DO YOU FEEL LUCKY?
“Forget the lottery. Bet on yourself instead.” –Brian Koslow
When I wanted to sign up for the Chicago Marathon in 2009, it was pretty straightforward. I jumped on the website, filled out the registration form, gave ‘em my credit card info and just like that, I was good to go.
The times they are a changing.
The switch comes in the wake of last year’s snafu where the Active.com registration site for the Chicago Marathon crashed due to the mad rush of applicants on opening day. BTW, here’s hoping Active.com used that “hard-earned” convenience fee we begrudgingly pay each race to upgrade their servers.
The marathon lottery system is certainly nothing new, the London Marathon has done it for years and the Peachtree Road Race fully implemented a lottery starting in 2011 to pick the 55,000 runners for its annual July 4th 10K run. The most well known example of the marathon lottery has to be for the New York Marathon. Each year over 120,000 people vie for the approximately 45,000 open spots to run through the Big Apple.
With the number of distance runners exploding in recent years, many of the higher profile marathons have no problem filling their fields. In spite of their extremely high prices, many Disney-sponsored races sell out in a matter of hours.
Snooze and you lose.
The dilemma becomes deciding which method is best (and fairest) for the running public. Should races go the “first come, first serve” route and have thousands of applicants simultaneously swarming the website like tweens assaulting Ticketmaster.com for One Direction tickets? Those applicants who aren’t certain of their schedules (or money is tight at that particular moment) may find themselves S.O.L. if they hesitate.
Or should they allow everyone an equal shot at running, no matter whether they are “Johnny’s on the Spot” or “Johnny’s Come Lately” (a lot of Johnny’s here). This gives runners the chance to consider their schedules and finances as opposed to having to impulse buy. But it also can hurt the runner who is dying to run a race and their spot is given to someone who feels much more “meh” about it, while they end up on the outside looking in. I’ve applied for the New York Marathon twice and all I have to show for it is a pair of “non-refundable application fees” on my credit card bill. Not exactly something I can hang on my wall.
I can certainly see the pluses and minuses to both systems, although I personally lean toward the sign-up now approach.
What concerns me is a potential moneymaking method that races might very well adopt: an extra “fee” (say $20- $50) that allows you to bypass the lottery system, guaranteeing you a spot in the race… sort of like a stadium seat license for runners. I certainly hope that doesn’t come to pass, but the writing is on the wall… with dollar signs. Ka-ching!
It’ll be interesting to see how this situation develops. In the meantime, I’ll try and limit my lottery playing to a more sure bet… Mega Millions and Powerball. After all, $656 million will cover a lot of race entry fees.
(What are your thoughts on the “first come, first serve” and “lottery selection” methods?)