We had a couple of races open up this past Saturday that sold out quickly. These are established races who have sold out in the past and they both did some interesting things that others can learn from.
Murfreesboro Half Marathon in Tennessee went live at 9:00AM on Saturday morning and sold out their 2,500 spots in the Half Marathon in about 2 hours. They chose a First Come, First Serve strategy. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy since runners will help spread the word (at least after they sign up) and there is a bit of a “feeding frenzy” to try to get into the race. If you click on the link above, it takes you to the Facebook page and you can see how many people posted about getting in and being happy and to hurry up! The race did a number of things well that are useful ideas for other race directors:
- Communicated well before the race opened. EMails to previous participants, getting the word out to running stores and clubs, etc. And using Facebook very effectively by setting up their own page.
- Facebook as the communications vehicle. The race director can easily communicate with as many people as possible and people who are interested can go and find the information easily in one place.
- Coordinated with RunSignUp. No one knew quite how many people would hit the website and when, so we added a bit of capacity just to be safe. Our servers averaged only 2% load and one maxed at 7%, and our average response time was less than 0.2 second – so we obviously had plenty of horsepower, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. We also had people monitoring the site and ready to add more capacity (it takes us less than 5 minutes to spin up additional servers in case things are going badly). Our general rule of thumb is if your race expects over 2,000 runners to hit it at opening, let us know.
- The race put up hints on speeding registrations. Like setting up an account beforehand and making sure you have a good internet connection and the latest browser version, etc.
They have also set up a Waiting List. This gives the race a number of options. For example, they could offer people refunds and RunSignUp would automatically take care of the refund (the race can charge extra money for this) and chose the next person on the Wait List. The race also has all of those contacts for promoting the race next year!
We were also able to profile how many people signed up and when. We had 6 people sign up by 9:01 (fast typers with excellent Internet connection), 97 in the second minute. The peak minute was 9:04 with 166 registrations.
The Peak to Creek Marathon has a small cap since it is run in a National Park. It has sold out for the past several years and used to do it the same way the Murfreesboro Half did it – first come, first serve. This year they decided to go with a weighted lottery that you can read about on the link above. The registration process is two step. First, register for the lottery (but no payment is taken). Then the race will calculate the weighted lottery and those chosen will be put into the RunSignUp Wait List system to be invited to complete their registration.
Both systems for handling sell-out races work well. It just depends on what is right for your race!