Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Army Ten-Miler: Ready, Set, Register!

Today was registration for the 2014 Army Ten-Miler for the general civilian public. This is one of the largest 10-mile races in the country and it is extremely popular. Registration demand exceeds registration supply, which creates a potentially stressful registration process. Below I offer some tips for navigating this process and ways to get into the race if you were not successful today.

Prepare for Registration

There are things you can do in advance to help you prepare:

  • Carve out a block of time. Registration opened at 10 am ET this year, unlike the midnight ET of past years. This created work conflicts for many. Ideally you would carve out two hours. I took my lunch hour early, started work early, and was prepared to work late if needed. I know some people who took vacation time this morning, or got a babysitter to watch their kids. Seems a little excessive, but carving out the time if you can takes the stress off.
  • Know your password. This wasn't applicable today, but sometimes race registrations use a particular platform like active.com. Look up your password in advance. Login with it ahead of time to make sure it works. There is nothing like the frustration of being unable to submit your registration because you don't know your password and you got locked out because you guessed wrong too many times! This goes for any password-protected form-fillers you might be using - login before the registration process starts!
  • Anticipate the questions. You will need to answer questions during the process, plan for them ahead of time so you don't waste time wondering what to put.
    • What is your race time? You might be asked what pace you expect to maintain, or you might be asked the time it will take you to finish. Think about this ahead of time and know both numbers.
    • What is your t-shirt size? Know what size you will order if it is unisex, what size you will order if they are gender specific.
    • Do you want to order the extras? Things like pasta dinners, technical upgrade shirts, training shirts etc.? 
    • It is especially important to think about these things ahead of time if you are trying to register someone else, like your spouse! Ask them ahead of time!
  • Prepare your equipment. It can be helpful to have more than one computer at hand. When servers are constantly going up and down due to excessive capacity demands, having more than one machine in action increases your odds of getting through. Have the registration link handy and clickable; I like to put it on a calendar invite so I can access it from all of my computers easily. Also consider using multiple browsers. Some sites seem to work better with Chrome or Firefox. 
    I had three computers ready to go today, but only used one

It's Time to Register!

These are the things to keep in mind during the actual registration process:
  • Assume registration will open early. It usually doesn't, but sometimes it does. Start checking 15 or 10 minutes early. Today I got very lucky and registration opened early. I was registered at 9:55 before the first site crash.
  • Assume the site will crash. At least for the early part of registration, demand will greatly exceed supply. The site will crash. It will come back up, but you may have lost your place and have to start again. It is frustrating. Very frustrating. Anticipate it and don't let it deter you. Many of my friends saw this repeatedly during the first hour or so:
  • Be Calm and Persistent. For many of these races, there is a tipping point where the chaos calms down. Many people have registered, some have given up, the demand starts to decrease and the servers become more stable. For this race, the tipping point happened between 11:15 and 11:30. People logging on for the first time after 11:30 (like my running buddy Christina who wasn't sure if she really wanted to sign up) had a fairly straightforward process. After noon the site became even more accessible. The race didn't sell out until 12:35.
    11 am: 19,705 of 35,000 spots taken

    11:30 am: 27,120 spots taken

    noon: 32,016 spots taken

    12:35, race sells out

  • Monitor social media. Follow the facebook group and twitter hashtag for the race. You will see updates from the race organizers, tips from others who have been able to get in, updates on how many spots are left. This can help you stay calm - I had friends who were in a panic at 11:00 and felt better when they realized the race still had 15,000+ spots left.
  • Fill out forms carefully. When you do get through to the forms it is tempting to rush and keep hitting "submit" as quickly as you can. But take the time to review what you are typing as you type it. Today people got tripped up because finish times required a "leading zero" (i.e., 02:00 rather than 2:00). Birthdates required leading zeroes, too (i.e., 01/01/1980 rather than 1/1/1980). Inaccurate information or formats red-flag your information and slow things down even more.

You Didn't Get in - Now What?

All is not lost if you didn't get in through general registration. There are other options:
  • Charity Bibs. Many large races have charity bibs available. There are some great charities for the Army Ten-Miler.  Team Fisher House, Team USO, Wear Blue: Run to Remember, and many others. These are great causes. Some of them come with extras, too, such as training plans, shirts, a special meet-up after the race. 
  • A Local Running Store. Bibs for larger races may be available through a training program such as Potomac River Running's Distance Training Program. I got my Nike Women's Half Marathon Bib through Potomac River Running. Not only do you get a bib, but you get a customized training plan and people to run with every week during training. I highly recommend this option!
  • Bib Transfer. Many large races have a program set up for legal bib transfers. More information for ATM bib transfer is available here.
  • Volunteer. All races need volunteers! If you didn't get in, consider volunteering. Some volunteer options, like working at the expo, may get you into this year's race; some may get you into next year's race.


  1. As you know I was one of those in a panic bc the sight kept crashing on me!! It took me over an hour but I finally got in. Can't wait to do it with you and 35K of our friends. I see training runs in our future.

    1. I'm so glad you got in! Looking forward to training runs :)