Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Too Hot, Too Cold, or Just Right?

Just like with Goldilocks, opinions will vary ...

The Houston Marathon last year switched over to a lottery system as opposed to the first come, first serve online registration of the past.  Many locals were upset about this as they were no longer certain if they would be able to run as registration became nothing more than chance.  This concern was valid because after the lottery selections many of them (myself included) were not able to run because they were not lucky enough to be drawn.

With the popularity of the marathon seemingly increasing exponentially each year this puts many the of larger cities Marathon Committees into tough positions. Just look at the controversy from the changes to the Boston Marathon registration process! Online registrations are selling out immediately and lottery systems are considered unfair.  So what are the organizers to do?  How about the hybrid system that will be implemented for the 2012 Houston Marathon?

Here are the details:

Click image for larger view

Summary:  Starting on this May 10th if you have run a marathon (after July 2010) with a time under 4:00hrs or a half marathon with a time under 1hr 54m 36s then you are able to register early for the Houston Marathon. As you can see from the chart above qualifying times apply for the half marathon as well.

Basically, the Houston Marathon Committee is giving faster runners a chance to register before the lottery system begins.  After May 30th, if you do not meet the qualifying times, you will be able to toss your name in the hat for the lottery.

Usually on these very interwebz pages I take a firm stand in one direction and defend my POV vehemently.  However, with this one I am not sure how I really feel?  Is this a good system?  Should faster runners be given special treatment?  Considering the difficulty of the logistics of making a marathon registration process fair and easy is the Houston Marathon Committee doing the right thing?  What do you guys think?

With all that being said above.  I qualify for the early registration and have decided to not run in the Houston Marathon (1/15/12).  Personally, I enjoy smaller races and as I get older become increasingly frustrated with large crowds and the utterly stupid rules and costs of these marquee events.  I prefer a start and finish line that is either duct tape or chalk!!

That is why I will be running in The LaPorte 1/2 Marathon on December 4th, 2011 (the infamous Sausage on a Stick Race), the Texas 1/2 Marathon on New Year's Day (5 minutes from my house), and the inaugural The Woodlands Full Marathon on March 3, 2012 (will be my first stand alone marathon).

Let me know your thoughts on the Houston Marathon Registration process?

Thanks for Reading,



  1. Just a damn shame. After 12 Houston marathons, you mean they won't let me in?

    The old process of heading out to Memorial Park for early sign up was a good process. It gave "locals", no matter what speed, a chance to participate in THEIR home town race.

    Has the marathon committee been taken over by the WTC???

  2. Bob, you'd be in. They have a special provision for HOU mary vets who have done the race 10 or more times.

    The WTC comment is pretty funny!

  3. Honestly I don't give a rat's a** about how race directors decide these things because we have a choice to make. We can enter or not. That simple. These are the rules they come up with and we can decide to play along or not.

    For me I qualify for these events but to me the decision is not that I qualify but do I want to run a marathon in January in Houston. If yes, then sign me up. If no, and I still want to do it put me in the lottery.

    I truly want to run NYC not because it is a 'prestigious' race but because that is home. If I get in tomorrow that is awesome but if I don't then I will get in next year as my third year in a row of putting my name in for the lotto. The longer it takes me to get in the better the reward will be.

    Long answer to say: I have no clue if it is fair. I have no clue if I like it, but what I do know is that this puts the impetus on people to work to get there and that matters to me. A 400 lb guy looking to break a world record is going to have a tough time getting in and that may be a good thing.

  4. I actually agree with the time standards. To be honest, most people doing marathons now are walkers. Its a bragging right. NOTHING WRONG WITH WALKERS! With Team In Training, there are A LOT of walkers. I get it, I commend anyone who is not sitting on their ass in their house every day, it honestly takes guts to get out there and tackle it.

    People trying to BQ though, who get shit on by a lottery system, that sucks.

    HOWEVER, I gladly, GLADLY! Will run a smaller race ANY DAY. I hate crowds. I hate waiting to shit in the port a pots, I hate having to dodge all the idiots who line up WRONG in the start line, I honestly sound like an old cranky man.

    I think the only way to handle the rest of the entries is with a lottery system though.

    Can't wait to see the other responses!

  5. As a slow runner, finishing time requirements hardly apply to me - unless I'm concerned I won't finish the actual race on time.

    And I'm with you, I prefer small races that I can just roll out of bed and show up at few minutes before the race starts.

  6. What I get from this, is I can now add Houston Marathon to the list of events I will never qualify for, like Kona and Boston. Unless I move to the Country of Texas, I dont foresee me ever wanting to do that race.

    Now if that was here, where I live. There are other races that allow slow people like me. Just find a race that suits you and what you can do. Just because I dont qualify for one race, doesnt mean I cant find something else.

    All my racing has been done in small races, I never been at an event with 40k+ of people, I dont think I would like it.

  7. I like the idea of a hybrid, but I would give the preference to the returning runners who meet the qualifying first. Then, lottery for qualifiers who are running race for first time. Some kind of weighting system for those, so if you don't get in one year, subsequent years become more likely.

