Skip to main content

The Lent Project: Day 8

So...how about that marathon registration? Oops.

Another big city marathon with a screwup? Not really. The blame here, apparently, goes to Active.com--who every endurance athlete knows and loves. And, if you're not an endurance athlete, you may not see the dripping sarcasm in that statement.

Active.com I don't even know how to describe to those of you not familiar...it's a...portal? Most of us know it primarily from this registration process as marathons and especially Ironman dumps the task to a 3rd party. Which, having worked at the museum, I get. For the majority of the time I worked there, we used a vendor for our online ticketing--that's been changing to doing many things in house now. But basically you click the link for Ironman or the marathon and it sends you to the website to fill in your info, pay, and you get a confirmation. Which is all well and good until it's a race that is going to sell out in a few hours or days and people spend an entire afternoon clicking and clicking trying to get in.

It reminds me of the early internet days (remember those?) when there wouldn't be enough bandwidth and servers would crash.

If you don't know the story from yesterday, Chicago Marathon registration opened at noon only to be suspended 4 hours later after multiple problems. Around 15,000 spots remain...so people clearly got in. But those who did had credit cards charged twice, failed to get a confirmation e-mail, or got broken links or nothing to click. So the marathon organizers have decided to keep the remaining spots offline for 2 days until everything is running properly again. Then they will re-open registration.

Rumor has it a lot of people have banked on Chicago this year given the continuing bad feelings and chaos over NYC. I don't know if that's true. As quickly as Chicago sold out last year, it could just be that we're seeing a race reaching capacity sooner and sooner. Another line of thinking is that Chicago is destined for a lottery sooner or later. Meh. Remember paper race signup forms?!

I have two opinions about Chicago. The first is that it's a great race. The second is that it's a race that has been slowly rolling downhill in the short time I've been a marathoner. Other venues put on just as great a smaller, cheaper race. But there's something about a big city marathon--obviously. Despite the logistical problems, NYC has a huge following. I'm not so sure I can jump back on board the big city marathon bandwagon.

If I ever come back to marathoning--after triathlon or ultra marathon or stage races or whatever I do--it would be a race like Columbus or Twin Cities or even the Illinois Marathon. Those are all well-run, cheaper races...in the case of Twin Cities with just as great an atmosphere as Chicago. Er, ok, 75% of the atmosphere of Chicago. You can't beat millions of people along the course, Chinese dancers, gay cheerleaders, a last mile with people lined 5 deep along the barriers. It's awesome. Chicago is also my current PR course. So happy memories.

But, now you see why I'm driving all the way to Madison to signup for Ironman Wisconsin. Avoid the online craziness. Guarantee your spot.

I know race organizers have to do what they have to do...it's getting harder and more expensive to put on a race. I get it. But $175 entry fees are going to demand more services for runners and a smoother process. You can't charge $200 and have a crowded course, lack of toilets, only a crappy shirt in the swag bag. There are tons of options out there in the endurance sports world. And, most of you who are longtime readers know that I've been quite critical of the Chicago Marathon the last few years for turning Grant Park into a giant corporate tent and then last year moving to the new Start Corral and Wave system.

I'm NOT jumping on the bandwagon in racing of bemoaning the popularity of the sport. I know, it's the charity runners and corporate sponsors who are keeping things alive...and, yes, turning the sport into a festival more than a competition. I'm a middle of the pack--back of the pack for tri probably--runner so I'm not about to look down on the people who are doing their first race, unsure, looking for support, and wanting to celebrate the achievement. I was there in 2009 and I'll be there again if and when I cross the Ironman start/finish. Whether you're a Kenyan or a 7 hour marathoner, you're still doing the same 26.2 miles.

That said, I would like to see the emphasis go back to the sport part of things. Triathletes, we have our gadgets and equipment, but are mostly obsessed--I would say too much sometimes--with the competition element. We're in it for fitness, racing, improvement, and the focus is always on shop talk. Triathletes love to geek out about the sport. Running is much more accessible to the masses and beginners so I understand your average marathoner is much less inclined to focus on it 24-7 like a triathlete is. Maybe the consumer is getting what they want? This is why I should stick to tri? I don't know.

What I do know is that athletes need to both respect their sports more...learn the history, know the pros...but also need more respect from organizers. Quit treating us like product users or someone to sell to or please in a vague marketing way. Start treating us like we're just as dedicated as your elites. Respect us as athletes. Don't pander. Keep it simple. That's when we not only do our best but have the most fun.

Call me old-fashioned but in this age of doping and fallen heroes, most of us participating in endurance racing are looking for less of a "full experience" and mostly want to be given all the tools necessary to cash in on the months of prep we've been doing. You don't need to make our day. Just don't ruin it either.

* * *

I disagree with the tone and some of the conclusions, but still an interesting read if you've been following the coverage of the decline in the US birthrate.

* * *

There are still some things that surprise even a veteran political geek like me. Like, say, Ashley Judd trailing the Senate Minority Leader by only 4 points in his own internal polling for the Kentucky US Senate seat. Weird. Very, very weird. Further proof that it's a very, very bad time to be an old, white conservative? Even in a red state?

Ashley Judd Trails Mitch McConnell By 4 Points In Senator's Internal Poll

Comments