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What Gary Robbins thinks of race lotteries

Why Gary Robbins thinks race lotteries are one of the worst aspects of trail and ultrarunning

‘Tis the season for ultrarunning race lotteries. But to register for the Squamish 50, it’s the season of high speed internet. Last week, the Squamish 50K sold out in two minutes. Last year, the same race sold out in around 15 minutes. Rumours have it that registration for the Squamish 50 will transition to a lottery system next year. But race directors Gary Robbins and Geoff Langford believe race registration should remain as is. And they will continue to say no to lotteries.

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Photo: Brian McCurdy


The Squamish 50 weekend includes the Squamish 50 mile, 50K, 23K, and the 50/50 (50 mile and 50K back to back). The 50 mile and 50/50 events took a bit longer to sell out this year, since Robbins and Langford increased the amount of runners allowed to enter. In 2019, the event accepted 1,300 runners. For 2020, 1,450 runners will be running either the 50 mile or 50/50. The Squamish 50 team is excited, and Robbins says, “we have 775 people sign up to run 50 miles on Saturday!”


The Squamish 50K versus the internet

Registering for both the 2019 and the 2020 Squamish 50 was a blitz. Even though the 2020 Squamish 50K sold out in two minutes, last year was just as frantic. On the back end of things, “it showed sold out after six minutes because some people had multiple browsers open and held a second spot in registration. We were able to prevent that from happening this year with some back end work on Race Roster’s end.” Robbins explains.

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The million dollar lottery question

In the ultrarunning world, it seems as though every race director and their uncle are moving toward a lottery system. For Robbins and Langford, they will keep it status quo for the foreseeable future. Robbins says that the Squamish 50 is, “not going to lottery. If you volunteer for the Squamish 50, you get early entry for the following year. Many runners from around the world will choose to run one day and volunteer the next, so that they are not subject to the 7:00 a.m. madness. Anyone online at 7:00 a.m. still had a full 120 seconds to get into the race.”

“Lotteries are one of the worst aspects of our sport. Yes, I get that some events such as Western States and Hardrock absolutely need to have lotteries, but far too many races seem to perceive going to a lottery as some sort of achievement. I do not share that sentiment and will resist a race lottery until we are (hopefully never) absolutely forced to do so. Definitely no lottery for 2020.” Robbins states.

RELATED: Think you’ll never get into Hardrock? Think again


Bigger goals

The Squamish 50 team is staying true to their roots, and has more than enough reasons to do so. The registration process has a perk in itself. “We already raised over $22,000 for trails, via race day registration alone, a new record. After our orientation run donations and further efforts, we may well top $30,000 for Squamish trails for the very first time.”

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