Reasons For Race Day Lotteries

Reasons For Race Day Lotteries

To say that running is becoming more popular than ever is an understatement.

It might seem like everyone you know is running a 5k, training for a half marathon, raising money on behalf of a training team or letting everyone within earshot know they’re running a marathon. And with the rising popularity in races, it’s likely this trend will continue on for a few more years. 

According to Running USA’s Annual Marathon Report, it was a record year for the marathon with more than 1,100 occurring across the country, boasting nearly half a million finishers – in just 2013. But even with the increase in marathon opportunities, more races are turning to lottery entry systems as a way for runners to gain entry into popular races. 

Some races only allow runners to gain entry by running on behalf of a charity team or by entering a registration lottery and hoping their name is selected. The New York Marathon is arguably the most notable race that relies on lottery entry, but other races such as the Houston Marathon and most recently the Chicago Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon use lottery systems as well. 

Side note: Something important to know is a registration lottery is not the same thing as qualifying for a race. Certain races will offer the option of a lottery or time qualification as a way to gain entry (like the Chicago Marathon). But, an elite race like the Boston Marathon primarily consists of runners who gained entry based on extremely competitive time standards and not on lottery luck alone. 

While lottery registration can seem like a barrier to entry, several races this year have used the lottery system as a way to even the playing field. Due to that increasing race popularity, races have been filling up very quickly, leaving many runners without an opportunity to register if they didn’t happen to be near a computer during the small window of registration. That, along with some recent technical glitches for both the Marine Corps Marathon and the Chicago Marathon, could mean registration lotteries are likely to happen more frequently in the future. 

But, don’t let a lottery discourage you from entering. I recently gained acceptance into the Chicago Marathon, and will be running on October 12 alongside other friends who gained entry using a lottery system as well. It certainly adds an extra element of excitement to see that race day entry confirmation come through your inbox knowing not everyone will be so lucky.

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