Beware those tempting marathon lotteries, you might just “win”

Be warned, the high one feels when completing one’s first half marathon can be a dangerous thing.  For a while, everything seems possible, especially the opportunity to repeat the feeling.  Of course, the desire to repeat the feeling doesn’t include reminding oneself of the grueling, endless training involved, just the incredibly satisfying end result.

A month or so after we completed our half marathon in Disney World in 2010, I happened to see a small article in Runner’s World magazine letting readers know that the lottery was now open for the NYC Marathon that November, 9 months away.  The draw would be taking place in early May.  I had grown up watching the NYC Marathon on TV, in awe of the runners and loving the excitement surrounding the event.  I had never wanted to do a marathon, nor had I thought I’d be able to, but suddenly the idea seemed perfectly reasonable.  And here was my opportunity.  How could I pass this up?  Now that I had shown myself I could complete a half marathon, why not a full marathon, at least if it were in New York City.  So with no further thought, I went online and registered my husband and myself for the lottery.

It was fun to spend the next few months imagining running the streets of NYC as part of a huge crowd.  Of course, reading the description of the hills (aka bridges) along the route was daunting, but then again none of it was actually real.  That is until the draw was held in early May of 2010.  Shortly after noon, my husband and I gathered in front of our computer screen and I signed on, starting with my NYRR account.  OMG, it said “accepted”!!!  My heart leapt, it truly did, experiencing a mixture of elation and pure terror.  Well, that was easy!  Let’s see what happened with my husband’s entry.  When I signed on to his NYRR account, it read “not accepted”.  Oh.  My.  I hadn’t thought this through.

What is it that makes us think that because we ran – and walked and hurt through – one half marathon, we can run twice as far?  Why do we think that if we climb one mountain, we can climb one twice as high?  When we have our first child, does that euphoria make us want to have twins the next year?! [Well, maybe briefly!]

At any rate, I came to understand that I had lucked into a special opportunity, even if I hadn’t thought it through in advance.  Getting drawn in the NYC lottery is a rare and highly sought-after outcome, as it turns out.  I started to feel that I had been chosen for a purpose.  I enjoyed nurturing the thought that this was really going to happen.  I made our plane reservations and our hotel reservations.

As I described in a previous post (A saga of biomechanics and Chi Running), by the time we had run our second half marathon in early May, shortly after finding out I was destined for the streets of NYC, overuse injuries put me out of commission.  Like most runners, for several months I convinced myself that my recovery would be complete in time for me to train and participate.  Needless to say, my confidence was misguided.  Eventually, reality intervened and a month before the race I had to cancel my registration.

However, the dream had taken root and it was not dead, just postponed.  Lottery rules state: if you’ve been accepted for the NYC Marathon and have to cancel, you are automatically eligible to run in next year’s race.  No, your registration fee – which is charged to your credit card the moment your name is drawn in the lottery – is not eligible for next year’s race, it is gone.  And airline and hotel reservations have to be cancelled, penalties paid.  But who cares? The opportunity to pay your registration fee again next year is there – the dream in still alive!  As soon as registration for next year’s race opens up, all you have to do is make the decision to go for it, to grab that ring.  And so, in early February 2011, that’s what I did.

More about that experience to follow, but what I learned from having to cancel is:

  1. NYC Marathon organizers give you a second chance.
  2. If the NYC Marathon is on your bucket list and you aren’t a “qualifying time” level runner, you can either run for a charity by raising money OR by being unsuccessful in 3 consecutive lottery draws.  You are automatically accepted on your 4th consecutive try.
  3. I didn’t learn this from having to cancel, but … if the NYC Marathon is not on your bucket list, maybe it should be!

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7 Responses to Beware those tempting marathon lotteries, you might just “win”

  1. jane tims says:

    Hi. I am no runner, but you have given me insight into a world I know nothing about. My brother and his wife run half-marathons on many of their travels. Bravo! Jane

  2. Happy Runner says:

    Thanks for sharing. So I should try to get into the NYC lottery this year as a first attempt, so that at latest in 2015 I am in. How is that for forward planning… 🙂 I might just do that!

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