Agree 100% with the race marketplace comments. Letting the market/consumer demand dictate availability has its limitations. What about niche runners (and let's face it, competitive runners are becoming niche runners in the current running community) who don't want what the masses want? As Magill pointed out, all I'm looking for is an inexpensive race that is accurately measured, accurately timed and with accurate results. I don't even ask for chip timing, even though one would instinctively think this is the best way to get accurate timing and results. I've seen some chip timed events massively screw up timing and results, while I've seen some very large events without the expensive add-on handle timing and results in a very accurate and efficient manner. It's getting amazingly harder to find these simple basics at times among all the street-party-masquerading-as-a-race events that are popping up. There are still great races out there but they are getting crowded out by the sheer volume of less than great events.
As for the national anthem, again, similar thoughts to yours. I'm in no way opposed to it but it's not necessary at every “burning stump invite” (to borrow a former coach's term) and can sometimes create an uncomfortable situation for someone who is caught in middle of something such as a stride or a stretch when it is started, usually with no warning.