2014-03-28 / Front Page

Beach to Beacon registration a race of its own

By Sean P. Milligan
Contributing Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH – On March 14 thousands of people from across the globe waited with eyes glued to their computer screens, anticipating the start of open registration for the 17th annual Beach to Beacon road race. At 7 a.m. Eastern Standard Time the icon came up on the race home page, welcoming the bombardment of wouldbe runners trying to finish their application before 4,000 others.

With so many people on one site, inserting their information at a rapid pace, some may wonder how the website doesn’t crash. Rob Anderson and the team at RacePartner have spent the past seven years improving on past year’s processes.

“Preparation is the key,” Anderson said. “It’s a luxury to know what’s going to happen.”

According to Anderson, the staff at RacePartner work tirelessly to meet the demanding criteria he sets for the project.

Simulated loads are run against the server to ensure that the web traffic is handled properly. In the event that servers do crash due to unforeseen circumstances, there are contingency plans in place as a safety net.

Beach to Beacon is unique for a race of its size. Most events of similar proportions have opted for lottery-only entry, which alleviates the heavy influx of visitors to the event’s site.

“There are a number of events around the country that deal with these flash mob scenarios,” Anderson said. “What is different about Beach to Beacon is most other events have gone straight to a lottery, so there’s no such thing as a guaranteed entry anymore.”

After the 4,000 slots are filled, would-be participants still filling out their applications or waiting in the queue are informed that registration is full and they are guided to the lottery form. This year those slots were filled in four minutes and 32 seconds, beating last year’s record by 16 seconds. The first person to finish a form took only 54 seconds.

“If you don’t fill out everything you get a red warning and you have to go back and say, ‘What’d I miss?’” said John Roper, a Scarborough resident who has run the Beach to Beacon eight times. “The clock’s ticking, so it’s a race within itself.”

Roper will be one of thousands hoping to score one of the 1,900 lottery spots. In all, there will be roughly 7,000 runners in Cape Elizabeth Saturday, Aug. 2 with 800 volunteers and what race President Mike Stone estimates will be 10,000 people at Fort Williams alone. Stone says that despite the increased demand the organization isn’t ready to add capacity for more participants.

“One of the things we look at each year is growing the field,” Stone said. “But there’s a couple things that we have to take into consideration: safety for the runners and to provide a good experience for the runners and for the spectators, as well.”

The race is capped at 6,500 registered participants plus another potential 800 charity runners and “elite athletes” from around the world that are recruited to participate.

Despite being president, Stone and everyone else from the board and organizing committee aren’t exempt from the stressful registration process.

“I thought it was very seamless,” Stone said. “It took me 90 seconds at the most to go through.”

Maine’s largest road race will begin at 8 a.m. with hundreds lining the raceway. Despite not being able to increase the number of runners, for the first time Beach to Beacon will offer a bike valet for those who would like to travel to the race without the burden of a vehicle.

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