Kelly Duggan of Westbrook has registered for the TD Beach to Beacon 10K road race five times, so she’s used to the drill.
She positioned herself at a desktop computer with her husband Mike at a laptop, credit card numbers copied to clipboards, fingers ready to fly over keyboards.
When the race website’s countdown clock reached zero at 7 a.m. Friday, the Duggans went to work … for about 30 seconds. That’s when their screens froze.
Pushing buttons didn’t help. At about 7:06, the site came back to life and Kelly hurriedly typed in her information. Ditto for Mike.
They waited, only to see a screen appear telling them entries had sold out.
“Boom, we didn’t get in,” said Duggan, 48. “I was disappointed.”
The Duggans, who got engaged at Portland Head Light, weren’t alone. Plenty of other would-be registrants were frustrated by technical problems a day after race organizers said they resolved glitches that surfaced during Thursday’s smaller registration of 611 Cape Elizabeth residents.
— Meredith (@missbumptious) March 10, 2017
Enough runners were able to make it through the process Friday that 4,000 available bibs were taken in 10 minutes, 42 seconds – nearly three times as long as it took last year to fill. The fastest registrant in 2016 took 39 seconds. On Friday, that ballooned to 2:39.
“The whole registration process,” Duggan said, “seemed a little different in the past.”
This year’s race, scheduled for Aug. 5 in Cape Elizabeth, is the 20th anniversary of the event hosted by Olympic marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson on the streets of her hometown.
Runners who failed to navigate the system Friday still have a chance through a lottery process that includes a non-refundable $5 charge and will allocate an additional 1,950 bibs. Friday night, race organizers issued a statement apologizing for the snafus and promising to refund the $5 processing fee for any individual who had entered the lottery before noon.
“To all our loyal participants, we would like to again apologize that registration for the 2017 race did not go smoothly,” read the statement. “Technical issues impacted the registration process and we are diligently working with RacePartner, who handles race registration, to understand fully what happened and how we can ensure this does not occur again.”
— Jen (@RunningWTG) March 10, 2017
The previous four years of general registration for 4,000 available bibs each took less than five minutes to fill, so Duggan knew she had to be quick.
“If I didn’t get in because I wasn’t fast enough and it sold out in three minutes, that’s one thing,” she said. “But not getting in because of a technical issue isn’t as fair.”
On Thursday night, race organizers posted a reminder about Friday’s open registration, advising runners to be at the website early, watch the countdown clock and let their fingers do the rest. “The system is glitch free and ready for the masses in the morning,” said the post. “Good luck to everyone.”
When problems surfaced, race spokesman Jason Wolfe said initial traffic to the site was more than double that of previous years, “which slowed everything down at the outset until our registration partner was able to respond. This is also the first year that registration was optimized for mobile devices, so that might have played a role.”
As of Friday night, it remained unclear whether Thursday’s problem with a server – identified and supposedly corrected after Cape Elizabeth residents encountered frozen screens and stressful delays – had resurfaced. According to data provided by the race, there were 192,000 page views between 7 and 8 a.m. Friday, more than triple the amount (53,000) in the same time frame from 2016.
In two minutes after registration opened Friday, there were 57,000 page views, and by 7:30 a.m. the number of lottery entrants was 40 percent higher than at the same time in 2016.
When the race started in 1998, all registrations were done on paper. Eventually a hybrid system developed until 2008, when paper registrations were discontinued and the field filled in 25 hours after having taken 10 days the year before.
There were problems with the registration website in 2009, when runners snapped up 6,000 bibs in an hour and 45 minutes. For 2010, organizers put in place a three-phase registration process allotting a certain number of entries to Cape Elizabeth residents (600), the general public on a first-come/first-served basis (4,000), and a week-long lottery ending in a drawing for an additional 1,500 (since raised to 1,950) runners.
“We’ve tried to make it as fair as we possibly can to as many runners as we possibly can,” Samuelson said at the time.
Race director Dave McGillivray likened the process to squeezing a basketball through a garden hose. The company that handles online registration, RacePartner (previously known as Forte Interactive) is based in West Palm Beach, Florida.
“Every day of registration, you’ll see a lot of negative comments from people,” Tim Boyden, 34, of South Portland said of the Beacon to Beacon Facebook page. “I think they could do more work to identify what could be causing these delays and glitches.”
Boyden said he wasn’t fast enough last year, but surprisingly got in this year even though it took him “at least 10 or 12 minutes to get through the entire registration process.”
This year would have been the eighth straight for Beth Stees, 54, of Falmouth. She tried without success to register Friday, switching to her phone when her computer failed to respond and going so far as inputting her information before being denied.
Not until she got to work did she realize she had plenty of company.
“I saw there were oodles of people’s comments, how they were frustrated and discouraged by it,” she said. “I know years ago there were problems with the website freezing up and crashing, but those seem to have been remedied.”
Colby Green, 37, of Cumberland had two devices going Friday, managed to input all her information by 7:08, proceeded to the final page of registration, then was told her division was full. She wound up paying $5 to enter the lottery.
“I just feel like Beach to Beacon has such a high standard,” she said. “Everything is first class. The race is first class. Packet pickup is first class. My child has done the kids’ race and that’s first class. There’s a standard, and (Friday) morning was not up to the Beach to Beacon standard.”
Race organizers said they are continuing to address additional remedies and “will provide updates as solutions are identified and decisions are made. Thank you for your understanding.”
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or: