How to get into the London Marathon
I’ve run around 50 marathons, including around 15 Londons, so I’m often asked how to get in.
tl; dr; / summary
There’s more than one way to get in. Here are 10 ideas from me. They aren’t all easy & get harder as you go 1-10.
(& yes 10 is a slight cheat but you get a bonus idea at the end)
The number of runners who start on the day, from all entry methods, is usually around 40,000. Sadly there are always those who have to drop out from illness or injury. However they can defer their places (see 10 below). To enter by any method, the youngest you can be is 18 on the day.
10 ways to get into the London Marathon
Most of us know about the famous London Marathon ballot. But by my calculation, there are around 10 ways to get a place in the London Marathon, just not all easy.
But they are worth a look and I hope they help you get in. I’ve got in by 5 methods (1, 2, 4, 5 and 10) before and know people who’ve got in by each of the 10 examples. I haven’t included wheelchair which is separate entry.
So here are 10 ways you can get in, starting from the easiest and getting harder:
1. The London Marathon ballot
Most people apply to get in through the ballot. Every year a new record number apply, with 457,861 entering the ballot for the 2020 London Marathon. The ballot is completely random, and around 17,000 people get in, so give it a go and don’t just assume you won’t be chosen.
If you’re not selected, there is no waiting list, so you will need to go for another option, with number 2 Charity, being the most popular.
If you’ve got a ballot place, you can still raise money for charity. You just save the charity money as they haven’t had to buy a place for you. You can still register with your charity for marathon support, race shirts and whatever else they are offering to help their marathon runners.
You can enter the ballot as UK or overseas runners. (International runners also see * below).
For 2019 the ballot was open from Monday 29 April until 17:00 on Friday 3 May 2019.
2. Charity places
Charities buy what are called ‘Golden Bond’ places from the London Marathon. There are around 15,000 available.
Because they have to pay for these guaranteed places, the charities will set a minimum fundraising amount they expect you to raise in return.
The amount varies by charity. £2,000 is fairly standard, although smaller charities may ask for less than this.
To see if a charity you’d like to run for has places, have a look here.
3. Running club places
British Athletic affiliated clubs can apply for places, although only around 1,000 are available in total.
Clubs then make their own processes for deciding who gets their 1 or 2 places. Many do a ballot and often link it to how much racing and /or volunteering for the club, members have done.
If you’re in a club, check if they’ve got places and how to get them. If you’re not in a club, this could be another reason to join.
4. Running fast – Good For Age Places
For UK residents only. It’s also worth keeping an eye on the times year on year, as they do change in line with how fast people are running.
For 2020 there are 6,000 places, split equally between men and women.
The qualifying times get slower as your age goes up.
The times you need (achieved between 1 January 2018 and 6 August 2019) to qualify for London Marathon 2020 are
Good For Age applications open 7 August 2018 and close on 16 August 2019.
There’s a great FAQ on GFA here.
5. Running faster – Championship Places
You need to be a member of an athletics club associated with British Athletics and have a championship-qualifying performance for a marathon or half marathon.
Usually the times are Men sub 1.15 half or sub 2.45 marathon; Women sub 1.30 half or sub 3.15 marathon.
Applications usually open in November and close in January.
For 2019, times were as below. 2020 times are still to be confirmed.
Keep your eye out for competitions to win places. The best places to look are the race organisers, running magazines or sponsors associated with the race eg Virgin Money or Lucozade Sport.
I usually put links to these on Art Of Your Success social media when I spot them.
7. Being linked to a sponsor
Sponsor organisations linked to the marathon have a small number of places that people working for them are eligible to apply for.
There’s probably still time to get yourself known and make it onto some kind of Celeb Z list! You’ll then get to start alongside all the ‘real’ celebs along with their better loos at the Green Start!
9. Running really fast – Elite Places
If you’re this fast, you’ll know how to enter, or maybe your agent will do it for you. But for the rest of us, we can agree that anyone running this fast deserves the fewer than 100 elite places!
It’s usually in the range of
Men Sub 2.18.00 Marathon or Sub 1.05:00 Half Marathon
Women Sub 2.38:00 Marathon or Sub 1.14:00 Half Marathon
10. Deferring your place
If you got a place through any of the methods 1-9 above and are then ill or injured, you can defer your place to the next year.
Note that it’s only the place that is carried over, and you still have to pay the entry fee again the next year. If you got your place through a charity, competition or sponsor, the place goes back to the organisation that gave it to you.
*Entry for international runners
International runners can enter via agreed tour companies for their country. You can see the approved list here.
Choosing a different marathon
If none of those methods work for you, how about a different marathon? There are lots in the UK (you can search Runner’s World events), Europe or further afield, around the same time as London, (like Boston the week before London), so you can still train and enjoy the London build up at the same time.
Good luck and don’t give up if you can’t get into London, visit another great place and London will be there for you another year.
See all my marathon training tips here
For marathon prep tips and products, have a look here
For London related cards & gifts, see here
For gifts and cards to help celebrate marathon successes, have a look here