Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Chicago Marathon Lottery: My Observations

In November, I wrote about ways that the Chicago Marathon could best accommodate runners in the face of the huge demand for entries last year. The ideas I floated at the time (qualification standards, price increases and lottery) turned out to be close to the what the new entry system looks like: A hybrid approach of offering some guaranteed entries and non-guaranteed (i.e. lottery) entries.
I'm wearing the yellow hat at the start of the 2012 Chicago Marathon
A guaranteed entry can be obtained if:
a) You're fast (Have run a sub 3:15 marathon for men, Sub 3:45 for women in the last 2 years.)
b) You live in another country and pay big bucks through the Marathon's travel partner
c) You run for charity
d) You are a "legacy" runner (5 Chicago Marathons in the last 10 years)

Sadly, the open registration era is gone and a new era of entry requirements/lotter is upon us.

A few observations:
  1. The time qualification is tougher than I would have liked. First of all, there is no accounting for age. A 60 year old male who can run a 3:16 marathon could be relegated to the sidelines if he doesn't win a lottery spot.  Boston and New York both have age-based qualifying times. I don't know if Chicago will do this in the future and just arbitrarily set 3:15/3:45 as the universal threshold to simplify things administratively for the first year. This needs to change for 2015.
  2. There is no half marathon qualifying time like they have for NYC. An up-and-coming runner who is training to run their first marathon, but is a 1:25 half marathoner (a sub 3:00 hour marathon equivalent) is also thrown into the lottery and may not get in.
  3. The number of runners from other countries will probably diminish somewhat. I'm guessing that buying a package (entry, plane, hotel) through the marathon's travel partners will be a lot more expensive than buying an individual entry, using your frequent flyer miles for a plane ticket and staying at the youth hostel downtown. If an international runner opts out of buying a travel package, they will have to enter the lottery, then wait until April 14th to make travel arrangements. If an international runners gets in via the lottery but their friend doesn't they might not travel alone and they will forfeit their spot.
  4. The legacy runner threshold is kind of high. I've supported (i.e. run) the race for the last three out of four years, but that won't count for anything now.
  5. The price increase was less than expected, but it is still an increase.
  6. If your credit card doesn't go through you lose your lottery spot

So how does this help those who have to "go lottery" this year?

  • #3 above will increase the odds of getting in via the lottery, since I anticipate less international runners will apply.
  • #5 will help a tiny bit as the price increased from $175 to $185 which may be $10 more than a  handful of people want to pay.  
  • #6 will help if some lottery winners have entered a credit card number that is expired or is maxed out, they lose their spot. If 1% enter a bad number, that's 1% extra spots for those whose names didn't get picked first.

How it impacts me:
Luckily I ducked under the qualifying time threshold with my 2012 Chicago Marathon time. Amazingly, I would have been too slow using my 2013 time, even though I finished in the top 8% of my age group. I will really have to focus on running a 3:14:59 this year to make sure I can get into the 2015 race.

Pre Race Chicago Marathon 2013 with the BRC
After years of having an amazing open field race in our backyard it is disappointing that it will be closed off for some dedicated (and fast) runners in the future. Here's hoping that they modify the system in 2015 to let more time qualifiers in based on age and accept half marathon times.

How do you like the the new registration system for the Chicago Marathon?

Monday, January 6, 2014

S-No-W Fun Run 2014 Race Recap and Video

At the time I registered for the "S-NO-W Fun Run" in Lake Geneva over a month ago, I had planned on racing it. However, over the last four weeks, I have not run a single mile. I have been nursing an ankle injury along with plantar fasciitis. So, I was seriously considering just spectating the race. I'm at the point where I have all but ruled out getting back into competitive running anytime soon. Better to sit out now and heal than to sit out when the majority of races are held in the spring/summer/fall. However, I had paid for this one and was trekking all the way up to Lake Geneva so the question kept bugging me: Would running a "fun run" race set my recovery back? Spoiler alert: I don't think it did!

On race day, I spent the morning in the Grand Geneva spa, doing strength training then Body Flow (yoga/tai chi) class, then lap swimming. So, by the time I left the spa about 2 hours before race time, I really thought I was done with all of my exercise for the day. At that point in the day, I was certain that the race for me would be only for spectating and picture taking. Anyway, after an hour long lunch, I headed over to bib pickup to get my bib, commemorative picture frame and (most importantly) wristband for entrance into the post-race party:
Race Bib Pickup
At bib pickup I overheard some runners mentioning that their "race plan" was to walk a mile and then turn around and walk back to the finish line party. I thought that sounded like an idea which was better than sitting around waiting for all the runners to return, so I went to my room and changed into my Wurst Running Club shirt. I was just preparing to do a leisurely 2 mile walk in the 25 degree temps. I pinned on my bib and headed down to the bib pickup area so see if any WRCE running club members were around. I spotted Maggie and Robert. We noticed all of the other runners were leaving that area, so we surmised that the start line must be in another part of the resort. We followed the throngs to the start line.

Once at the start line, we walked back and scanned for familiar faces until our eyes landed upon Anne, Rachel, Erin, and Kelly:
Wurst Runners Ever
I guess it might have been at this point that I decided to do a super-slow run, maybe a run/walk. I had my camera along so I would take some photos and video of the run. The race started and we were off. We all headed out at a comfortable pace and I took some pics of various WRCE members running. Somewhere during mile one, I started running with Maggie. We ran the rest of the race together. I shot this video of Maggie and me during mile 3 or 4, which should give some idea of the snowy conditions we faced:

Race Video

Here are some random race photos I took:
Random Runner in "bikini"
Are we having fun yet?
The Race During Mile 1
Snowy and a van driving on the course
The Finish Line (pre race)
Due to the snow, the footing was uneven the entire 5 miles, so hopefully this race did not do too much damage to my ankle/foot and set my recovery back too far. I took the pace really easy at around 10:30/mile which is the "wurst" race pace I've ever run, but there was no point in killing myself for nothing. Besides, it was nice running at a leisurely pace talking to Maggie, other runners and taking pictures. My ankle feels a little more sore today, but I would doubt that I did anything seriously bad to it during the race.

I may take another several weeks off to see how my ankle fares, and hopefully I can start doing some short runs in February/March. Since I have been pounding my feet and ankles for several years now, perhaps this injury will take months of not running to resolve itself. Or hopefully it will only be a few more weeks until I can lace up the running shoes again.

Anyway, the legendary post-race party included schnapps, beer, brats, dancing, and plenty of door prizes. A good time was had by all.

I may take a short break on blog posts until I get better, but who knows that could be sooner than I think!