Sunday, March 7, 2010

Winning a Running Lottery…

My wife Bonnie and I found out this week that we were selected in the lottery for the Gary Bjorklund's Half Marathon in Duluth this June. I believe this is most perfect Half Marathon in the country. I may be biased being a Minnesotan, but it truly is. Starts at 6:30 am, it is mostly on a downhill course, that gets you to the finish by 9 am, with enough time to shower before the Marathon winners show up at 9:40 and after (the Marathon starts an hour later 13.1 miles down the same course route).

I like the lottery format that has been adjusted in the past few years that allows for a 'group' to register instead of solo entries only. In that format, you and your friends/family register as a group instead of as individuals. If one of your entries is selected, the whole group gets in. If none of you are selected, none of you get in. When traveling 2 plus hours to an event with an overnight stay, it's a lot better to know you are all going to get in instead of a select few. Makes it more rewarding as a group event.

Bonnie and I have also entered the New York City Marathon Lottery, but there was no 'group' option. That will be disappointing for one of us if either of us is selected, but not both and/or neither. I believe that all running lotteries should incorporate the group option as a way of making it more of a running community event.

Overall, these lotteries have been good to me. I haven't always been selected but the important ones I can't remember missing out on.

My claim to fame, and without a doubt the hardest to be selected on, has been winning the Boston Marathon Lottery in 1996. As a promo to the 100th running of Boston, they allowed all interested runners to apply for a one time lottery that would select 5000 runners. The rules were that you had to finish in 6 hours or less, understand that the entry could not be deferred or transferred, and if you qualified by meeting the time goal (between the selection date in July, 1995 and March, 1996) you had to surrender the entry for a qualified number.

Some runners might look at running Boston as a Lottery winner vs. as a qualifier as a letdown. Considering that the odds of me actually qualifying for it, (would have to run a qualifying marathon in 3:35 or less these days), the only chance I had of running this in my lifetime was getting picked in that lottery. And running it on its 100th birthday was something my grand kids and great grand kids can say about their grandfather.

That's not to say I've ever given up qualifying for the Boston Marathon. As anyone that tracks the qualifying times, my odds of qualifying for it will vastly improve starting September 25th of this year. That's when my qualifying time will change to 3 hours and 45 minutes. Still a stretch, but not impossible. And like the lottery itself, as long as there is a chance, there is hope…..

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