Earlier this winter I was contemplating running the Broad Street 10 Miler in Philadelphia. I've always wanted to do a race in the City of Brotherly Love but the Philly Marathon comes too soon after the other fall races and I refuse to do the Distance Classic now that it's been taken over by the evil Competitor Group.* I knew the Broad Street Run was popular but I didn't know just how popular until February 15 when it sold out in 5 hours!
As time goes on, it seems like all large races are hitting their caps earlier and earlier. Boston is probably the prime example: the 2009 race sold out on January 26; the 2010 race sold out on November 13; and the 2011 race sold out in 8 hours and 3 minutes! As a result, BAA (the group that puts on the race) completely reconfigured registration. Similarly, while the 2011 Chicago Marathon sold out in 31 days, the 2012 edition filled up in just 6 days.
Quite a few well-known races have now switched to lottery systems to handle the increased demand. The New York City Marathon is probably the most famous example, but plenty of other big races like DC's Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, New Hampshire's Mt Washington Road Race, Atlanta's Peach Tree Road Race, and the Houston Marathon use similar systems.
When you get shut out of these races because they've filled up to fast or you don't get picked in the lottery, just use it as an excuse to find a smaller local race. I know I've talked about NYCRuns before. With their comprehensive local race calendar, you can usually find a comparable alternative race. You can also search Active.com, or check with your local running store. The other bonus about smaller races is that they are usually less expensive.
In the end, it's probably good for me that Broad Street sold out so quickly. It's only three weeks after Boston and I know I won't have recovered fully. I'll just post-pone my return to racing and save a few bucks on transportation costs too.
*Okay, calling them evil may be an exaggeration, but just like I won't shop at Walmart, I won't run a Competitor race.