! All m symptoms started after that. Too many People too close together plus the unsanitary water stops. 🙁

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