The Beach to Beacon 10k is a great destination race, especially for a race of such a short distance. A world class field combined with a scenic (and fun) course in Southern Maine serve to provide a great experience for anybody wanting to vacation in the area.

The race is very popular, selling out last year in about 24 hours and this year in about 110 minutes despite allowing a field that is 9% larger than last year.

As great as this race is, though, I think that there are some definite areas for improvement.

Find a New Provider for Registration

The registration process has been atrocious the past 2 years. Now that online registration is mandatory and there is no longer a paper option, the race committee really needs to look into finding a new solution than the company that they currently are using. Their website basically grinds to a halt with a few hundred to a thousand people hitting it at one time, which in the grand scheme of things is not really all that much traffic and a merchant provider should easily be able to handle it.

Not only are their frequent timeouts, but the site would often just show you a blank white page rather than an error message. If you refresh the page, then you might get an error message or you might not. After processing my credit card, I got the white page and tried to submit my info again. I was told that duplicate information was submitted, so despite not getting a confirmation I assumed that I had gotten in. When the list of entrants was announced, however, my name was not there.

Incorrect error messages are even worse than no error messages.

The company that they are using is Forte Interactive. Not only are they not capable of handling the registration process accurately or with anything other than a frustrating user experience, but they also charge higher than average registration fees. With the local ties that the Beach to Beacon has to the local Maine community, I don’t understand why they continue to send their registration business to Florida for a 2nd year in a row after having had the same problems the previous year.

Change the Registration Time

Registration for the race is always on March 15th. While I personally see no reason for registration to be held 4½ months before the race when they know it is going to be at or near max capacity anyway, I understand that that is not going to change and have no problem with that.

However, there is no reason for registration to have begun at noon. In years past, registration began at 9:00 am. This year, with registration falling on a Sunday, the noon start to registration coincided with a popular local race’s starting time which seems rude to me. Given that registration filled in less than 2 hours, my guess is that very few people who ran in that race had an opportunity to try to register themselves.

Allow Cape Elizabeth Residents to Register Early

Residents of Cape Elizabeth, where the race is held, have to deal with their town shutting down for a day and a half for the race and have a month of runners training on some narrow and windy roads throughout July.

For people with a mailing and billing address in Cape Elizabeth, there should be an early registration option to allow them to compete in their home town race without having to deal with all of the frustrations created by the registration process.

Allow Streakers to Register Early

If somebody has run all of the Beach to Beacon races, they should have the opportunity to register early so that they can keep their streak alive. They supported the race year in and year out and every year the number of eligible folks will decrease.

They should also have the opportunity to register early.

(This suggestion provided by Jeanne Hackett.)

Allow the Transfer of Registrations

I recognize that it can be a bit of an administrative hassle to transfer registrations, but for a popular race that sells out half a year in advance it should be allowed. The only real reason that I can think of for not allowing the transfer of registrations is so that come race day there won’t be a full-capacity crowd.

To relieve the administrative hassle, don’t allow any registration transfers after a week before the race. Because packets and bibs are printed ahead of time and are personalized, there may need to be more of a lead time so in allow them up until a month before or however long it takes for bibs to be printed.

To relieve the cost of updating the paperwork, charge a fee ($10 would be reasonable and is almost 30% of the registrations fee) and automate the process through the website so that all you need to do is run off a report to send it to the printers. You could also provide a no-charge method for turning a race number in which would allow people on a waiting list to register for full cost.

This not only would raise additional revenue, but would also allow people that did not get into the race an opportunity to replace those who can’t race because of injuries or other reasons.

(This suggestion provided by Martha Lippa.)

Mark Shore Road at both ends throughout July

Runners frequently train on Shore Road in the month before the race, which can give them a huge edge over people experiencing the course for the first time on race day.

Unfortunately, Shore Road consists of non-existent shoulders on twisty, hilly, narrow road where traffic tends to go a bit faster than it should. It’s a beautiful and scenic road to run on during the race, when the road is closed to traffic, but it can be dangerous the rest of the year.

Given the number of people that do train there through July, it makes sense to post a sign for the drivers to ignore that says something along the lines of “Caution » Watch For Runners” so that there’s at least a chance that they might be aware that they’ll be sharing the road with up to a few dozen runners through that 2 mile stretch.

(This suggestion provided by Pete Peters.)

Packet Pickup Should Be Moved to Portland

I fully recognize that this will never happen.

I mention it anyways, because Cape Elizabeth is not designed to handle the amount of traffic that has to go through the town in the days before the race, which leads to gridlock and stressed out drivers trying to get to Cape Elizabeth from the surrounding area.

Parking at the high school is also in relatively short supply, especially during and after rush hour. Getting out of the high school and back onto Route 77 to get back into town is also very frustrating.

Portland is much better situated to handle the traffic and there are plenty of options for places that could be hired out to hold the expo and packet pick up. Even South Portland would be more convenient and provide less of an impact than Cape Elizabeth High School.

Extra Shuttle Locations outside of Cape Elizabeth

Right now, very few people other than press and race organizers can park at the finish line. There are shuttles from Cape Elizabeth High School and from a few empty fields that are relatively close to the starting line where people can park.

The problem is that there are too many cars for these locations, and the commuting situation is no better on race morning than it is in the 2 days leading up to the race. There should be at least a few shuttles provided from Portland and from South Portland to reduce the number of cars that need to get into Cape Elizabeth in the first place and help relieve some of the pressure of getting to the race on time and finding somewhere to put your vehicle.

Well Worth Running

The Beach to Beacon is well worth running. The race itself is very well run and there are a lot of amenities for the runners. If you can get into the race, then I highly recommend it.

The only real problems that I see are with registration and packet pickup, with their being room for improvement for race day parking.

Have you run the Beach to Beacon before? Do you see any other areas for improvement that I have missed?

Leave a comment below letting me know what you think.