Marathon entry….the great debate.

I recently received an email from Trail Runner Magazine about their blogger symposium – a pretty neat idea where they pose a (controversial) question to bloggers and ask them to submit links to their posts on the subject. They then pick a favorite and share it with their readers. A great way to get everyone talking and blogging and share some great blogs.
Their first topic is related to the size of prizes for trail races and its effect on the sport. I had a feeling that Kacey would have some ideas and potentially opposing viewpoints on this subject….which she will be sharing here shortly (since the deadline is March 15th!)
This, our recent experience in entering the Chicago Marathon and planning for future marathons, got me thinking about Marathon entry systems. As marathons have become more popular many (including the ones considered more “prestigious”) have instituted various entry systems.
Many people are aware of Boston’s “qualification” requirements – based on your gender and age – as well as the loop holes that could be employed to circumvent them – for example waiting until you are 40 to submit a time that you ran within the last 2 years (per the requirements) or choosing a pancake flat course to give yourself the best chance of meeting that golden time. I am not pointing fingers, do what you need to if running or even just qualifying to run Boston is high on your list – I am just hypothesizing that as soon as you put rules in place people – maybe especially runners – will identify ways to bend them!
If you think Boston’s qualification standards are tough, check out the New York Marathon guaranteed entry times! New York chooses to combine an aggressive guaranteed entry qualification time system (to which you can submit either a half or full marathon time) with a lottery system as well as the charity entries. When I say aggressive – I mean aggressive! As a 32 year old female my Boston qualification time is 3:25:00 or faster, for New York it is a smoking 3:00 Marathon or 1:27 Half Marathon…..and don’t be confused, this is in addition to the ever increasing entry fee (forecast for 2014 to be $255for US residents who are not members of the NYRR)!
In contrast the London Marathon offers Good for Age entries for the same age group for times between 3:15 and 3:50…more my speed! 😉
Other marathons do not use lottery or qualification systems but many even smaller ones are filling their registration quotas in a matter of hours from opening – leading to server crashes and general panic and mayhem as we experienced during the Chicago registration process. So, back to Chicago – they have always prided themselves on  being an open entry marathon (even stating on their previous homepage that they are proud to be an open entry marathon). But after the many duplicate entries and servers falling over, they temporarily closed entries with apparently 30,000 of the 45,000 spots filled and in the interest of fairness instituted a lottery system for the remaining spots. The apparently received over 30,000 entries into this lottery system giving each registrant a 50% chance of one of the remaining spots. Does this speak to the future of entries to this race? It may be more fair than the battle of the clicking, especially for those unable to sit and click all afternoon, but it presents logistical problems for people wishing to run the race together or with a group.
Furthermore is any race entry worth $175 (Chicago’s 2013 entry fee)? Will this ever increasing price tag at some point start discouraging runners from these large races or is it just a case of everyone wants what everyone wants?
I guess it all remains to be seen, and we should be happy that there are so many people wanting to gain entry into these races – showing the health of the sport and size of the growing running community. There will always be other smaller marathons, for when the craziness finally gets just a little too crazy!

3 thoughts on “Marathon entry….the great debate.

  1. I doubt I will ever run a full – but of course, have learned to ‘never say never’ . However, it seems that the number of races as well as the number of participants is reaching bubble stage and in a few years, may see a downturn. I think the required times and the fees are being used to try to keep the number of entrants down.The required times for some of these is a little discouraging for some like me, who will most likely never run a sub 10 min mile, but I am really enjoying the participation and pageantry that these events provide. I don’t mind a hefty entrance fee if you are really getting something for that money, and I do understand that some are just more costly to put on than others, so that factors into it as well.

    • Never say never….or never again! These artificial benchmarks and comparisons should NEVER take the fun or satisfaction from running…unless, of course, you are racing a train! 😉

  2. Pingback: Groovy Girls Go Because We Can………… | Groovy Girls Go..............

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