This Wednesday, the 22nd, is sure to be a big day for the New York Road Runners website, as it’s the day that registration for the Brooklyn Half-Marathon opens. In a NYRR email I got, the organization warned that the race is sure to sell out in a matter of hours (as it’s done in the past), so if you want to register, you’d better be ready.
I’d really like to run the Brooklyn Half this year, but it makes me really anxious when a race gets so big that you have to set an alarm to remind you to register the minute it opens or risk losing your opportunity to get a spot. For one thing, it turns the simple process of registering for a race into a stressful ordeal, and for another, I feel like it plays right into this endless cycle in which the race gets popular, then gets hyped up because it gets close to selling out, and then gets more popular because it sells out so quickly, and on and on. The organizers expand the field so that more runners can have a chance to run, and then you end up with a race that’s bigger than it can really afford to be, and because it’s become something of a monster, it just keeps growing and growing. Between the NYC Half and the Marathon, NYRR’s got enough high-profile, lottery-only events. If the Brooklyn hype train keeps up, is it headed for the same destiny?
When I first started running NYRR races, which was probably back around 2008 or 2009, the Brooklyn Half was one of the five races in the 5-Borough Half-Marathon Series. As the name suggests, there was a half-marathon in each of the five boroughs that collectively make up New York City. I ran the one in Manhattan, the one in Brooklyn, and the one in the Bronx. If you ran four out of five in one year, you got something, and if you ran all five, you got something else. For a while I wanted to run all five, and then I came back to planet Earth and admitted to myself that if I was being honest, I just wasn’t going to get up at the crack of dawn to take public transportation to Staten Island, run a half-marathon, and then take public transportation back home. As the kids say, eff that ess.
At any rate, over the years the races in the series, and the nature of the series itself, have changed. The Manhattan race is now the NYC Half, which uses a qualification and lottery system instead of open registration, and the only other half is the one in Brooklyn. It’s kind of sad, because it used to be that if you wanted to run a half-marathon in NYC, you could always find one pretty easily because of the 5-Borough series. Now, they’re just kind of races like all the others, a 10k here and another unremarkable distance there, E-I-E-I-O. Also weird is the fact that of the five races, people only really talk about two: the BK half and the NYC half (which really no one talked about when it was the Manhattan Half, a different race with an entirely different course that now also has a different name).
And what I want to know is WHY? Why is it that the Brooklyn Half took off while the others languished? Is it because there was that one year where they didn’t open registration for a long time because they were having problems finalizing the course or something, so everyone started thinking there was something really exclusive and important about the race and they would be like members of a special club if they managed to get in? Why is it that Brooklyn has now gotten so popular that it’s become an Event that has its own Pre-Party? When did it turn into a Thing? And will it ever not be a Thing?
All I’m saying is that I want to run a $55 half-marathon in May that starts like half a mile from my house without having to worry about whether I will be able to register or not. So, if everyone could just make sure to leave a spot for me, that would be great.