Thursday, May 20, 2010

Race Number Sales and the Brooklyn Half

For the second time today, I'm involved in a conversation about whether it's OK to sell your number/buy someone's number if you can't run in the Brooklyn Half. Here's an e-mail I just got from a reader:

"I've been training for the Brooklyn Half and unfortunately registration closed before I had actually registered (it was in March). Do you know of anywhere that people post their information if they're unable to make the race, so I could buy their number from them? Any advice you have would be most helpful."

Since you asked, and I suspect this lengthy rant isn't what you expected ... don't do it. It violates NYRR rules and inadvertently can affect others. But this is a complicated debate, and a lot of parties get involved, so understand why I'm saying this, and then make your own determination.

First off, the way the race was closed was done ... well, it was handled poorly. There was very limited notice, so folk woke up one day and discovered that the race was closed. I hope the NYRR will fix it so that something like this doesn't happen again. There are few local races on their calendar with this kind of demand - they want it to be a destination race, that people plan for. Well, that's what happened. And because it closed out abruptly, a lot of folk got burnt. (Whether they should institute a lottery for this race .. that would be messy. It's a friggin' local race!)

That said: When they determine how many people can be handled in a race, directors build in an expected number of cancellations. (Don't know what this level is, but let's say it's 3%). If people barter/sell those numbers, that can increase the support needs beyond planning levels.

An obvious solution: Create a marketplace so that people *can* swap race numbers. Yes, the number of people who are accepted to a race would be lower initially, but it would benefit those who sign up early and get hurt - thus wasting the entry fee (my spot in a spring marathon, for example), and those who want to run. Or better yet, set up a reverse auction - have people set a fee that they would be willing to pay to get into the race that it closed as numbers become available. The extra money goes to charity. This is efficient! (Ooh, the economics classes I took in school are kicking in!)

The other problem if you buy a number: you may seriously mess up the age-group categories. If you bet a number from a 75-year-old male (and you happen to be a 28-year-old female), and you run a great time: Well, you may have just won that category. Even though this may get resolved, you've cheated the actual winner out of the immediate gratification, especially if this involves medal awards at the race itself. (Apparently this happened last year at New York with one of the local runners).

I have friends who vehemently think that violators of the race number policy should be punished. (You do it in in a NYRR race, you face serious sanctions can lose a spot in the NYC Marathon, I think for life, though I need to check the rules). I have other friends who have done this, don't think it's an issue, and figure that they are simply obtaining a legitimate spot in a race. (Especially if it hasn't closed out). Why not help all involved?

It's possible you can find numbers on Craigslist (though I suspect that NYRR might catch you - it's happened for the NYC Marathon). You could also just simply run the race with no number (if you do, I'd advocate that you send a donation to a NYRR charity after the fact to cover your cost, and then some, if you inconvenience other runners by taking their water. Extreme? Last year many water stations were a disaster after they ran out).

Would I do it, for this race? No. But that's also my personal decision. Because the marketplace hasn't responded, I think you need to decide if it's worth it. (Hey, I want the NY Times Mag Ethicist columnist to weigh in.)

I hope this stream-of-consciousness helps. Best of luck. Whether it's in the race on Saturday, or in another half.


erika said...

Hi, I'm running Brooklyn Half for the first time tomorrow. Do you suggest taking water with me in case there is a long line at water station tomorrow? Thank you in advance.

ChickenUnderwear said...

I thought there was pleanty of notice about the race getting filled up.


You can't buy a bib for a NYRRC event on eBay. The NYRRC wins all the actions and does not make a payment.


If you wanna run this (or almost any) race just run. But not the Brooklyn Half, they capped it because the leaders crashed into the middle of the pack last year.


I might run my own "Brooklyn Half" tomarrow. Grand Army Plaza down to 3rd ave, make a left and run to Owl Head park and then onto the Promenade by the Belt Pky to Shore road to Cropsy Ave and over to KeySpan Park. It is about 13 miles and will will get to see all my friends at the finish line.

Any one can come with me. 7am G.A.P bring water or cash.

Brooklyn Runner said...

Erika, I'm hoping the NYRR learned from last year's race, when they ran out of water. Generally their races are well run, and they take it into account (I haven't heard of any problems with the Bronx Half in the dead of summer). Last year I hope was an exception. That said, some of the water stations will probably be crowded given the weather conditions. If you're comfortable running with the bottle, get a Poland Springs that you can toss into a recycling bin if you decide the stations are fine.

erika said...

Thank you so much for your suggestion, very helpful! I'll take Poland Springs just in case but wishing they are doing okay this year.