This story has been archived from the Friday, March 17, 2006

Officials ponder registration change


The Pikes Peak Ascent has become two races. A race to Pikes Peak’s summit and a race to register for one of the 1,800 spots.

Last year registration filled in three days. This year, with hundreds of people poised at their computers when registration started at 8 a.m March 1, it filled in nine hours, 53 minutes.

“In the future, the window is going to get shorter and shorter. You can envision a time when registration lasts just a few minutes,” said race director Ron Ilgen.

“So what? You snooze you lose,” seems to be the prevailing attitude among local runners, who, after all, thrive on trying to get something first.

But a few runners are calling for change.

The race can’t let in more runners because the size is capped by the U.S. Forest Service, but the sign-up period could be increased through a lottery.

“I think a lottery system is better and more fair,” said Adam Feerst, founder of the Denver Trail Runners, in a post on, a local running Web site. “Not everyone has the luxury of being at their computer when registration opens. I know some people who couldn’t get in the Ascent because they were busy at work.”

Local runners immediately logged on to disagree. Of the 23 responses to his post as of Wednesday, only one wanted a lottery.

“The problem with a lottery, is that it leaves everything up to chance,” said Matt Carpenter, who holds the record for the Ascent and the Pikes Peak Marathon.

He estimates a lottery would give racers about a onein-two chance of getting into the race.

“The way it is now, if you want to get in the Ascent, you put it on your calendar and you get in,” he said. “It may be tough to remember to register March 1 at 8 a.m., but it’s no tougher than showing up at the starting line in August at 8 a.m. If we have a lottery, the only people it will reward are procrastinators.”

Different races have responded to surging popularity in different ways.

Colorado’s most grueling race, the Hardrock 100, and other flagship races such as New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Road Race and the New York Marathon, use a lottery.

The sign-up period lasts much longer than registration for the Ascent did this year, but a racer entering the Hardrock, has less than a onein-five chance of getting in.

The Way Too Cool 50K in California still uses a “first come, first serve” sign-up. Its 450 spots filled up last year in 15 minutes.

The Triple Crown of Running, which organizes the Ascent, plans to look at a lottery and other ways to corral the registration rush next year.

“Something needs to be done,” said Ilgen, who was deluged by calls from runners who missed the cut. “We want to be equitable and fair. Is a lottery the best way? We’ll find out.”

Runners have pointed out other ways to limit the field without a lottery.

Organizers could raise the cut-off times to weed out slower racers, or raise the price to weed out poorer racers.

Or, they could use a suggestion local runner Valerie Prothe posted on to weed out the faint of heart.

Put the sign-up at a table right after runners cross the finish line, after struggling 13 miles and 7,815 feet, often through hail and lightning, she said.

“I wonder how quickly it would fill then?” she wrote.

Copyright 2006, The Gazette, a division of Freedom Colorado Information. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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