I have been waiting for many months for this day to come. The day that registration for the Marine Corps Marathon opens! I have been talking to friends since last year about this race, and my desire to run it. Having attended Georgetown University and living in the DC Metro area for 12 years, running this race is going to bring back a lot of fond memories, and with it, a sense of homecoming.
This race is VERY popular! So you can imagine the number of people who want to run it each year. So many, in fact, that the race tends to sell out the first day that registration opens. Last year, it sold out in under 3 hours! That is pretty amazing! 30,000 people registering online via the Internet, hitting the registration web site all at the same time, vying for the chance to race in Virginia and Washington DC, to run passed the monuments in our nation's capital, the Pentagon, and to finish by the Arlington Cemetery.
So this year, I expected it would be no different. I was worried that I wouldn't get the chance to complete my online registration before the race sold out. So I made sure I would be sitting in front of a computer, fingers poised over the keyboard, the second the registration site opened up. I really wanted this!
The good news is that I MADE IT IN! I am registered to run the Marine Corps Marathon on October 27th!! I am so excited! And I have many friends who were also able to register. So it is going to be great to run this race, with people that will make the experience all the more special. And I am definitely going to train well because my goal is to set a new Personal Record (PR) during this race. "Dream Big" I always say!
But, OH MY GOODNESS did the process of 'getting registered' feel stressful and frustrating!!!! I had my desktop browser sitting on the marinemarathon.com web site and my iPad running the Active.COM iOS App on the Event page. I figured I would use both devices and see which one would work the best. I am SO glad that I did because right from the beginning, Active.com had problems. Active was hired by the Marine Marathon organizers to handle online registration.
Last month, the Chicago Marathon opened its registration and it was a total disaster. Active was hired to provide online registration services for that race, and they were NOT up to the task. Their servers could not handle the number of people accessing the site to register for the Chicago Marathon. Within the first 30-45 minutes, the site went from slow to 'unavailable'. In fact, the site was so unreliable that after 2.5 hours, they closed online registration entirely (later setting up a lottery system to fill the remaining 15,000 slots). People were NOT happy, and it reflected badly upon the organizers of the race.
I was really hoping that Active would have learned something from their debacle with Chicago. There was no question that the Marine Corps race was going to sell out quickly, and that the number of people attempting to register was going to be HUGE! Wouldn't it be logical to assume that Active would have increased their capacity to accommodate that 'surge' of registrants when the Registration date/time of 3/27/2013 12:00PM EST was reached?
Well, if they did take steps to handle that load, it was woefully insufficient! The site was plagued with slowness and unresponsiveness from the beginning. I started registering at 11:01am via the web site and I could not get passed the first screen without getting 'service unavailable' errors. After my third attempt via their web site, I switched to using their iPad App. It, too, was experiencing errors. So I kept trying to get registered using both devices, often making it through a couple of screens before getting an error. And from all the FB postings by my friends, I could tell that I was not alone in my frustrations.
But at 11:10, the iPad App appeared to be working. So I went through the screens as fast as I could, filling out all the fields, making my selections for tech shirt, etc and finally getting to the credit card processing screen (the first time I got this far). I filled out the charge information, said a quick prayer, and clicked SUBMIT. And it WORKED! I held my breath for a few more seconds to see if I received a confirmation email. When I got that, I breathed a sigh of relief! I was registered!!!!!
The site continued to have reliability problems throughout the afternoon. The race sold out after 2 hours, 27 minutes (a new record for the race). But I am sure there were a lot of disappointed people who tried to register throughout that time period and were met with errors like "site unavailable", "500 Internal Server Error", and "Individual (on hold)" messages. My racing team was really trying to get registered for the race because we had planned to run it together. All but one of us finally got in, but it took over 2 hours to do so.
I am really upset with Active -- they did NOT DO THEIR JOB! There is no excuse for not being prepared for the level of activity we saw today. If I were a race director for a large destination race, I would seriously consider finding a different registration vendor (like SignMeUp or some other service). Problems like these reflect poorly not only on Active but upon the race organizers as well. Races do not need the negative publicity that comes from this kind of poor performance.
Come on, Active! Between Chicago and Marine Corps, you have two strikes against you. You better shape up or you might find yourself becoming a secondary player in an industry that brings in millions of dollars and customers every year.
Besides all of this, let me say again that I am THRILLED to be able to run this race in October,. Now, I just have to train hard, stay healthy and injury-free. With my father being a Marine, it makes running this race uniquely special because I get to celebrate his service to our country!