Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Wed, 15 Nov 2000 12:35:46 -0500

Early Entries

(from RC 329)

Each autumn I sit on a panel for a Race Directors' Workshop at the Portland Marathon. Each year the topic is the same: trends in the sport. Each time the trends are similar.

We again talked about the charitable giving, about walkers and run-walkers, about training clinics, about the growing presence of women. We didn't talk -- at least not in my part of the program -- about a trend resulting from growth in general. That's the selling out of races.

The Marine Corps Marathon filled to capacity last spring. New York City, as always, reached its entry limit in summer. Now, for the first time, Chicago has joined this trend.

Chicago will close its doors well before race weekend. September 22nd was the last day for accepting mail entries, and online registration closed three weeks before the October 22nd race.

Unlike many other races, Chicago hasn't taken this step to limit its field. The early cutoff lets officials know exactly how many runners will show up, and to plan accordingly for a field that could reach 35,000 this year.

Even though I've always been a procrastinator, I see the trend toward early closings as mostly positive. If nothing else, it shows how popular some races have grown as the demand for starting-line space often exceeds supply.

Last-minute registration is a nightmare for race directors. They can only guess at how many runners will enter late, and these guesses can err way high or low. Not knowing how many runners to expect, a race can get caught short on vital supplies such as race numbers and drinks on the course -- or can get stuck with more awards and T-shirts than needed.

Allowing runners to enter late leads them (and me) to wake up in the morning, see how their legs feel and what their energy level is, check the day's weather, and only then decide to enter the race or not. The result of this late decision is often inadequate preparation for and concentration on the event of the day. Entering early seals the commitment to give the race proper training and attention.

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