Okay, so, if you pay attention to the running scene at all in Chicago you've probably already heard that for 2014 the Chicago Marathon is going to a hybrid of guaranteed entry spots and lottery.
From the Chicago Marathon website:
Guaranteed Entry Opportunities
Those who opt to run for an official Chicago Marathon charity can guarantee their spot in the 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
International Tour Program
Those who opt to join an official Chicago Marathon international tour partner can guarantee their spot in the 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Refer to the International Tour Program page for more details.
Chicago Marathon Legacy Finisher
Those who have finished the Chicago Marathon five or more times within the last 10 years (2004 – 2013) can guarantee their spot in the 2014 Bank of America Chicago
Men who have run a verifiable sub 3:15:00 marathon and women who have run a verifiable sub 3:45:00 marathon on or after January 1, 2012 can guarantee their spot.
Don't fit any of those criteria? Then it's time to enter the Chicago Marathon lottery!
From the Chicago Marathon website: participants can enter the 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon registration lottery at any time during the lottery entry period from Wednesday, March 5, at 12 p.m., to Monday, April 7, at 12 p.m. U.S. Central Time. Entry into the lottery requires the creation of a registration account (available starting March 5). Mandatory lottery entry information includes, among other details, full name, mailing address, email address and valid credit card information.
And, yes, if you get into the 2014 Chicago Marathon via lottery and then find out you can't make the race you have up until September 8th to defer to 2015. The catch? You have to pay the registration fee for both years. So, you're out at least $185 for each year.
Do I have thoughts on this? Well, I'm a runner in Chicago so, yes, I do. I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2010 and considered it a one-and-done kind of thing. I've run three other marathons since and, honestly, I have no desire to run Chicago again. It's a fun experience, sure, but there are so many other races out there that I want to try. So, personally, this doesn't affect me in terms of wanting to run Chicago and not being able to.
Since this news hit I've seen people make the argument that race director Carey Pinkowski doesn't care about Chicagoans. Well, even though I've had issues with him and his organization in the past I will say that I know he tried for as long as possible to not have the Chicago Marathon go to a lottery system. He speaks to my running club, the Oak Park Runners Club, every year before the marathon and every year he said he wanted to avoid lottery for as long as possible.
But with the increased demand and the strain on technology I have to say I don't blame the decision the race organization made. I mean, it was one of the last World Marathon Majors that wasn't lottery so I think that tells you something about the direction large marathons are going. Is it sad that Chicago is no longer open to just anyone? Sure. Is it the end of the world? Nope. Do I wish that Carey and his team could have found a way to weight the lottery so that people who live in Cook County could have gotten a slight edge? That would be cool but I can't even imagine the logistics of trying to do that AND figuring out where the cut off is. Would it just be Cook County or would it include Lake County too? What about northwest Indiana?
I can think of at least three other fall marathons that, while not Chicago, are close enough to the city hat they wouldn't require a huge outlay of cash to get to for locals. Milwaukee, The Des Plaines River Trail Marathon, and Naperville. Sure, they don't have cache and the energy of a big city marathon but, honestly, that's not why I run one anyway. I'm doing it for me, not for the spectators.
I think my biggest question is actually about the the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) marathon training programs. Will the lottery affect their base constituency? Part of me thinks no. The race will still have the same number of people so, statistically, there will probably be the same number of people who want marathon training.
So, in summary, is it sad? Yes. Is it the end of the world? No. And, trust me, if you still want to experience the camaraderie, the energy, and the awe that is the Chicago Marathon, you can join me at mile 18 and hand out to water to those who are running. And then go run a different marathon.