By Philip Hersh, Tribune reporter
8:34 PM CST, March 5, 2014
For the second year in a row, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon has issues with its online registration system.
Race organizers announced on the marathon's website and via Twitter that registration has been postponed two weeks. It was supposed to begin Wednesday but now is to start March 19 at noon.
In an email Wednesday afternoon, race director Carey Pinkowski said “the postponement is 100 (percent) precautionary.”
Translation: Even with a year to fix what went wrong in 2013, race organizers still were not 100 percent sure they could avoid problems on the date registration was to open.
Last February, the online registration system crashed within minutes of opening, ran intermittently for a while and was shut down by the embarrassing snafu about four hours later. That meant returning money to people who inadvertently had registered twice and frustration for thousands of others.
Nearly two weeks later, race organizers turned to an online lottery to fill the remaining 15,000 places in the 45,000-runner field.
The current problems led race organizers to say on the website they were trying to “ensure a seamless registration experience,” which no longer is possible given the 11th-hour delay.
Pinkowski provided further explanation in his email.
“We are debuting an entirely new registration process this year,” he wrote. “Our final testing and rollout of that process has unfortunately taken longer than anticipated. The postponement is 100 (percent) precautionary.
“The 2014 registration design and process has flexibility. We built a four-week window for registration (and) now we will have a two-week window. I'm sure you can appreciate that we want this process to work flawlessly. Being very thorough. Just needed more time.”
In a phone conversation later Wednesday, Pinkowski reiterated the points in the email, apologized for the delay and said he understood the problems create negative publicity for the race's title sponsor, Bank of America.
He said the bank was not involved in the registration technology.
“This isn't a Bank of America function, this is an event-specific function,” Pinkowski said. “The Bank of America is a great sponsor, and they have believed in me and my staff.
“We want to make sure that this is right. As the title sponsor, they support our decision (to postpone). If this isn't a flawless process, they would be more disappointed.”
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