Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How I Won the Lottery

I've been asked several times how I won the Kona Lottery. If you're not familiar with the system this might sound like an odd question. And while no single person understands the mystical nature of how Kona participants are selected, I'll give my beliefs.

Each year, approximately 1800 people compete at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. About 1400 of those earn a slot by going really fast at some other Ironman event earlier in the year. It varies from race to race, but it's basically the top 5 finishers in each division.

200 slots are available through the lottery. (There is some other silliness that goes on within that group, but it's a random drawing of 200 people.) As part of the entry form, you have to answer questions about your past race experience, hobbies, interests, life accomplishments, etc. Oh and you have to pay a non-refundable fee of $40. It's quite the scam, but since I'm in on the scam I'm not complaining.

Now here's where it gets fuzzy. We still need another 200 racers or so. Many of these slots go to the event sponsors. If you go golfing with Alan Mulally (CEO of Ford, and yes I had to look it up) then you can get a slot. NBC Sports hands out slots to people; Lance Armstrong says he wants to do the race in 2011 and if you think he has to worry about earning his entry then I have a bridge to sell you.

I believe that the race directors and NBC also go through the lottery entrants looking for interesting people to put into the race. Maybe they never had a racer from Zimbabwe, so he'll get in. There's the single mother of 4 with leukemia; give her a spot. Throw a few Marines in there. They have 200 slots to play with to make the race diverse, interesting, and TV-friendly.

So the big question is, did I just get lucky and have my name selected randomly? Or did somebody see something in my answers that made me stand out? I will never know. I mentioned this blog in my entry, so maybe a screener took a quick look at the site and liked what they saw. But I am proud of one of my answers, and maybe that's what caught someone's eye. They ask you to list "Significant Personal Achievements". I don't remember exactly what I wrote, but it went something like this:

"I think I'm still waiting to make my mark on the world. But if I win the Ironman Lottery, and cross that finish line in Kona, then that moment will become my Greatest Personal Achievement."

I think my answer captures what Ironman means to many people, and someone could have said "wow, this guy is laying it on thick. Aw, let's throw him a bone." Or it could have been luck of the draw.

I don't know why I was selected. But since people have been asking, that's what I put on my entry form.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the "human interest" story people you see on the NBC coverage still have to fulfill the "do at least one half Ironman race within the last year" requirement...

10:23 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

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3:09 AM  

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