Popularity of ultra running has skyrocketed in recent years. More and more runners are getting into the sport. It is bringing new talent, new sponsors and new events all over the world. New races are popping up all over the place, and old races are just becoming more famous and harder to get into. It is a great time to be an ultra runner. It is also a frustrating time to be an ultra runner, especially if you are not one of the elites.
Popularity of the sport has brought many challenges not only to runners, but to races and the people managing them. In the US, most of the trail races are governed and limited by permits issued by variety of sources. Those permits are there to ensure the safety of runners in wilderness, and more importantly to protect the wilderness from getting over run by too many people. Unfortunate side effect of this popularity is the need for more popular races to implement lotteries. The lotteries have become the necessary evil!
So why are they necessary? Well, for one it gives everyone an equal chance to enter a race. There is usually a time period in which one can apply for the lottery. This prevents races being sold out in record time, people complaining about slow websites, servers crashing, and many other complaints out there. There are many popular races that exist today that do it right and yet there are some that do not.
Here are few things that make a successful lottery:
- - requiring a qualifying race/run
- - not charging enormous fees just to apply for the lottery
- - setting an obtainable goal (i.e. 8 hours of volunteer work in the past year)
- - clearly outlining the rules and requirements for special considerations and other ways to get into the race
However, here are just few things to infuriate the masses:
- - charging a large non-refundable fee just to apply
- - not setting any standards for applying (ie. we just want your fee and we only have this because our permit setters are making us)
- - requiring a qualifying race/run with a limited list of races - This one is tricky. While it follows the good rule above, it is not giving a fair chance to everyone with races provided.
- - no set rules for special consideration and cases
As for those runners that do not want to deal with lotteries at all, well there are always woods, trails and mountains. Those are always there - ready and free for your next adventure.
Go forth and run.