Many of the larger races have lotteries as the method of entry for mere mortal runners such as ourselves. Unless you are elite, you will be entering for the privilege of running Marine Corps Marathon, New York City Marathon, Chicago Marathon and many more races via their lottery system. There are others such as the runDisney races, the Beach 2 Beacon 10k and Falmouth Road Race, where quick fingers are the answer to getting into that race you are eager to run.
My thoughts about this surfaced about a month ago when there was all kinds of chatter or Facebook and Twitter about the TCS NYC Marathon lottery. The website provides many details on how to gain entry, but most of all, it is clearly stated that you only obtain an entry if your number is picked. Unfortunately, the odds are slim because this marathon is so popular.
There are several caveats to the lottery process including the time qualifying option and having participated in a 9 + 1 option of their NYRR events. While I love the time qualifying option since it gave me my spot for TCS NYC this year, it also helped that I could be sitting at my computer waiting for the exact moment when I could fill in the registration form and hit the send button. These registrations are taken on a first come, first serve basis and I had my confirmation into the race within 2 business days!
While perhaps there is no real way to make lotteries fair for everyone, I do think that giving people who have never run the race before a better chance would be a nice gesture. But from an administrative standpoint, this could turn into a nightmare. At the end of the day, race directors do their best to have what they consider to be a fair entry process. Another option that is usually available is running for charity. Fundraising for an organization that you are passionate about is a win for the charity and a win for you by giving you a spot in your coveted race. While neither Christine nor I have run a race for charity, we have certainly contributed for those runners that have made that choice.
Overall, I think a lottery system is the only fair way for every runner to get a change to register for their dream race. While some of us are luckier than others, hopefully over the course of a few years, most runners get to experience at least one race on their bucket list.
Have you ever entered a race lottery? What do you think is the fair way to gain entry into the most popular races?