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Mar 13, 2012

Race entry limitations...

8 miles on the schedule today....done!  It was worm city out there today.  I just could not avoid them.


As races continue to become more and more popular, it seems that many of the biggest races have gone to four options:
  1. Lottery System - give the participants a fair chance to get into the race.
  2. FCFS - First come, first serve - you want in?  Get up and be ready to sign up the first day.  Hell, the first hour in some cases.
  3. Qualification Times - You can participate if you are run "this" fast.
  4. Charity - run for Charity.  Raise X amount of money and you're in.
Races that used to take days or weeks to sell out are now selling out in hours.  I supposed it's great for those race directors to have that kind of popularity for their race.  I'm curious what you all feel is the fair option.  Personally, I think option #1, #2 or #4 is the best way to go.  Of course, I'm a slower runner and many times would not qualify for a race such as Boston so I guess I'm bias.  Even New York, my qualifying time has to be 1:23 for the half marathon to get into NYC marathon.  1:23!!!  Ah....yeah, probably not going to happen.  New York used to have lower times and the half time was at 1:30.  Since I hit just under 1:39 last year, I thought that might be doable in the next year or two.  Then they changed it.  7 minutes faster?  Making up 16 minutes from my PR?  I don't see that in my reach for a half.  As for Boston's qualifications - not going to happen.

In regards to the Lottery System, at least this option is fair.  I think.  Of course, I'm not really sure how they pick the participants other than at random.  Also, is it really random?  How many entries does the race director hold back for people he/she knows?  For example, the miner last year who ran the NYC marathon because he was trapped in the mine.  Don't get me wrong - I understand why they have people like this run a marathon.  I hope it's random but I talked to someone who said he knew someone related to a race that had a qualifying standard and could get people in.  I hope that's not true but it probably was.  If I were to add one thing, it would be to add a rule that if you have already run the race in the past(say 5 years), your name gets bumped down the list for people that have not run it before.  I mean, should someone be able to run the NYC marathon every single year because their name got picked each year?  There needs to be a better way to get many more new runners into the race who want to do it.
Run for charity.  I think this is a great option.  At least it gives someone a chance to run in a race that they may never qualify for and at the same time give back to a great charity.  I think that I may do this for Boston one year.  I know that some of you disagree with this - especially those that may have qualified based on their efforts.  I used to think the same way - If I run this race for a charity, then someone who really worked hard to get there loses out.  I've changed my mind on this.  If I'm going to race $2-5,000 for a charity, in my opinion, this is much more important that someone getting in.  Of course, if I were the one being left out I might think differently but those monies go to great causes and will make a much more meaningful impact overall.
Qualification times - it seems to me that most of the races doing this, it's really only the fastest runners who can qualify.  I guess that's the point huh?  Haha!  Not much to say here.  Run fast, you're in.

The other way I think you "should" be able to get in.  Transfer of bibs - at market value.  I'm not looking for it to be a black market or something like that.  Just runners looking to get in that can use their buddy's race bib - legally.  I know some races allow this, for a fee.  I think that's fair as well.  If I get a bib and I cannot run it because I'm hurt, then nobody runs it?  Why does that make sense?  The race should charge a fee since there is time there to administer a change but why not allow it?  

What other ways could race directors use to limit the field but still make it fair for people to get in?  What do you feel is the best way?

Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!


  1. I like races with qualifying standards... I also like when fundraisers can get in.... Its a touchy subject... Oh.. and ya know what.. You CAN qualify for Boston... Go get it man, work hard!!!!!!

  2. NY has a different way to qualify for their race that you didn't mention. You have to be a member of the New York Road Runners and run 9 qualifying races and volunteer at 1, the previous year to get your entry into the marathon.

    I would prefer it if you can transfer your bib for a fee OR defer it. Money is hard these days. The Wisconsin marathon/half allows you to defer (or they did last year)

    I just read this morning that Competitor is charging people $20 to pick up OTHER peoples race packets at their DC race (WHICH is a new thing since they never allowed others to pick up packets before!) Another way to make money for them.

  3. You bring up a lot of great points here. It is getting out of hand the way races are organizing registration. Races like Boston have suddenly become completely unattainable for many people. And New York just made it almost impossible with the way they've changed their entry. I'll be running NY this year through the 9+1 program...only an option for people in the area, but it has ended up costing me nearly $1000 and that's just ridiculous.

    I recently gained an entry into the Cherry Blossom 10-mile run through a friend who did a bib transfer. CUCB actually has a forum online where people can post bib transfers. The race itself charges $15 and it's between you and the person you are transferring your bib to to determine a fair, not above market price for the race. So many people end up not running races for so many reasons that it would just be so much better if this was allowed at every race.

  4. Eventually, everyone will qualify for Boston. (At least that's my plan!)

  5. Personally, I like the first come, first serve method. If you really want to run that race, be prepared to register when it opens. Although I've seen "technical issues" throw this all to crap too. And I do think it's great when races reserve a good % of bibs for charity runners. Not a fan of qualifying times, but I guess that's because I'm slow and will never ever get reach that. But all this demand for these big races only allows the races to get carried away with registration fees. The more demand, the more they can charge. I guess that's why I just stick with the medium-size city races, where you can actually run without bumping into people... and can still register the day before!

  6. I am completely in support of charity entries...anyone who is willing to do the work of fundraising deserves a bib. Of the others, I prefer FCFS because it rewards the early bird. :) I am glad few races go with qualifying times. What I don't like about the new Boston system is the extra elitism with the qualifying times. Set the times as fast as you want, but once a person has made the qualifying time, they should have an equal shot at entry with other qualifiers, either FCFS or lottery for the available spots.

  7. I think it is OK that some races are exclusive based on time. In part, that is what makes Boston special (I am nowhere close to qualifying). I don't know all the details about the registration process, so Kristin is probably right about the equality thing. If I ever got that fast and qualified but could not get in, I'd be ticked.

    FCFS is the most fair as long as their registration system can handle the onslaught and the date the race goes "on-sale" is well publicized.

    I haven't done a race that has had any registration issues to date. Actually, I take that back! I wanted (and still want to do) the Labor Day Mackinaw Bridge run and it was a "lottery" that I did not "win". That was fine, but I just wish they explained how the lottery worked. Does everyone have an equal chance or is it based on number of qualifying races, times or other factors?

  8. I agree with everything you're saying, but there are also still SO many smaller local races that aren't too competitive to get into. And often they are just as well organized and put on.