While you’re enjoying the Presidents’ Day holiday, the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department will be hard at work, conducting their first-ever Blue Cross Broad Street Run lottery.
The lottery was introduced this year as the fairest way to determine the 40,000 lucky athletes who will line up on Sunday, May 5 for a 10-mile run down Philadelphia’s main thoroughfare.
Jim Marino has been the race director since 1998. “The race has grown tremendously since we added Blue Cross as our title sponsor,” he says, “Our best advertisement is word of mouth from our runners.”
Marino attributes the latest surge in popularity to the increased number of women participating in the event. “We’re now the sixth-largest road race in the country. The race has seen steady growth to the point that we’ve had to cap the number of people who can enter.”
How will it work?
Of course, the word ‘lottery’ conjures thoughts of buying a ticket for a one-in-a-million chance at a huge jackpot. The Broad Street Run system couldn’t be any more different. “We really weren’t sure how many people were interested in the Broad Street Run,” admits Marino.
But by looking at the number of lottery entrants, they’ll have a better idea. In 2012, 40,000 runners registered for the race, culminating in a ‘last-chance’ lottery with 9,000 entrants—but only 2,500 available spots.
“So at minimum, we know there were 6,500 people last year who didn’t get into the race,” says Marino.
To avoid overloading the registration system, those with last names ending with letters A-E were asked to register by February 6, last names F-K asked to register by February 8 and so on. But in reality, registration has been open to all participants since February 4. “We just wanted to spread it out to avoid overwhelming the system—which happened last year,” clarifies Marino. "We weren’t restricting anyone from registering at any point.”
Registration for the Blue Cross Broad Street Run is $40—but participants aren’t charged until the lottery is complete. Those not selected for a spot will not be charged.
The new system gives everyone a fair chance, provided they signed up before Friday’s 11:59 PM deadline. Like a typical lottery, ‘winners’ are chosen completely at random. But that’s where the similarities stop. The Broad Street Run lottery will have many more winners.
At first glance, the system seems almost too simple. Everyone signs up and 40,000 names are selected. Of course, it’s not quite that easy. Certain individuals and groups are pre-guaranteed entry to the race before the lottery can begin. They include:
- Any runners designated as raising money for the four charities who are partners of the race. These include the American Cancer Society, Students Run Philly Style, the Fairmount Park Conservancy, and Back on my Feet. “Those four organizations were given race bibs to raise money for their causes—they are guaranteed entry,” states Marino. He estimates 2,500 runners will participate as representatives of these charities.
- Anyone who deferred entry last year—approximately 1,600 runners—are guaranteed a spot in this year’s event.
- Finally, any ten-year veterans who are not selected via the lottery (and they must register for the lottery to be considered) can apply for entry by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Additionally, sponsors receive entries as part of their package, so when all is said and done there will be about 35,000 spots available in today’s lottery. But the majority of participants in this lottery will be ‘lucky winners.’
“Based on the entries we’ve received, I would say about 80 percent of people who registered are going to get into the race,” said Marino.
He clarified that the lottery is ‘pure’—no provisions will be taken to ensure an equal number of males and females, nor will an even distribution among age groups be forced. “Luck of the draw,” says Marino. “We’re not going to classify anything.”
Selections will be made today, and the lucky entrants will be announced via the event’s website www.broadstreetrun.com around 10 a.m. tomorrow morning. May the odds be with you!
2/19 UPDATE: If you didn't get a spot from the lottery, enter our contest to win 1 of 5 bibs before 12:00 a.m. March 1.