MOB Traffic is ready for runners from sun up and sundown.
One hundred and twenty miles of highways and hills. One hundred degrees with sprains and spills. The prestigious Challenge Cup | Baker To Vegas Relay is anything but glamorous — unless you happen to be in law enforcement.
“After taking two years off for COVID as everyone else did, there was a genuine sense of excitement in the atmosphere,” says Rick Santos, race coordinator for The Los Angeles Police Revolver and Athletic Club’s (LAPRAAC) prestigious foot race. “It felt like a family reunion from the starting line to the standing room only awards ceremony. Baker To Vegas was back in force. We were back in force.”
Originally the vision of Los Angeles Police Officers Chuck Foote and Larry Moore to replace the Los Angeles Police Department’s “Death Valley Relay,” the Baker To Vegas foot race dates back to a slightly shorter format from the front of Baker High School, through Shoshone, Calif. and Pahrump, Nev., to the intersection of Blue Diamond and Highway 160. The course was immediately expanded the following year in 1986 when 400 participants grew to become 2,000 participants, and the finish line became the historic Hacienda Hotel.
Nowadays, the course begins 25 miles north of Baker, Calif., on Highway 127. From there, runners head toward Shoshone, Calif., and then cut northeast on Highway 178, crossing the state line into Nevada on Highway 372 to Pahrump, Nev., before turning southeast on Highway 160 and heading toward the finish inside the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino Pavilion.
“This year, we had 216 teams with ten runners per team taking on twenty 4- to 10-mile stages across the desert valleys and hills,” said Santos. “The teams came from all over North America, as far north as Edmonton, Canada. Next year, it will be even bigger again, with teams from Australia and Germany already committed.”
For such a large-scale event, with as many as 25 to 30 alternates and support staff members per team, Masters of Barricades spaces 11 message boards to alert drivers along the route between Baker and Las Vegas. They also deploy more than 900 traffic delineators inside Las Vegas, closing down a lane from Fort Apache Road to Vegas Valley Drive along Desert Inn Road.
“The biggest challenge is working with and coordinating several building contractors and Clark County to ensure the runners are safe, especially in construction zones near Fort Apache and along the route,” says Paul Ames, special events manager for Masters of Barricades (MOB Traffic). “We also worked closely with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and Nevada Highway Patrol on this event, much like we do on every major event and marathon we manage throughout the year.”
Ames says events like these require considerable community outreach and notification before and during the run, especially around Desert Inn Road. Safe traffic plans have to consider the safety of the runners, the impact to area traffic, and efficient use of staff and resources.
“I appreciated MOB Traffic because Paul Ames did so much of the heavy lifting and guided me through the process,” said Santos. “This was my first year as the event coordinator, and no one had left a playbook. I was fortunate to find his name so he could help me through the entire process.”
Ames said developing a straightforward setup was a priority for Baker To Vegas. While he always works with new runs to help establish them for long-term success, this one was special because of its 15-year history with Jeff Pritchett, CMO of MOB Traffic.
“Some of the officers who join Baker To Vegas aren’t only running to stay fit and challenge themselves,” said Pritchett. “Some are running for fallen police officers, friends, and family. If that isn’t enough to inspire everyone to do their best, I’m not sure what will.”
Baker To Vegas has become a top draw competitive event for law enforcement worldwide. In addition to twelve different categories, it’s not uncommon for departments to form personal friendly rivalries amongst each other or with federal law enforcement, with this year’s race teams including the FBI and U.S. Marshals. But all of it is in good fun, start to finish, which includes a coveted commemorative mug for each team member. The top three teams in each category also receive plaques.
Next year’s race will be held April 1-2, 2023, and is currently open to sponsors. The event is organized by the LAPRAAC, which has its own 80-year history. Since its early beginnings as a marksmanship club and standardizing LAPD weaponry in 1931, it has grown to become involved in police officer training, recreation, and community outreach.