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Marine Marathon signup angers those shut out

Mar. 27, 2013 - 08:11PM   |  
Runners participate in the 37th Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington, Va., Oct. 28, 2012.
Runners participate in the 37th Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington, Va., Oct. 28, 2012. (Cpl. Chelsea Flowers Anderson / Marine Corps)
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The toughest part about this year’s Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., won’t be running the 26.2 miles — it’s getting entered into the race at all.

All 30,000 bibs for the Oct. 27 marathon were claimed Wednesday afternoon just two hours and 27 minutes after registration opened, race officials said. Both Marinemarathon.com and Active.com — the event’s registration host — crashed shortly after noon Eastern, when thousands of would-be entrants tried to log on and register.

Many of those who were shut out then took to social media sites to voice their dissatisfaction.

“Signing up for the #MarineCorpsMarathon is more stressful and than actually running the #MCM,” ‏@BenFreemanDC tweeted Wednesday afternoon.

On the marathon’s official Facebook page, hundreds of runners complained about encountering trouble registering. “This was a race before the race” wrote one individual. “Glad I got in but man that was tough. Do we get a medal for finishing the registration process?”

Other Facebook users suggested the marathon’s organizers should adopt a lottery system for registration “to avoid the [web] traffic Active clearly is unable to handle.”

Rick Nealis, the race’s director, said organizers were comprehensive in their registration planning and testing on Active.com.

“The good news is we closed out in a record-setting 2 hours and 27 minutes,” Nealis said. “It would have been a lot faster if we didn’t have the problems. The good news is runners are still interested and thrilled about running the Marine Corps Marathon. The bitter side is the frustration that we saw unfold with the registration process. As an organization, I feel their pain and I do take responsibility for what took place. What took place was really a failure on the Active.com to be able to handle the load.”

In a statement provided by the Marine Corps Marathon’s public relations coordinator, Active Network, which operates the website, accepted blame.

“Active Network experienced system issues with registration for the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon today as the demand shortened from hours to minutes,” said Eric McCue, Active’s general manager for sports. “For this, we at Active sincerely apologize.”

When reached for comment, a representative from Active Network said, “We want to support runners in any way possible,” adding that those shut out can contact customer service.

Nealis said Active’s testing models predicted the site would be able to handle up to 6,000 people each minute.

“That’s an incredible number,” he said. “That would make you think we could close down in minutes.”

Active is also the registration site for the Chicago Marathon, which opened Feb. 19. At the start of registration, that process seized up and experienced the same problems runners saw Wednesday.

“They knew what they experienced in Chicago.” Nealis said. “We were going to reap the benefits of a company that was going to fix the problem. They had six weeks [to do so after the Chicago race registration]. So when somebody tells me the engineers are working on a platform and computer programmers are working on a system — and this is going to fix the system, and this is going to fix the process — you’ve got to believe.

“I have no reason not to believe a professional company that is dealing with the No. 3 marathon in the country — that just had a problem with the No. 1 marathon — does not want to look absolutely flawless,” Nealis said.

Nealis said he and his team are already brainstorming about improvements for 2014. A lottery, he added, could be a possibility.

But what isn’t an option, he said, is expanding the race field. At 30,000 entrants, the event is at capacity.

Next year “will be different,” Nealis said. “I just don’t know what different means at this point.”

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