With the registration for the lottery opening this Sunday May 13 it is fortuitous to hear directly from the person who handles the registration. Recently, we caught up with Celia in Tucson Arizona where she was getting an early taste of Summer.
Read and enjoy this interview that has some valuable insights into the registration process.
How long have you been doing the registration duties for the Ridge Run?
About 10 years. I’m not really sure what was the first year I was involved.
What are some of the challenges of handling the registration?
Every time we change how things are done it creates extra work and requires learning a new way of doing things.
When I first started, we had a simple system where people registered by mail and could do so right up to a week or so before the race. The first big change I had to deal with was the implementation of the different waves for the start. Getting people in an appropriate wave is important and requires time and analysis to get it right.
When the race started using online registration as opposed to mail in, there was a big adjustment and new challenges. Both on the registration end of things and of course for the participants. When the demand for the race exceeded capacity, the online registration became a speed test as the race would fill within minutes of opening up. Last year we implemented a lottery system and that added a bunch more work and challenges. This year it is pretty much the same as last year. There are just minor changes intended to lessen the work load of those involved with registration and the lottery selection process.
You mentioned all the work in putting people in Waves for the start. Are the Waves necessary? What is their purpose and intention?
The Ridge Run course starts off on a narrow trail. Getting 300 people crammed onto it at the start causes a lot of congestion, backup and delay. The intention of the waves is to spread the crowd out a bit. We (those involved with organizing and putting on the race) considered other options like starting the race down on the road by the lake to give the runners a chance to spread out before encountering the trail. We rejected this because it alters the historical start location. We also considered having a time trial format where we start each runner individually say every 10 seconds. Problem with this is that it would take 50 minutes to get through the 300 starters. We finally settled on five waves of 50 to 60 runners each and separating the start of each wave by 5 minutes. The 5th and last wave gets off 20 minutes after the start of the 1st. So far, this has worked reasonably well.
How do you decide what wave a person gets put into?
We go by the runner’s predicted finish time. That is part of the information supplied by the runner in the registration process. It is absolutely critical that the runner supply an accurate predicted time. For people that are doing it for the first time, we err on the side of caution and tend to put them in a later wave. For people that have done the race, we typically go with their recent time from a previous year.
Sometimes it takes us a lot of work assessing a person’s realistic ability. This is especially true for people that claim to be fast by registering with a fast predicted time when they may not have done it before or their previous time doing it they were much slower. For the first and second wave, we will do a bit more screening and search the Internet for some of their race results in other races. This is to make sure that we do not have anyone starting in the first couple waves that may be slow and an impediment to runners starting in later waves. We want to avoid the need for a lot of passing.
Fortunately we have only had a few minor disasters of people starting in the first wave and then being very slow in the downhill portion on the foothill trail after Sacajawea and blocking the narrow trail where it is difficult to pass. Some people may be very strong on the uphill, but be very slow and cautious on the exposed downhill rocky sections after Sacajawea. If you can’t run this section fast, you should not be in the 1st wave.
We use to have some knowledgeable and experienced runners review the wave start list to make sure we got things reasonably right. But we do not do this anymore. The recommendations of others seemed to cause more problems, especially with the women.
Do you have any suggestions to make sure people get in their appropriate wave?
Be realistic. It is not some status thing to be in an early wave. So get over not being in the wave you want. There are some formulas you can use to come up with a reasonable time. If you have any doubts, err on the side of caution and pad your time.
Why the lottery system instead of a simple first to sign up until the maximum number is reached?
We wanted to make it fairer. Before the lottery, it filled up in a matter of minutes and we got lots of complaints.
Do you have any advice to people to make your job easier?
When you register, both for the lottery and for the race once you are selected by the lottery, take your time and be accurate. Double check your information before you submit it. There is no hurry.
You would be surprised at how many people put down the wrong sex, birthdate, and contact information. For example, if you use this year 2012 as your year in your birthdate (a surprisingly common mistake) you will be rejected because it makes you under 18 years old.
Do you have any advice to people to have their best chance of being selected in the lottery?
First and foremost provide accurate information and double check it. Make sure your email address you provide works and you check it so you do not miss the notification if you got selected. People are in the habit of using fake or temporary email addresses when signing up online and this causes problems. I guess their intention is to avoid getting spam email. But if your email does not work, is never checked or has an aggressive spam blocking filter, you will never hear if you got selected in the lottery.
For the short paragraph explaining your reason that you should be accepted, put some time into writing it. Write it well ahead of the lottery registration. Do some editing and polish it up. Keep it short and to the point. Tell us your story of what the Ridge Run means to you and your relationship to it. The Ridge Run is a local community event. There are purposely no sponsors other than the local running club. A lot of creative effort goes into coming up with the prizes and they sometimes have a very local theme. There is a rich history and tradition. How are you going to add to that history?
For example, a short explanation stating that your Mother has done it numerous times and that you finally turned 18 and want to follow in her footsteps has more appeal than someone just touting their abilities and rattling off a list of other races that they have done and won. Tell us something that will make us laugh or cry. Write something that would make us want to meet you and see how your Ridge Run adventure turns out.
As part of the registration duties are there any other things you want to mention?
On race day, it is critical that we have an accurate list of people that actually started the race. Handing out bib numbers at the start area and having runners check in is how we know who actually started. There is always a portion of people registered that just do not show up on the day of the race.
Unfortunately, over the years, there are a few that actually come to the start, get their number, but then decide not to start. We need to know this. It is a safety thing. The people putting on the race have to know exactly who started. Let someone know if you decide to drop or not start. In the past, volunteers have spent a lot of time looking for people that decided to take a nap off the trail and the sweep crew missed. Or that headed down middle cotton wood canyon or failed to cross the finish line for whatever reason. Let the race officials know what happened to you.