Registration for the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon was, by all accounts, a nightmare. Active.com’s servers were awful. The race itself sold out in about 2.5 hours, but many people who TRIED to register couldn’t get through. The MCM organizers were, to put it lightly, less than pleased.
From the earliest stages, I’d hoped they would shift to a lottery system. This “race to the flag,” ordering as fast as you can, might work for teens wanting to go to a concert (and line the pockets of Ticketmaster), but not for runners. And, as the MCM organizers announced today, they have indeed shifted to a lottery system.
Some people are happy, some are not. As near as I can tell, the primary criticism seems to be that if the MCM uses a lottery, “It’s not the people’s marathon anymore.”
Does this race have minimal qualification times? Nope. The slowest of runners can get in, and, as long as they “Beat the Bridge,” they’ll have a good shot at being awarded a finisher’s medal by a Marine Lieutenant at the end of the race.
What the race using a lottery DOES do, however, is ensure that people with varying access to computers, bandwidth, and resources have an EQUAL shot at registering for the race. The effect is that the registration process levels the playing field for prospective runners, and doesn’t differentiate based on a runner’s ability.
When everyone races to their computers at the same time, and only a limited number get through, does that REMIND you of something? Like, perhaps, a LOTTERY? Because that’s what it is. A server that only takes a few people (the lucky ones) is just as random as a lottery. In this case, coming out with the lottery actually reduces the frenzy, panic, and potential for double billings, which DID happen as well.
Well done MCM folks. Let’s hope this is better than Active.com. It would be tough to perform worse.
P.S. The MCM organizers have already confirmed that –in April– they’re still going to run the small “Access Granted” early registration race, so people in the DC area can still avoid the lottery worry.