To Enter a Race Lottery or Not?

Runners everywhere just found out whether or not they will be running this year’s New York Marathon.  Only 18% of the people who put their names into the lottery were chosen.  18%?!  Cara and I threw our names into it last year and with similar odds (14%); neither one of us got in.  In retrospect, it was a blessing in disguise for us.  Gasparilla may not have happened if we did.  Everything truly happens for a reason!

Chicago’s lottery opens up on March 10th and Marine Corp (MCM) is shortly behind on March 13.  With all the big time popular marathons now using a lottery, it got me thinking about the pros and cons of either signing up for a race “the old fashion” way or throwing your chances to luck and putting your name in the lottery.

All of my marathons that I’ve run so far have all been through signing up vs a lottery.  I did enter a lottery race for the Nike Woman DC race in 2013.  I did not get in the first round, but through the second chance drawing. I was the only one in our group wanting to run it so the lottery worked well for me in that case.  We also entered the Cherry Blossom 10 miler lottery as a group.  We did not get in.  I love that both of those races offered an option to sign up as a group.  Either the whole group got in or no one got in.  That’s my kind of lottery!

So here are five questions to think about when deciding what to do for your next marathon.  These are the same ones that Christine and I thought about when making our decision about Chicago. lottery

To Enter the Lottery or Not?

1. Is this event THE event for you?  Or would you be happy with another marathon?

We both want to run Chicago.  Christine has run it twice before and she loves it!!  We are really excited about the possibility of running it, but then we started thinking, was it really Chicago that we wanted to run or was it that we really wanted to just run another marathon.  Chicago is on my bucket list of races, but would I be okay putting that on hold and running something else?

2. Do you plan on running or making this a trip with other running friends?

For us, this was a biggie.  We want to run the race and have a trip together.  If only one of us got in, that would change that.  Do we want to run the event together more than we want to run it solo?  Part of the excitement of choosing a race is planning the trip.

3. Are you willing to leave it all up to fate? Or are you more of a planner?

I was willing to let go of my Type A personality and enter the lottery. I figured that if we got in, that would determine our Fall race schedule.  If we didn’t, there would be other options.  But waiting to find out, could limit those choices, but I am willing to take my chances. 

4. Are you on a budget?

For me, this is part of my decision.  A lot of the lottery races seem to have a higher price tag.  The entry fee for Chicago is $185 which is not too outrageous, but when I just paid that same amount for 4 races in Gasparilla, I was like well?!  Because we are not from the Chicago area, our race-cation cost will include a flight, hotel, and all meals.  Add in a trip to the Expo and other miscellaneous race swag goodies, the cost just keeps rising.  Now if you live near the race, then of course, this may not be a huge concern.

5. How do you handle disappointment and stress? 

When you enter the lottery, there is a chance you will not get in.  Unless you are guaranteed a spot with a finish time, you are one of tens of thousands vying for a spot.  Look at NYM, only 18% of those who applied were accepted to the race.  80,080 people were in the running for 14,326 spots.  That’s 65,754 runners who got the dreaded rejection email. When I entered the lottery for Nike, I sent out all the positive thoughts I could.  I imagined myself running through the streets of DC and I saw myself running that race.  I spent decision day asking Nick to check our credit card statement about 5 million times, watching FB and seeing posts from women announcing they were in, and wishing and hoping that I would be one of those lucky runners!  About mid-day, there it was.  The rejection email.  I did not get in.  I didn’t know if I wanted to cry or throw something. For a brief second, I really thought why not me?  Why did I not get in?  It was a weird feeling.  Like I wasn’t part of the “cool kid” club.  I made amends with not getting in and went about my day.  It took a bit of time to get over the feeling of missing out.  Strangely enough, they offered a second chance option a few weeks later and I jumped on it, of course.

Was I the best at dealing with that disappointment?  Not at all.  I wanted to run that race and was really upset I didn’t get in. Imagine if it was a lottery with a friend!  I would have been even more bummed.

So what did Christine and I decide to do??

After some thinking we decided that we will not be putting our names into the hat for Chicago.  We really want to run the marathon together and with a lottery entry, there are no guarantees.  Running a race together outweighs the race itself for us.  It would be a big disappoint if one of us got in and the other did not.  I know that most of the lottery races have a charity option, but that’s just not something that I want to do at this point.

We’re looking at other marathons a little bit closer to us which would require a car ride vs a plane ride.  As soon as we decide, we’re narrowing it down between 2, I’ll share it with you all!

What are your thoughts?  How do you decide to enter the lottery or not?  Who got in to New York?!  Anyone entering the Chicago or MCM lottery?

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19 thoughts on “To Enter a Race Lottery or Not?

  1. I actually wrote a post last month on race lotteries. Last year I applied for MCM on a whim and got in. While it was a race I eventually wanted to run, it worked perfectly that I was lucky the first time. I did get into NYC but by a time qualifying standard and was accepted in January. However, 5 or 6 girls from my running group all applied and I was very sad that not one got drawn. My husband will keep me company and we will have a mini vacation in NYC. Since my goal is to run all the majors before I turn 65 (i am running Boston this year too), I have to partake in the lottery system. While it is not perfect, I am not sure how the big races could handle the registration process any other way.

  2. I really want to run Chicago one more time. The uncertainty makes it hard for me, since I have to request time off for that weekend. I do have a backup plan (a few) just in case. But I’m kind of ambivalent about the lottery. I will say that everyone I know who entered it last year got in. We’ll see this year…

  3. I am definitely not a leave-it-up-to-fate type of person, hahaha. I’m horrible about “letting things just be” because if there’s a way for me to plan it out, I will do it. (That being said, I do at least understand that a ton of the time, things will not go as planned, but it does make me feel better to at least have one. 🙂

    I’ve only ever run one race (Nike Women’s Half! <3), but was guaranteed a spot (I think it was because a Nike ambassador came to woo us into signing up for it back when I was in undergrad, haha), so I've never actually tried the lottery thing!

  4. i will be entering the mcm lottery this year because it’s my hometown marathon and i’d like to run it. but i already am registered for a marathon a few weeks before so i won’t be devastated if i don’t get in. 🙂

  5. I did run the MCM last yr and it was a great race. Chicago is one my my bucket list races too. I have never entered myself into the lottery. I feel like the anticipation would be so nerve wracking. I can never plan way in advanced due to my work schedule.

  6. Great post! The only lottery race I have entered so far is Nike Women’s in San Fran. And I got in! It was such a great race. I would not hesitate to enter a lottery if it was for a race that I really really really wanted to do. As of now there isn’t one that is lottery based that I have my heart set on so in a way that is good! It would be disappointing to not get into one that I really wanted.

  7. Great post! All good considerations. I’ve only run one marathon and I got in through lottery – first try. It was at home though (MCM) so I didn’t have a lot to plan. Curious which one you choose!

  8. Pingback: Thinking Out Loud Thursday | Runner Girl in a Rocking World

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