"Have you ever had a race where after months or even years of training, eating right, listening to your coaches, investing in new gear, it went badly?" That's the first line of a public apology Active.com issued yesterday to thousands of runners who were frustrated by technical problems on its site while trying to register for the über-popular Marine Corps Marathon.
Registration for this year's marathon, scheduled for October 27, opened at noon last Wednesday (March 27) and immediately Active's registraton site was overwhelmed by the flood of traffic. Runners repeatedly received error messages, were kicked out of the registration process or were otherwise stymied in their registration attempts.
That wouldn't be a big deal for most marathons. The website crashes, you fix it and registration moves on. But the Marine Corps Marathon is famous, both for its competitive registration process (it's almost more competitive than the race itself) and its top-notch treatment of its competitors. Last year, it set a record-breaking pace during the registration process, selling out all 30,000 slots in just two hours and 41 minutes (a good marathon time, come to think of it). Many people take time off and plan whole vacations around the scenic Washington, DC race.
In the end, this year's race sold out in two hours and 27 minutes, setting a new record for major marathons and dashing the hopes of thousands of runners who, thanks to Active's tech problems, will never toe the line.
To make up for its mistake, Active is donating all of its fees from the race—$75,000—to the Wounded Warrior Project and the Semper Fi Fund, two charities that "have specific programs that support our military on the road to creating an active life through the sport of running," according to the public apology. That's good news for these worthy causes, bad news for runners who will miss the race and probably the worst news for the techie responsible for the flub who's now back on the job market. Ouch.
Click here for the full text of Active's apology.