"I have arrived. I am home. In the here. In the now. I am solid. I am free. In the ultimate I dwell." --Thich Nhat Hanh

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lotteries - The Necessary Evil

Is there anything more frustrating than finding that perfect race, going on the internet to register, only to find out that the race has sold out in 90 seconds? Is there anything more frustrating than putting your name in the hat for the lottery year after year, only to get rejected over and over again? Welcome to 2014 Ultra running!

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
As you can see, it is actually pretty easy to have a successful lottery, with which most people will be satisfied.

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

There you have it. If you want to race in 2014 and beyond, especially when it comes to big races, you better get used to the lotteries. Like it or leave it, they will not change for the most part. Ultra running is here to stay, and once a race has implemented a lottery, there is little to no chance that they will revert away from it. As is the case with everything else today, there will be those that are content with the current situation, and those for whom the good is never good enough.

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.


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