The other two U.S. major marathons, New York City and Boston, both have registration lotteries of some sort. Chicago was the lone holdout and now it would seem that the breaking point has arrived.
- Raise the Price: If they really want to trim the number of people applying, they could always raise the price, like the New York City Marathon did. An entry into the NYC Marathon was $156 in 2011 then in 2012 it jumped to $216. That might weed out people who aren't overly serious about running the race and sign up for it on a whim. Heck, I know one guy who trained less than two weeks for the Chicago Marathon this year and walked over 13 miles of it. If he had had to shell out say $275 instead of $175, maybe he would have taken a pass. He might have balked at the higher registration fee and the spot he would have taken would have opened up for someone who was more serious about racing it. The price increase difference, say $100 per entry could be distributed to various charities to show that it's not a money grab, just simply an attempt to filter out some of the "excess demand".
- Time Qualification: A marathon is a long distance running race and as such could give preference to those people who are actually going to run the thing. So, there could be a scaled down version of the "wave registration" used for the Boston Marathon, giving early registration (based on age and finishing times in other races). Qualifying runners get to register free-for-all first, then everyone else. For example, they could give runners under 50 who have run faster than a 2.5 hour half marathon, or a 5.5 hour marathon, first shot at registering. There would be slower time qualifications for those over 50. After all "runners" have signed up, it would then open up to the traditional first come, first-served registration. This system might weed out a few people (like that guy I know who walked over half the race), but still give a shot at those remaining spots to more casual entrants that qualified runners did not claim.
So those are my ideas, neither one would be very popular with certain camps. But each would allow motivated people, who really want to run the marathon a better shot at gaining entry and at least partially preserve the traditional first come, first served system. So what will really happen next year? I think there may be a slight price increase, say $10, but there won't be a time qualification for early entry. The whole thing will be a lottery, but I'm hoping they give legacy runners some kind of special consideration like early registration.
How do you think registration will look next year? How would you want it to look?
**Special thanks to ChasingCheeto for giving me the idea for this topic!