In the midst of all of the indicators suggesting tremendous growth in the sport of ultramarathon running these days, there is perhaps none greater than the increase in the use of lotteries by race organizers to determine runner selection. And, of those race lotteries, the two that have seen the greatest increase in traffic in the past five years are the lotteries for the Western States 100 and the Hardrock 100. That is why it is noteworthy that, just last week, the Hardrock 100 Board of Directors announced significant changes in their lottery selection procedures, which will go into effect with the 2013 run.
Interestingly enough, of all of the 100 milers out there, Hardrock is one event that started all those years ago as a truly low-key, no frills, mountain run that, at the time, race organizers wondered if anyone could even finish. Little did they know that within 20 years the likelihood of starting the race (much less finishing it) could be as low as 10%. Hence, the new lottery procedures:
In essence, with the new procedures, the Hardrock race organizers have attempted to make the race more accessible to first-time Hardrockers. As many in the ultra community know, Hardrock has long prided itself in being an event that rewards and honors history. As such, multiple time finishers, known in Hardrock parlance as “veterans” or “Hardrockers” have, for many years, been able to bypass the lottery. In the old system, if you finished five times you were in for life. The new system does not guarantee that. Rather, in the new system there will actually be three separate lotteries; one for veterans, one for first-timers, and one for everyone else. It is the Board’s expressed desire in making these changes to open up the race to more runners by clearly stating that the “ideal mix of runners would be 25% veterans, 25% first timers and 50% everyone else.” So, given that several of the race organizers are, quite literally, rocket scientists, they ran the numbers and determined that the best way to get to this ideal mix is to conduct three lotteries giving 35 spots to veterans, 35 spots to first timers, and 70 spots to everyone else. As is customary, waiting lists will be maintained for each of the three lotteries and a runner will be credited with a DNS if they are on the wait list at the time of the race and will therefore gain additional tickets in subsequent years.
I applaud the Hardrock 100 organizers for making this change. Too often I have seen event organizers who are, for whatever reason, unwilling or unable to adapt their events to changing times. As such, their events run the risk of becoming tired, stale, and possibly, even, irrelavent. In my experience, there is no reason to use the “because that’s the way we’ve always done it” excuse when trying to create the best experience possible for the participant. And, frankly, I think this holds true for schools, churches, businesses, and other institutions as well as running events. The fact that this forward-looking board would take the time and energy to create a system that clearly aligns with their mission is outstanding and, to me, not surprising. After all, this is an ultramarathon event we are talking about here and it’s been my experience in running ultras that if you are not willing or able to adapt, change, and evolve in the course of a race or a training run you will inevitably have a negative experience. In fact, it could be argued that the ability and discipline to adapt on the fly and readjust standards and expectations in the midst of flux is one of the greatest skills we can learn through running. Certainly, the Hardrock 100 Board of Directors has done just that!
AJW Taproom’s Beer of the Week
This week’s Beer of the Week is from a classic old-school brewery in Chippewa Falls, WI. Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy is a rich weiss beer mixed with a touch of lemonade. One or two of these, served ice cold, can get you through even the most intense summer heat wave!
Call for Comments (from Bryon)
What do you think of the changes to the Hardrock lottery procedure?