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3 ways technology improves road race registration

Jen A. Miller | March 20, 2014
Like most previously paper processes, road race registration has moved online. This offers convenience to runners, but it can be a headache for unprepared race directors. Here's how three organizations handle the traffic, testing and analysis of their runner registration systems.

Using Run Sign Up, these groups can create a race calendar for a running group website or run a race's registration from their own websites (instead of on itself). Bickel says he expects to handle registration services for 5,000 races this year, from small community races to big-ticket events such as the McGuire's St. Patrick's Day 5K in Pensacola, Fla. It's one of the largest prediction race in the country; runners try to guess their finish time and win prizes the closer they come.

Run Sign Up software runs on Amazon Web Services because, as Bickel says, AWS provides "unlimited resources that you can scale up." Now, he says, the service can successfully complete 50,000 registrations in seven minutes. This lets Run Sign Up take on registration for some very in-demand races. The Spring Lake (N.J.) 5 Mile Run, for example, reached its registration limit of 12,000 in a matter of hours.

Run Sign Up software is an open sourced API, which makes it easier for other race technologies, like scoring software, to hook into the system. "Our philosophy is that you want to lift all boats and put the technology out there," Bickel says. "We don't have aspirations of being public or having a lot of money invested in us. We're just trying to serve customers."

After Philadelphia's Broad Street Run suffered a very public system crash on registration day in 2012, Bickel knew his company needed to make sure its system could handle heavy traffic. (That race hadn't been using his program.) Instead of buying a load-testing tool, Bickel built his own, which he spun off into a cloud-based load testing company known as Red Line 13.

NYRR: Homegrown Software, Data Center, Sign-in System

The New York Road Runners puts on more than 50 races a year, including the New York City Marathon, which has more than 50,000 runners and is the largest marathon in the U.S., and the New York City Half Marathon, which has 14,500 runners.

The 55-year-old organization has always handled registration itself. When the NYRR switched to an online system, it built its own sign-up technology, too. "We haven't been running the marathon forever, but we've always handled registration ourselves," says Chris Weiller, vice president of media and public relations for NYRR.

This now includes proprietary software, a data center in New Jersey and a sign-up portal called My NYRR. There, runners create a login and profile, whether or not they're members of the running group, and use that account to register for races. The registration process is the same for runners entering lotteries for in-demand races, such as the marathon or half-marathon, or smaller races that choose a field based on who signs up first.


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