Fair warning, I’m climbing on my soapbox for this post.
1. Registration – If you are a race director and you choose to use online registration, make sure your provider is solid. If your race fills in less than a day or hour you should make sure your registration site is bulletproof. Case in point: Saturday morning (January 15th) I turned the computer on, logged into the registration site for the San Juan Solstice 50 or Lake City 50 (a race with an identity crisis) and patiently waited for 7:00am to arrive. A few minutes before seven I refreshed the page to see if the registration link was active and it was not. Finally seven am arrived, I tried again and still nothing. No biggie I thought, I’ll just give it a few minutes. Five minutes, ten minutes and still nothing. Now I was getting nervous because I had to leave the house by 7:15 for an avalanche training course that would have me on the mountain all day. At 7:15 I walked out the door without being registered for the race. At some point during the day the registration opened and the race filled up. Luckily though, I was able to register for the waitlist when I arrived back home at 6pm and if you know my history with waitlists and the San Juan’s you know I will not be travelling to southern Colorado this summer.
2. Lotteries – Race lotteries should be held at a minimum, 6 months before the race date. The only offender I can currently think of is the Hardrock 100. The Hardrock lottery will be held February 5th (the same day as the Wasatch 100 lottery) and the race will start on July 8th. My reasoning for an earlier lottery involves participation in other ultras. Many other races that fall earlier on the calendar hold their registration before the lottery takes place and this forces runners to sign up for races they may or may not participate in, depending on the results of the lottery. After checking the Hardrock entry list I’m not even sure why I’m writing this; 500 runners vying for less than 140 spots (based on auto entries and such).
3. Waitlists – Banish them. I don’t know a single person, either runner or race director that likes them. Chances are if your race is popular enough for a lottery you have a little history with how many runners don’t start each year. If you traditionally have 30 runners drop off the start list, then draw an extra 30 names during the lottery. This is similar to the way the Wasatch 100 and a number of other ultra’s handle their lottery and entry lists with success. I can think of some cases where the permit limits the number of runners on race day to a hard number (like Hardrock with their 140) instead of an average over set number of years (like Wasatch). In that case draw out half the amount that are expected to not start, such as 15 extra instead of 30. There is a very high likelihood that at least 15 people will decide not to start and everyone involved knows if they are starting or not, very black and white.
One last thing I would like to say; I truly appreciate all the effort it takes to make a race happen. Race directing is very hard work and involves much more than just the day of the race. I can tell you from personal experience that hearing a simple “thank you” means more than you would think. I can also tell you that ultra runners, as a group, seem to be more appreciative than cyclists.