Although I had it marked in my calendar that registration for the 2011 Boston Marathon was opening on Monday, I didn’t make a big deal about it and get up at six am to register. In fact, I forgot all about it until after I got to work. Around nine, I saw a Facebook link reminding me to go register. I followed the link to the page, entered my information — it was pretty easy — hit “yes” on two more pages of waiver-type stuff, then clicked the final “submit” button. I immediately had some little finger spasm and clicked it again. The two clicks were less than a second apart.
This made the site unhappy, I guess, because I started getting error messages. I tried hitting the back button and resubmitting the forms, but it wasn’t going well. After about 30 seconds of this, though, I got the email that said my entry had been received and gave me my all-important Submission ID Number for use should anything go wrong.
So, I was registered. The only problem I had experienced seemed to be self-inflicted. I was impressed how smoothly the registration web site had worked.
My case was unusual.
Everybody who did get up at six, it seems, got stuck in registration hell. They’d enter all their info, press the button to go to the next page, and immediately be staring at the same form, blank again. People were having to try ten, twenty, or thirty times before the overloaded site worked. Many people tried for a long while, then gave up to go to work, planning on trying again when they got home. After all, last year Boston took about six weeks to fill up. Shouldn’t have been a problem.
A few hours later, apparently (and just shortly before I registered), the marathon web site was modified. The entire http://www.baa.org site was now dedicated solely to the registration pages. More confusingly, but there were now two different URLs to get to the registration site. Although they both led to identical-looking pages, one URL worked well, and one still failed most of the time. I fortunately found myself at the “good” URL. Facebook pages and running forums also started to point people to the working site.
With the crowds now able to register quickly, the 2011 Boston Marathon filled up in eight hours and three minutes. By the time the unlucky people without web access at work got home for the evening, it was too late.
Online, there are a lot of angry people. I can’t blame them. There’s also a lot of speculation about what kind of changes the B.A.A. might make to try to avoid this in the future. Many people think they may tighten the qualifying standards.