2011 NYC Half-Marathon: Update

Wow. I had no idea the comments page on Facebook would explode the way it did, but seriously, just take a look at it over the course of the past 12 hours!

After an uproar ensued once New Yorkers realized that we seemed to be put at a disadvantage in the lottery because almost no one from New York seemed to be getting in, NYRR finally responded by stating two very important things.

  1. The lottery system for the Half was modeled off the lottery system for the full marathon.
  2. Lottery entrants were classified into three categories: local, national, and international. No word as to what percentage of slots were allocated to these categories, but considering the preliminary results (very few New Yorkers in and almost everyone getting in so far saying they’re from out of town), it’s very likely that an equal percentage of slots was allocated to each category.

The problem with #1 is that it ignores the fact that local runners have the 9+1 guaranteed entry option that out-of-towners clearly can’t participate in. Thus, those of us who live here tend to choose the 9+1 option rather than risk the lottery (myself included; I have guaranteed entry into the 2011 marathon). The problem with #2 is if one category has a much higher number of applications, then the people in that category do not have as equal of a chance getting in as those in the other categories. Furthermore, the people in the other categories have a greater chance of getting in because they’re not competing against as many people. This seems to be what happened here; those of us in the New York category knocked each other out, which essentially paved the way for out-of-town runners to get in. I wrote earlier today about my personal feelings over it, which were in sum: I’m disappointed I don’t get to do it, but oh well, I’ll run the Brooklyn Half for sure and enjoy a beach party afterward and maybe even the Queens one…plus I’ll get to save money!

So I get it. I understand why people are upset. I do think $5 is a little silly to get upset over, but I also understand that as New York runners, we pay the $40 membership fee every year, and we run multiple races over the year, which cost at least $18 a race if we register in advance, so we do our part to financially support the NYRR. It’s probably more true than not that NYRR gets a large majority of its funding and support from us, the local runners.

However, some local runners are forgetting what this sport (and participation in an organization like NYRR) is all about…it’s about the running first and foremost and the people we run with. I had a blast during the Joe Kleinerman 10K whenever I passed someone who opted to wear a santa hat since I had also decided to crazily wear one because hey, it’s the holidays! Let’s have some fun. Myself and my fellow santa hat-wearers laughed and gave each other thumbs up as we passed each other because that’s what this sport is about; it’s fun, it makes us feel good, and it’s good for us.

I’ve been taken aback by some of the venom that’s come out of the New York City running community today. It’s one thing to point out some clear errors on NYRR’s part and the apparent disadvantage we faced with the lottery system as it was designed. It’s quite another to do the following (all of which I’ve seen on Facebook today):

  • Insult other participants because they can’t do a 1:30 half, which means they are not “real” runners and should’ve been granted entry.
  • Threaten to call their credit card company in order to dispute the $5 charge. I’m sorry people, but we live in New York. What is that to you in the grand scheme of things? For me, it’s a white peppermint mocha from Starbucks (which I love, those things are yummy!). Not. That. Important.
  • Insult people simply for being from out of town and applying to the Half in the first place.
  • Sarcastically respond to people who posted that they got in and state they are from out of town. They got in; be happy for them.

I can’t honestly remember everything I’ve read that made me squint at my computer screen and think “oh my goodness, really?” For the most part, I feel like the criticism of how NYRR conducted the lottery and how it handled today’s controversy were fairly well-deserved. There are some things that seem a little sketchy to say the least. But please, remember who you are and what this is all about. You’re here to have fun, maybe be competitive and work on besting your time and/or pace, and continue to participate in an activity that’s helping to improve the quality and length of your life. It happened, there are some significant problems with how it happened, but you need to deal with it. You didn’t get in. I didn’t either. It happens. You shouldn’t be here to tear the community apart and make those “out-of-towners” who got in feel unwelcome to our city.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some chocolate chip cookies to eat and some Dexter to watch.

Editor’s update (12/16/10): The NYRR posted a FAQ section here that answers many questions and actually offers a percentage breakdown of applicants vs. those accepted into the Half-Marathon next year. As you can see, local participants were at a distinct disadvantage, but I have to hand it to the folks over at NYRR for offering up this information in the first place. So now we local runners know, don’t bother with the Half-Marathon lottery system next year. Find another way in!

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4 responses to “2011 NYC Half-Marathon: Update

  1. You are bang on the money with your comments. However, people have different ways of venting anger – some are emotional, some are sarcastic, some are narcissistic and some just say for the sake of saying something……. Simply put, though, NYers are just saying

    – Hey this is not the ING full marathon which is truly an international event and the lottery system is what it is … we accept that … but for the half gives us an equal opportunity …

    – We put in a lot for this city through participation, taxes, community programs, year long race participation etc… and to be shunned like this for an event which is ironically called New York City half marathon is insulting …. We deserve better …

    – We like to stay informed. A simple comment on the website saying this is the way the lottery is going to run (with breakup and approx. stats) would have sufficed. NYers would have taken it but the system was not transparent at all… And still after it has hit the fan the stats of the lottery are not being published…. Transparency .. where is it …

    – NYers have and will always will welcome out of city people. That’s the true nature of the city dwellers. Whether people come to visit the statue or go on top of the empire state or simply run half or full marathon they are the people who make the city and they are always welcome

    That’s simply put .. Don’t want anything more and the other nasty comments should be taken with a pinch of salt ….. It’s just another event which NYers are proud of and have been made to feel as they are not part of..

    Good luck to everyone selected, we will be there to cheer you ……. and we will hopefully have an same kind of odds as everyone else to get selected New Year

    Always – A Proud New Yorker

  2. Agreed. I like your style. 🙂

    I actually DO still want to know the % breakdown of each category and whether or not I’m right that each category received an equal % of open slots because if that’s true, then it absolutely does mean we were at a disadvantage in this lottery system, which isn’t fair unless there was a disclaimer at the beginning that stated this would be weighted more toward non-local runners.

    I agree about us accommodating tourists and people from out of town, which is actually the main reason I cringed a bit at some of the comments I saw because people who aren’t from here might not know what we do (and I actually did see one comment on the Half-Marathon Facebook page I believe from an accepted runner who wondered if she was going to face a bad reaction from New Yorkers at the race).

  3. Great post! Nothing like a bit of rejection to bring out the worst in people, eh?

    I didn’t get in, and am fine with it. I now have the money to sign up for other non-NYRR races I’ve been eying… In addition to understanding the percentage of locals that got in, I would like to know how many slots are set aside for charity runners. I wonder if that that is part of the issue?

  4. Pingback: Well that’s kind of fun… | Multifarious Musings from New York

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