Monday, March 24, 2014

A funny thing about race registrations...

Running is booming. Every year more races are held… and more people run 'em. It's exciting to watch so many people getting out there to run, walk, skip, or crawl their way through races.

But the boom means that many races are now so popular that they sell out very quickly. The biggest races -- such as the New York, Chicago, and Marine Corps Marathons -- have all gone to a lottery system. Boston, of course, uses qualifying times … and the faster you are, the earlier you are able to register.

I'm torn between the "it's more fair for everyone" idea of a lottery system and the "fastest fingers win" idea of just throwing open registration. For example, the year Wil and I ran the New York Marathon, we both entered the lottery. He got in, I did not… so I chose Girls on the Run as my charity and raised a few thousand dollars in exchange for a bib. It was frustrating to wait to see if I got in -- I wanted the instant gratification. But in the end, it didn't make for a weirdly stressful hour… I just put our information in the system and waited.

Today was a different story. Today registration opened for the Beat the Blerch, the inaugural "the Oatmeal" theme race.

From the delightfully disturbed mind of Matthew Inman, aka "The Oatmeal", a 10K / half marathon / marathon race based on his amazing comic, "The Terrible & Wonderful Reason I Run Long Distances."

I knew this was going to be a difficult race to get in to. It's being held on a small trail in a small town -- I believe the total number of spaces was capped at 2500 people. And people, rightly, LOVE The Oatmeal.

I knew I would be busy at 9am -- was conducting an interview -- so Wil took over race registration duties. And, well, most race registration sites aren't designed to take that kind of traffic. Heck, last year the Chicago Marathon site melted down (hence: 2014 lottery system). A lot of people banging on a site that isn't architected for that sort of traffic = slow response times. Add that to a lot of people who perhaps don't know that much about how websites work, and continually refreshing the page, well… you end up with a lot of angry and frustrated folks.

Wil managed to get us registered, but it took 25 minutes of grinding away to get it done. And since both Wil and I work on web sites for a living, we totally understand that a site that's not going to get that kind of stress 364 days a year doesn't need to be built to withstand the 1 day a year it does. It's just simple economics.

I wasn't surprised to see that people were ranting and whining on Facebook. The same thing happened with the registration for SeaWheeze, the Lululemon half marathon. Except that race had 20,000 spots. I believe they attempted to run the registration through their own e-commerce site. Well, that's not built for that kind of traffic either. So it crashed… and the disappointed turned to FB to vent their frustrations.

It did make me sad, however, to see people so angry, and so few people saying that they were excited or happy. I hope Matt knows that the disappointed will always be louder than the quietly happy. My favorite comment, however, was the person who pointed out that, okay, if the site had it's own super awesome cloud server, all the places would have been gone in under 3 minutes… because it's not as if the entries were "disappearing"...

(And maybe I'm just quietly, SMUGLY happy that we got places… )

(If we didn't get in, yes, I'd be sad… but I already had a back-up race that I was ready to sign up for if we didn't get in to the Blerch.)

(Part of me hopes that Matt takes a note of all the folks complaining on FB, refunds their money, and opens up the places to people who said, "Oh, bummer, but congrats to everyone who got in!"… Hey, a girl can dream, right?)

Then, of course, there's tomorrow's adventure:

Tomorrow general registration opens for the Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland from November 14-16. This one is gonna go fast, too -- though I was a little surprised that the Annual Passholder pre-registrations stayed open for more than 24 hours for the half. Still, the 5K pre-reg slots sold out in under 35 minutes… but I guess the combination of the smaller field and the lower barrier to entry made it go faster…

Wasn't this supposed to be the year that I didn't run as many races? I keep being tempted by other races in other places… We did, in the end, sign up for the Daffodil Challenge 5K… I was unable to resist the logistical challenges of 4 5Ks in 4 different cities in one day. And the fact that a princess in a yellow ball gown is going to put a medal around my neck. Plus, I love a race where you can register and pick up your bib and shirt. It'll make race morning slightly less hectic!

Oh, and, um, did I mention that I signed up for this fella?

Yeah, it was irresistible, too. I'll be in Chicago the week before… and yes it's a long drive, but shorter than it would be to get to Iowa from here, right? Of course, for the Marathon To Marathon, I just sent a check to the race director… easy peasy…

1 comment:

  1. Blerch took me 23 minutes to register but I got in! Yea.

    I registered right away at 9am for the Avengers Half and I'm glad I did. I popped onto the website at 1:30 just to see if there was an update and all of the races were sold out; the half, the 5k and the kids run. Even the outrageously overpriced Pasta in the Park was 93% sold. I happened on FB and saw that a lot of folks are doing both the W&D the weekend before and then the Avengers. Disney's going to have to mint up some more Coast to Coast medals!