Remember when the hardest thing about a marathon/ultramarathon was running it? Unfortunately, in many cases, those days are long behind us. Now, the hardest thing may actually be gaining entry to the race. Here are a few examples:
The NYC Marathon:
The NYC Marathon lottery results recently came out. 9,170 runners were added to the race field through the drawing. This was out of over 77,000 applications. That is a success rate of approximately 12% – or a failure rate of about 88%, depending upon how you look at it.
The Chicago Marathon:
The Chicago Marathon generally used a first-come, first-served registration process. Until 2013. Active.com was inundated with applicants and…
For 2014, the race will be using a lottery that will run until noon (central time) on April 7. Runners in this non-guaranteed entry pool will find out their fate on April 14. Since this is new to 2014, the success/failure rate is not known.
The Marine Corps Marathon:
In 2014, the Marine Corps Marathon also switched to a lottery. Runners were able to register February 23 to March 15. Runners were then notified of their acceptance on March 19.
If you think this is limited to large races in major cities, you are wrong. As ultrarunning has experienced a (mini) boom, race directors have been scrambling to devise new entry systems.
At Western States, the lottery has had a success rate of about 10%. Prior to the 2014 lottery, the Western States website posted the following probabilities:
1 ticket — 6.5%
2 tickets — 12.6%
3 tickets — 18.3%
4 tickets — 23.6%
5 tickets — 28.5%
At Hardrock 100, there are 140 slots for about 1000 applicants. Hardrock has broken this down into three lotteries: (1) a first-timers lottery with 35 slots; (2) a veterans lottery with 35 slots (for five-time Hardrock finishers); and (3) everyone else with 70 slots.
Planning a Race Calendar
The difficulty in getting into races has made planning a calendar ahead of time tricky, especially if one is dependent upon non-guaranteed entry lotteries. Not so long ago, you needed a sharpie, a calendar and your checkbook. Now, it’s more like:
What Options Are Available?
Different races have been implementing different strategies. It seems like all races have been increasing prices to deter some applicants. Anecdotally, this doesn’t seem to be working. Other races have started new events and races have turned into race weekends. Many ultramarathons (e.g. Western States, Hardrock, Vermont) have a service requirement. For example, Vermont requires you to volunteer eight hours of time or pay a service buy-out fee of $150 (the race still sold out in less than a day).
What Else Can Be Done?
Many races have been toying with qualifying times. This is tricky because it muddies the area between guaranteed entries and non-guaranteed entries. Races are clearing space for established runners – but is it at the expense of newbies?
Have you had to use a lottery system? How did it go?
What do you think is the best way for races to deal with such high demand?