NYC Marathon Registration: Is There A Better Way?

  Registration for the 2016 New York City Marathon opened up this week with runners who do not meet a certain time standard, hoping against hope that they will win the lottery. NYC Marathon is known as the largest marathon in the world,and one of the most expensive. Registration fees start at $255 plus an $11 application fee.  The application fee is non-refundable if you are not selected.  This makes New York the most expensive of the 3 WorldMarathon Majors in the United States (I do not know what the registration fees are for the other 3 World Marathon Majors). Boston is $175 and Chicago is $225. In the past years, only 18% of those who applied for the lottery have received entry. Of course, if you don’t want to take your chances with the lottery or if you don’t get in by the lottery, there is always charity spots, but in my view that requires more work than even your training will take. 

On the same day that registration opened for the 2016 NYC Marathon, a lawsuit was filed against the New York Road Runners (NYRR), the governing body of the NYC Marathon. The lawsuit states that the lottery is illegal because New York Law states that only the state of New York can operate a lottery. As a side not, the plaintiff in this case has failed in past years has failed to gain entry into the marathon. Sour grapes? You can read about the lawsuit Here.

So, if the plaintiff wins this lawsuit (or even if he doesn’t), what’s a better way of deciding who gets in? Here are a couple ideas that have come to my mind.

1. Get rid of the application fee. Is it still technically a lottery if no one is paying to get into the drawling? Not sure what the technical definition of a lottery is, but if there is no money changing hands between the runner who doesn’t get in and the NYRR, then would this sol e the issues being brought up in the lawsuit? Disclaimer: I am obviously not an attorney, nor claim to be one on TV. I do not know much about the legal side in this matter to be honest. 

2. First come first serve. Basically if you sign up first, you are in.  Not sure what this would do to the NYRR computer servers with mass quantities of people trying to register all at once. I don’t see this as a viable option. For one, those trying to register all over the world for this event would complain for sure that it would probably open up in the middle of the night.  However, I will say this, the month window that you can apply for the lottery does seem long and possibly causes those not getting in missing opportunities to register for other marathons at cheaper rates. On the other hand, if you can afford to pay $250 plus New York hotels and Food, you can afford a few extra bucks on registering for another marathon. I do think they should shorten the lottery window to two weeks if the lottery stays. 

3. The Boston Method. People will hate this, but how about more of an emphasis on qualifying times.  There are ways you can get into the NYC marathon by qualifying but those standards are tougher than Boston, there is preferential treatment to those who qualify in certain races, and it’s just very confusing.  So what would be the consequences of making all applicants (besides those running for charity) have a qualifying time? I believe that could hurt the sport of running greatly.  For whatever reason, the NYC Marathon is a big deal to the average person, and if you take the the NYC Marathon away from the average person, then they would probably be less likely to run in general.  Just my thought. I could easily be wrong. But this  method is my top choice.

I have a feeling that dropping the $11 application fee is the most likely to happen, but what are your thoughts? How should the registration process happen?


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