  8. Eh, I could go either way with this one. I think these big marathons are getting a little ridiculous though to be quite honest - they have to make up all kinds of rules to make it not seem like a logistical nightmare. We're running Chicago in October with 44.998 of our closest friends. Anyone can enter, but they do have a corral system based on your time which helps. (**this is a team race for Tom**). I just like the lower key, small races. Not as much dodging people, not a ton of logistics pre/post race and the post race food is usually kick ass - like sausage on a stick. :)

  9. I could care less.

    Reason #1
    I have come to dislike large events. Chicago 2007 was miserable and turned me away from them. I'll take a small event any day.

    Reason #2
    There are plenty of races. A marathon is marathon whether it is the NY Marathon of the Podunk Marathon. Just because you can't get in to certain one doesn't mean you should give up. Just pick a different one.

    Reason #3
    I don't have a passport so I couldn't go to The Country of Texas any ways.

  10. ha! I guess I failed to mention that this becomes even more complicated for all of you yankees as this is an international race!

    Seems to me that Houston is trying to make this race the premier qualifier for Boston in the winter months. It is a flat and fast course and if they let mostly faster runners into the race it will move the avg finishing time up and make it seem even more prestigious. Quality marketing ploy if this is indeed the case!

  11. I don't reallyh have an opinion on Houston as I don't really see myself racing it. I think I will stick to small races from now on. I mean the "Sausage on a stick" race sounds like a lot more fun!

  12. My friends, husband, and I are all using qualifying times to get into Houston for next year. Normally I wouldn't give a darn about this race, but since we have a close friend and training partner doing the Olympic trials the day before we want to go down and support her along with run the race. Hopefully we'll all get in.

  13. The qualifying times don't bother me. If I'm not good enough, then I'm not good enough. Or I can use it as an incentive to train harder.

    But up here in the Great White North (aka Toronto, Canada), there are tons of marathons to choose from and sometimes bigger is not better

  14. thats a funny comment you make about liking the smaller races better. Im signed up for a few this year and for some reason I am really looking forward to them!!

    I think the Houston system is fine...there are so many to choose from now whoever has a beef can just move to the next marathon in line! plus it might give incentive to those trying to crack 4hr marathon a sense of accomplishment running Houston after QUALIFYING to do so. just one guys opinion


  15. I get more upset at the registration fees not making sense. Houston (and thousands of other races) aren't on my radar. There are still plenty of options for us slowpokes.

  16. I think a lot of good points have already been made, particularly my personal favorite, "who cares about Houston?" JK! I don't mind time standards but like prior comments have noted, I'm nowhere near hitting those standards so I'm kind of oblivious (even the 4:00 and under, which sounds so much slower than Boston, is a lot faster than my PR). I like the way NYC does it - (and this is for a giant marathon, FWIW - the same system could apply to any race)if locals want to be guaranteed a bib, they join the club for a nominal fee (starts at $40 / year) they run 9 races that year as a member (there are races almost every weekend, ranging from an ultra in Central Park to the Fifth Avenue Mile - seriously, a one mile race counts as a qualifier) and volunteer for one race. That's it. If you don't want to do that (or you're not local, or running for charity, or using an international travel plan or fast enough to qualify by time, all of which are options) then you have the lottery. Locals still complain about it, but I think it's extremely reasonable.

    Sorry about the ginormously long comment!

  17. I like what they are doing? Why because for some crazy reason,last year I had a half marathon qualifying time that will get me in. I am not sure if that will ever happen again, and I want to see if I can do better in Houston than I did last year. Plus you use all of travel racing budget, so I am forced to race at home ;)

  18. Here, here! I'm with ya Ironman by Thirty, DRog and Jeff!

    Big cities can have all the gym bunnies and large marathons they want. There are so many awesome, small, out-of-the-way marathons I'll be busy for a long time just doing those.

  19. I think this opens up huge opportunity for other race directors.

    They should start a "slow poke marathon."

    To qualify, you need to have run two marathons in the last two years, and the time needs to be ABOVE 4:11:00 for both of them.

    The slow pokes will unite and love it.

  20. Okay, maybe I'm a Dodo, but these standards don't see to be normalized for age or gender. If so, that's bologna.

    I have no problem with a race implementing a fair qualifying process. Supply and demand, that simple. If someone doesn't qualify and/or they've never run one, pick another race, there's tons.

  21. First, Chris K is a Dodo. Just because it is fun to call him a Dodo. But he is right - age/gender should make a difference.

    I don't like big races. I really prefer the smaller, more laid back races. They cost less, are less stressful, and over all more enjoyable IMO. That is why ultras are appealing to me. That and I am not right in the head.

  22. I
    Sign ups

    I'm liking the smaller races more & more every day.

  23. Just read about your copperhead strike on Chris K's blog. Eww! That is one of the worst things imaginable!

  24. Its a bit of a catch 22. You can't get into this marathon (or have a poor chance of it) unless you run subn XXX. Well, what if this is your first marathon? You would have to run another marathon first?

    I guess its a good thing that these races are selling out so fast. Shows that more folks are getting healthy and fit?