Race the River

The annual Run Laughlin event was slightly missing its mark in the past with its tagline, “Two States, Two Time Zones – One DAM Great Race,” but this year’s race remedies that. The fifth installment this time, called the “Run Laughlin Half Marathon, 5K and Conquer the Dam 12K,” presented by the Mercury Events and the Laughlin Tourism Commission takes to the hills, scenic trails, and byways of the area on Saturday, Dec. 7.
“The Conquer the Dam portion is a 12K now,” said Gavin McKiernan, owner of Mercury Events, race promoter. “The reason we did that was that the 10K would get you to the base of the dam, yet going over the dam and going over the stateline is a highlight for most people. That’s a significant part of what we talk about to people — the two time zones, the two states — people really get into that part.
“So for the 10K people, just to get to the bottom of the dam and just look at it, it wasn’t quite as fulfilling,” he added. “By making it a 12K, it gets them up to the top of the dam and to the stateline. People love to take a picture of their one foot in each state and we have a photographer up there who takes pictures of anybody who wants one, which are downloadable for free after the event. We have people who definitely like that change.”
The event gets bigger each year with more and more participation.
“We expect about 1,500 people to come overall, because most people come with somebody who isn’t running,” McKiernan said. “But we expect about 900 runners to sign up and for that to be about 1,500 people overall to come.”
In that vein of support, cooperation is the name of the game with this course that focuses on the stunning views of the surrounding Colorado River valley. The Nevada Department of Transportation helps by temporarily closing Highway 163 to allow runners to coast down the highway taking in the casinos in the foreground against the backdrop of a brilliant sunrise over the Black Mountains in Arizona.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation drops the barriers on the Davis Dam so half marathon runners have the rare view of Lake Mohave to the north and the Colorado River to the south.
Runners have the option of testing their various endurance levels with a choice between three events — the half marathon begins at Laughlin High School (7 a.m.), both the 12K (7:50 a.m.) and the 5K (8 a.m.) begin and end at the Tropicana Laughlin, the staging area for the event. Participants in the 5K and 12K should be at the starting line by 7:30 a.m. for the singing of the National Anthem.
Several water/hydration and first aid stations will be provided on-course between the start and finish. Each station will contain both water and other beverages.
Buses will transport half marathoners to the high school for the start of their race. “Buses start at 5:15 a.m., the last one leaves at 6:30 a.m.,” McKiernan explained. “When runners signed up, they picked a bus time, and if they want to change or for some reason if they missed that question, they can do so at the Health and Fitness Expo on Friday, Dec. 6.”
The Race Expo is also where all participants pick up their registration packets.
“The 12K and 5K people can still pick up on Saturday morning, but it’s highly recommended they come on Friday, so they’re not late for their race to start,” he said. “Almost everybody will pick up on Friday. And all half marathoners have to pick up on Friday.”
The registration fee for the half-marathon is $100, the 12K is $60, and the 5K is $40.
For those spur of the moment people, anyone can register in person on Friday, Dec. 6 — 5K and 12k participants can register the morning of the event at Victory Plaza at the Tropicana.
The expo is at the Tropicana (from 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m.), in the Santa Fe Room.
“It is open to the public,” he added. “There are vendors with products and specials, so even if people are not doing the race, they may want to come and check it out. The Santa Fe Room is where the buffet used to be.”
Judging by photos of past races, some participants like to come in costume, too. Since the event takes place on Dec. 7, spectators might see elves, reindeer antlers, sparkly outfits and who knows what else. It’s a visual worth looking forward to.
“There was a woman who participated the first year and she dressed up in full-on showgirl attire, she looked like the classic showgirl from the Vegas Strip,” McKiernan said. “I noticed she signed up again this year and she told me she is planning on doing that again this year so that will be fun. She’s an attraction unto herself. I’m sure other people will dress up too, because that’s part of the experience for them.”
In addition to the fun-lovers are serious competitors. Awards will be given to the top finishers in male and female categories.
“The event course is USATF certified now for the distance – so If you break your age group record in the 5K or the half marathon you will run free in 2020,” he added. “Records are downloadable on this page of our site RunLaughlin.com/results/.”
‘We have about 70 legacy runners, people who have done the event all four years and who are signed up to run again for this, our fifth year,” he said. “Legacy Runners will be getting a special jacket this year.”
Once racers have crossed the finish line and receive their medals, is when the post-party gets started. Every finisher over the age of 21, is entitled to one free beer and additional beer tickets can be purchased on site.
“That’s at the Tropicana,” McKiernan said. “There’s beer, food, music and awards out in front in Victory Plaza. Then Brew Brothers Pub at the Tropicana is opening early. Racers will get some food at the post-party, but when they’re ready to have more or a meal, they can wander right into Brew Brothers.
“Then at 4 p.m. at Gold Diggers within the Golden Nugget Laughlin, there’s a Runners’ Happy Hour with drink specials for people who came for the event,” he added. “Then at 7 p.m., there’s a poker tournament at Harrah’s Laughlin. The poker tournament takes up to 60 people, so those interested need to sign up ahead of time for that.”
Run Laughlin is also a fundraiser.
“Proceeds from the event will benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Colorado River, and we have a couple of non-profits that do water stations,” McKiernan said. “If there are any non-profits interested in manning a water station, then there’s a contest for which one’s got the most spirit. They get an extra donation and all the non-profit water stations get some kind of donation, too.”
Spectators are welcome and have easy access to a variety of areas, however, spectators will need to select a spot to view the runners (other than the finish line) and will then wait until all runners pass before they will be allowed to move their cars. As the roads will be shut down to vehicle traffic, no one will be allowed to “leapfrog” throughout the course. No unauthorized vehicles are allowed on the course during the race. The finish line will be at the Tropicana Laughlin.
The 5K and 12K course also offers great views as it runs along the Colorado River Heritage Trail up to the area across from the face of Davis Dam and then alongside the banks of the river near the Laughlin Bridge.
“The event is very ‘walker friendly,'” McKiernan said. “Just because the event is called ‘Run Laughlin’ doesn’t mean it’s for runners only. Don’t be intimidated by the name. There are lots of people who walk — and they walk in groups, pairs, as friends, family members, part of organizations or alone, but everybody has fun, and that’s the point of the whole event.
“This event continues to grow each year as the word spreads about the beautiful course and the fun post-race party,” he added.
“This event is for everyone from the elite runner pushing for an event record to the casual walker and everyone in between. We have a generous 4-hour time limit for the half marathon before we start re-opening the streets which allows for a walking pace.”
He thanked the Laughlin Tourism Commission for their support of the event.
“The LTC is a major supporter of the event and helps to make it possible to bring people into Laughlin and enjoy the beautiful scenery and attributes of the area.”
Organizers are hoping one of those attributes is perfect weather.
“We just keep our fingers crossed that it’s not windy, which it usually is not,” McKiernan said. “But when it is, that makes things interesting. The forecast right now looks great. It’s perfect running weather this time of year in Laughlin and Bullhead and people are excited for that. That’s especially true when we have people coming from all over, from places like Montana where it’s already snowing. So they’re very excited to come in for that.”