As many in the Philadelphia running community know, entrance into this year’s Broad Street Run will be a bit different than prior years. Instead of a free-for-all, first-come, first-serve for most entrants, registration for this year’s run is primarily based on a lottery. Starting on Monday, February 4, there’s a twelve day period to register, but it does not matter whether you register on the first or last day (though the organizers are recommending that people register alphabetically).
Change, of course, had to come. When I first ran Broad Street in 2009, I think I was able to register a couple of weeks after it opened. Then, the next year, registration was still open to the extent that I was able to mail in a registration. By last year, however, everyone was attempting to register on the first day, and the registration system crashed often during the day. It took me about an hour and a half to register myself before noon. Helping a friend register took another hour and a half. By mid-afternoon, the race was full. Those without access to computers (or actually doing real work instead of trying to register for a race) were shut out. Counting charity entries, there were over 40,000 people registered for the race, including 34,000 timed finishers.
As anyone who’s run Broad Street knows, it can be a bit crowded on the course, even with the corral system. Adding more entrants is not the way to go, and the registration system had to change. At the same time, it would be unfortunate for long time participants or relatively competitive runners to be shut out. Automatic qualification can only be achieved by being considered a “veteran” (10 prior races) or having a recent “elite” or “seeded” runner time. Even the best runners I know fall short of the elite/seeded runner standards. Many experienced participants have run the race between 3 to 7 times and would still not be considered a “veteran.” Sure, you can fundraise for one of the official charities, but there are limited spots, and many people are averse to asking for $500 to run a race.
Depending on how this year’s registration goes, perhaps the organizers can revamp the process slightly next year. My suggestion would be to lower standards somewhat for automatic qualification. Prior participation in at least 4 or 5 Broad Street Runs and perhaps a recent time of 1:10 or below would be a start. The Broad Street Run is Philadelphia’s race, and it would be a shame if long time supporters and participants don’t get to take part.