Inaugural Race a Labor of Love for First-Time Director

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 10.07.00 PMThe Laughlin/Bullhead Half Marathon and 5K offers participants the chance to run in two states and two time zones.

By Henry Howard

The clock is winding down to the inaugural Laughlin/Bullhead Half Marathon and 5K race, taking place in both Nevada (Laughlin) and Arizona (Bullhead) and in two different time zones.

This is also race director Mark Villalovos’ first time overseeing a race. It’s been quite the journey, as he says. I’ll step out of the way and let him talk about his journey, the race itself and more.

6 questions about the inaugural race

Gazing at AZ.Crop.compress
For those looking for one more race before closing the door on 2015, there is a discount code of 25 percent off registration for the Laughlin/Bullhead Half Marathon and 5K. Use code HENHOW when signing up at

1. Tell me about how the idea for this inaugural race got started.

“I got hooked on running late in life — on 1/1/11 to be exact. It was a New Year’s Resolution to run a marathon in the year 2011. After that, my wife, Denise, enabled my love of running by gifting me race entries to places like Big Sur, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco — destination races within our state of California. The more I participated in these types of events, the more I wanted to share the same sensation and create an event that combined my passion, running, with an opportunity to discover and explore someplace new.”

2. Tell me about what led you to pick this location and the course itself, going through two states. 

“Laughlin, Nevada, and Bullhead City, Arizona, are two cities separated by the Colorado River. You have the Vegas-style gaming action on the Nevada side, and the small Arizona town where all the employees live on the other. I have been visiting these cities since the 80s and they hold a special place in my heart. The sunrises and sunsets are some of the most beautiful and there are tons of things to do in the area. Gaming is great, but there is also all manner of water sports, 4×4 off-roading, championship golf, fishing, house-boating on the lake, horseback riding and even motorcycle rentals – so much for the runner and non-runner alike.”

3. Many runners have just finished their racing season, concluding with a fall race or two. Why should they run Laughlin this year?  

“You have the opportunity to run in two states, in two time zones, one dam — for a great race experience. The half marathon is 10 miles of road with 3.1 miles of desert trail featuring some of the most beautiful scenery. You see Lake Mohave, the Colorado River, the Black Mountains, beautiful desert landscape and you get to run across the Davis Dam. At the finish line you’ll be greeted with a free microbrew beer compliments of local brewery, Pints. Plus we have all the benefits of the big races: free tech tee, awesome finishers medal, chip timing, sweet swag bag, pre-race expo and post-race party with a live band and DJ. Proceeds benefit Operation Gratitude, a team that sends care packages to our service members overseas, and the Boys and Girls Club of the Colorado River.

“Additionally, the host hotel, the Edgewater/Colorado Belle, is offering room rates as low as $39! It’s the first of what we hope will be a long line of races — the first Saturday in December every year.”

4. What should runners know about the course?

“We have our own heart-stop hill — and it’s within the first 2.5 miles. Pace yourself on this stretch and you’ll have an enjoyable run. These are followed by long, sweeping downhills and although we have 3.1 miles of trail, no special shoes are required since it’s on a maintained, wide, 4×4 road. The final few miles are on the banks of the Colorado River as you head for home in front of Casino Row.”

5. This is your first experience as a race director. What stands out as the most important thing you have learned so far?

“There are SO MANY DETAILS! You need to assemble a team of dedicated folks who share your passion for running and creating a world-class event. In my work with the Walt Disney Company, I have produced many events in the past, but this is by far the most ambitious — and the first running event I have ever attempted. I have also learned that there are so many kind, friendly race directors out there willing to share advice and suggestions. They have been a huge help.”

6. Anything else you would like to share about the race, your experience and whatnot?

“Only that I am so excited that the date is nearly here. I am already beginning to build the team to plan next year’s event. There are a few things that will need to change, but for our first event I am comfortable with our turnout (should be between 400 and 500 total runners).”  

It’s not too late to sign up! Feel free to use the code: HENHOW to save 25 percent off on your registration and when you come out in December, be sure to find me and tell me, “Henry sent me!’ “

Speed drill

Name: Mark Villalovos
Hometown: Arcadia, Calif., and part-time in Laughlin, Nev.
Number of years running: 5 years
How many miles a week do you typically run: Training for LA Marathon at the moment, so up to about 20 per week.
Point of pride: So many people told me this was a foolhardy venture, right now over 375 people are thanking me for putting this race on
Favorite race distance:  Half marathon
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: I love Energybits – they help fuel the long runs.
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: I’ve always enjoyed the music of Queen — “I Want it All” is a fave.  Rarely listen to music running except on the track doing speed work. For that I enjoy Bad Religion, Blink-182, Green Day, Linkin Park, & Rise Against The Machine.
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: Someday I will wake up and be unable to run; today is NOT that day!
Where can other runners connect or follow you:   Twitter: @RunLaughlin, @blkjkrabbit66


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