On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A race, or a rock concert?

When I was in junior high and high school, if we wanted to go see a big concert we had to get tickets the day they went on sale. This meant a trip to the mall (where the Ticketmaster outlet was) first thing on a Saturday morning, where we could stand in line to get a bracelet that gave us the ability to go back at 9am, when the tickets went on sale, to buy the tickets.

Okay, so maybe the shows I went to in high school didn't always sell out.
By college, the process had shifted to the computer. Now, you had to be online right at 9am, clicking furiously through and entering the right codes before the scalpers did. It was always a gamble - how popular would the concert be? How many tickets were available? Could you still get them at 9:15, 10am, the next day? And of course if you missed the window and the tickets sold out, you could always buy them at a mark-up from a scalper.

I really liked the Judybats.
On Sunday, I mentioned that race registration for the Flying Monkey Marathon would open Monday morning at 9am. And at 9am, it opened. Then, at 9:04, registration for the race promptly closed. (Actually, it closed at 9:03 and 58 seconds.) Last year, the race sold out in 32 minutes.

What gives? It's a small race, limited to about 250 participants. And the race director allows early registration for last year's finishers (myself included, this year), which accounts for a few entries. But mostly it was just demand, plain and simple. It's a great race that's had some well-deserved good publicity. People were ready at 9am.

This isn't an isolated problem, though. Demand for race entries in general is high. We saw this with Boston. Also, RnR/Competitor keeps buying and adding races and then jacking the fees (and worse, we pay them). What's the solution? (Please, please don't say "increase race fees." Yes, I did take econ in college, but no, I do not want to be priced out of any more races!)


  1. Maybe more races? Or getting more permits so more people could run? I don't know. MCM with 35,000 people sold out super quick this year too in a couple of days, Army Ten Miler with 30,000 people sold out in a couple of few hours (it took 3 days last year) and the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler was always so hard to register for one of the 15,000 spots (it took 1.5 hours the first year I signed up) that as of last year, it has been a lottery entry (I REALLY REALLY REALLY HATE LOTTERY ENTRIES AND REALLY HOPE OTHER RACES DON'T PULL THAT CRAP).

  2. I ran the A10M last year and MCM the year before - on one hand, I like the "welcome everyone" approach because hey, I'm not getting an elite bib any time soon. But I do run races because I'm shooting for something specific - goal times, whatever. If you need a nice little running goal, do a local 5 or 10k. But both events were so full of non-*racers* stopping to take pictures, hug their friends, etc...they get in the way of those of us who yearn for races full of people who know the rules of the road, start in an appropriate spot for their pace, etc. I am fine with all speeds, but it's the non-focused people that have started getting on my nerves.

    I'm not sure that raising race fees are the answer. Around DC at least, people make tons of money. What do they care about a $100 race that they're gonna laugh through? (or ahem, those Disney deals where it costs you $15/mile for a half) I should probably start looking at races with time limits.

    oh and - your ticket story is an awesome blast from the past. I camped out for Stones tickets more than once. Much more fun than typing captcha nonsense online.

  3. I'm running MCM and Disney this year, and I will be taking pictures. Sorry.

  4. You saw Liz Phair in 1994.

    My teenage self is really jealous.

    I don't even know where to start with the race fee issue. But I'm getting sick of having to plan this shit out months in advance.

  5. Don't be jealous! She had crazy stage fright and it wasn't a very good show. Like, seriously - she just stood there on stage sort of rocking back and forth. I think I've seen her 4 or 5 times since (yeah... total fan girl here, at least until the recent sellout crap) and now she's like overtly sexual as her way of hiding her stage fright, which is just awkward.

    But anyway, I didn't touch on it when I was writing this, but you're totally right - the months in advance crap is bogus. The "Formerly National, now RnR USA" Marathon in MARCH just went on sale YESTERDAY. Chicago now sells out 6 months in advance, too. If you're a New Yorker who wants guaranteed entry to NYCM? You have to join the NYRR two years in advance (I don't have that much of a problem with that, it's true).

    Of course, not to sound cynical, but that in advance nonsense is just money for the RDs coffers. If you're making people register for a race months before training has even started, you're guaranteed to have more no-shows.

  6. Why don't I see the Allman Bros. up there?

  7. You saw the Violent Femmes! Ah, a Midwestern girl at heart. They're Milwaukee hometown favorites.

  8. Funny, I live across the river from DC and I wasn't aware that we all made tons of money. Where is mine? I don't think that how much money a person makes necessarily determines how bothered they will be with race fees that are going through the roof. Even 5Ks are close to $50 these days. It's ridiculous.

    And, yes, planning so far in advance makes it tough to shell out a lot of cash when you may not end up running the race. Easier transfers would be a great thing to add to most races.

    I don't have an answer, T, but I hope you kick ass at the Monkey (and beat Ian).

  9. Your high salary must be tied up with mine, too, because everyone in Manhattan makes a ton of money but me. Or at least that's how it feels!

    I do think it is a problem, though, like Kate says, that running tends to attract an affluent demographic. I forget what the exact statistic was, but the average triathlete allegedly makes something like $180,000/year - which is how IMNY got away with charging the $900 fee they asked for. I can say anecdotally that there are a LOT of people in NYC who have the whole "eh, I'll put $100 down on this race, and if I don't do it, I don't do it" mentality.