Just getting in the toughest challenge of some races

My bib from the inaugural Monster Dash in 2009. Such bibs could be hard to get for the race's 2012 running.

The hardest part of a race? Anymore, it’s just getting in.

This morning, at 7:59, I sat at the keyboard, my right index finger poised of the Enter key. In the window of my browser was this address: http://www.sportoften.com/events/eventDetails.cfm?pEventId=7902 — the site to register for the Feb. 4 Uwharrie Mountain Run. The site was set to go active at 8 a.m. today, Nov. 1, 2011.

7:59:57, 7:59:58, 7:59:59 … 8:00!

I punched the Enter key and what may well be my toughest challenge in this 20-mile trail run was on. For the first five minutes I watched a circular gray arrow spin in the browser window. Then I began getting a “Database Error” message. I rebooted (when in doubt … ) and somehow found myself on the registration site for the 2010 Uwharrie Mountain Run. I regrouped and managed to advance to the circular spinning blue arrow in the browser window. Hope! It was 8:21 and I was feeling wildly optimistic, giddy even. At 8:27 I was on the registration site, by 8:37 I had appeased the god of credit card verification and was officially registered. I pumped both fists in the air, elated: Only 38 minutes of cajoling the computer machine to register. I was in, baby!

Yesterday, I ran into Triangle ultradistance running icon Joey Anderson on the Neuse River Trail. Anderson was in taper mode for next weekend’s Mountain Masochist Trail Run in Virginia and was doing a short six-miler. We chatted a minute before Joey asked if I’d run Sunday’s Monster Dash 5K at Cameron Village.

“We had over 1,000 runners,” Joey said, and by “we” he was referring to race organizer The Athlete’s Foot, where he works. A thousand!? I thought back to the first Monster Dash two years ago, which had less than 200 runners and last year’s race, which had maybe 400. I thought about the tight venue — both the course itself, an out-and-back on Clark Street and Oberlin Road, and the limited opportunities for parking. I also thought about the race’s ties to Cameron Village, and how relocating the race wasn’t an option. I wasn’t surprised when Joey said, “They’ll probably have to cap it next year.”

Ah, the dreaded cap: the limit on the number of people who can enter an event. The cap: the reason I sat pensively at the keyboard this morning at 7:59:59 with my right index finger poised over the Enter key.

Virtually every race — from foot races to triathlons to cycling events to … whatever — that has been around for two or three years and has developed any reputation has a cap. Sometimes the cap is no big deal. Occasionally, you can even register for a capped race on race day. Often, though, you need the stars to align and be something of an online zen master to get into a popular race. Last year, for instance, I toyed with the idea of entering the Umstead 100. Alas, the notion didn’t occur until the afternoon of the day registration opened; by then, the 250 slots for the race had been snapped up.

As for the Uwharrie Mountain Run, I was surprised to find that registration remained open as of 11:15 this morning. But if you’re interested in running, I wouldn’t dawdle.

In the first three hours registration had already topped 800.

One thought on “Just getting in the toughest challenge of some races”

  1. 38 minutes to register, but 38 minutes into the Uwharrie race you may have wished that you hadn’t. Maybe only 8 minutes. That first hill is only the first of many. Says me who alas didn’t register in time.

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