One of the most interesting things about getting older is that I’ve had the chance to experience firsthand the way things “used to be.” The nature of many running events has certainly changed a lot, but the act of registering for races seems to have changed at least as much as the races themselves.
In the 1980’s and early 90’s, in order to sign up for a race I’d go to a running store, find the stacks of race flyers and xeroxed pages, fill out the form, write a check, send it all in, then show up on race day (all the while trying to manage the fear that was always in the back of my mind that my entry got lost in the mail and they wouldn’t have me on their registration list). Races in other parts of the country required a person to take the extra step of writing to the Race Director to request an entry form — adding more days (or even weeks) to the signup process.
Fast forward to today, where all of that takes place in seconds. Forget about signing up on a whim for the popular races (which, increasingly, seems to include just about every well-established ultra event). If you haven’t planned your entry ahead of time, and you’re not ready to commit at just the right moment, and you don’t have luck on your side…. then better luck next year (or perhaps the year after).
Today, for example, I spent the 15 minutes leading up to the opening of on-line registration for the Umstead 100 (noon EDT) on my computer, clicking “refresh” what seems like many hundreds of times, trying to catch the precise minute (well, given what I’ve read about the number of people who were trying to register this year, the precise second) that the registration link became available. And I’m constantly trying to fend off the fear that I get so overzealous in my refreshy-clickiness that I accidentally refresh the page when the registration link is first available, only to find that it’s no longer there upon the next refresh, and I’ve lost my one chance to sign up. Perhaps that’s one of the digital analogues to the old-timey fear that my registration check gets lost in the mail.
On one of my refreshes I saw the link (AWESOME!), and began working my way through the registration form within the allotted 12 minutes (Oh God…. don’t let my computer crash right now and please let me not kick out the power cord…..). And the knots in my stomach went away when I saw this:
Well, to be honest, the knots in my stomach aren’t gone. They’ve just been replaced with a different set of knots.
Now I’m going to the 21st Annual Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run!