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3 ways technology improves road race registration

Jen A. Miller | March 20, 2014
Like most previously paper processes, road race registration has moved online. This offers convenience to runners, but it can be a headache for unprepared race directors. Here's how three organizations handle the traffic, testing and analysis of their runner registration systems.

running, fitness, marathon, road races
Image credit: BAaAej Ayjak

Road races had more than 15.5 million finishers in the U.S. in 2012, according to RunningUSA. Sure, some of those runners mailed in registrations for those 5Ks and marathons, but most used some sort of software to secure their spots.

The technology for these registration systems have grown up around the sport. As in any other industry, races can either hire another company to run their registration process or build their own system. However they got there, they've needed mechanisms that can run smoothly on any given day, and also handle thousands of extra visitors in one shot when in-demand races open their registration doors.

Here's a look at how three companies manage that extra volume.

  • A race registration giant that handles more than 200,000 activities.
  • A running company that created open platform software and is own load testing company.
  • A 55-year-old nonprofit that developed its registration system from the ground up.

Active.com: Virtual Queuing Mitigates 'Rush' to Register

Active.com is an event sign-up giant. The company handles registration for more than half of the major road races in the U.S., according to Active.com CIO Greg Ingino; this includes the Portland (Ore.) and Pittsburgh Marathons. It has an international presence as well, serving races such as the Hong Kong Marathon, which had 73,000 runners this year. Active.com goes beyond running, too, with sign-up technology for cycling, triatahlon and other fitness events.

Not surprisingly, traffic is huge: About 5.5. million visits a month, with people searching for 200,000 activities.

Demand can be huge, too, especially for races that sell out quickly. Previously, Active.com used a combination of throttling Akamai cloud computing for content distribution and segmentation of cloud VMs to handle the sudden load of in-demand races.

Recently, though, Active.com shifted to virtual queuing. That has reduced the issues related to one of its largest challenges &mash; the "rush" to the front door, Ingino says, when a few thousand people try to sign up for the same race at the same time just as registration opens.

"We have optimized and scaled the systems, in terms of throughput, for items such as inventory or payment management," Ingino says. Active.com also tests to determine single points of failure and performance gates through cloud testing, isolated service testing/thresholds, usability testing and analytics.

Run Sign Up: Open Source Platform for the Running Community

Bob Bickel started Run Sign Up in 2010 as a blend of two of his interests: Running and technology.

"The running community is made up of tens of thousands of micro-communities - running stores, running clubs, timing services," he says. "We think that they all overlap, so we wanted to provide technology for these micro-communities."

 

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