I’m sure I’m not alone, mention you’ve run a marathon – especially to non runners, and they instantly say ‘Ooh you’ll be running the London marathon next”.

A marathon is 26.219 miles (42.195 kilometres) – regardless of what city it is run in, yet London seems to be the only one that people associate with.

There is no denying it is a huge sporting event, and I would love to be part of it – but unless you are super speedy or prepared to raise thousands for charity it is very hard to get a place.

How it works

The marathon takes place in April each year. Shortly after the event the ballots open for you to apply for a place in next years run. The ballot stays open for ONE WEEK.

The ballot used to close once they had received 125,00 entries, but in order to make it fairer they extended the opening window. While it does mean more people can enter, this significantly reduces your odds of getting a place.

In 2016, 247,069 people entered the ballot – 36,000 people start the race. They do over subscribe the event to allow for injuries and people dropping out.

So, let’s look at the figures

  • Around 15,000 of the 36,000 places are charity places, the registration fee is usually £50-£100 and you are required to raise in average around a minimum of £2,000, some charities have a selection process for this too so it doesn’t necessarily mean a guaranteed place.
  • Good for Age entries take up around 5,000 spots on the start line. I fall into the 18-40 category and would need to run another marathon at sub 3.45 to gain entry this way. My PB is 4.29.16…
  • Championship entries – running a sub 2:45 marathon (men) or sub 3:15 (women) take a further 1,000 places.
  • British Athletics Clubs get 1,000 entries.
  • There are also 100 elite entries and 100 celebrity entries

This leaves around quarter of a million people fighting for the 13,800 remaining places. If my maths are correct about a 1 in 18 chance.

It’s a waiting game

Once you’ve typed in your details and paid your entry fee (optional), you then have to wait until October to find out if you have secured a place. They let you know by posting out a magazine with different covers, either ‘you’re in‘ or ‘sorry‘.

Not every ‘no’ gets a magazine, again this is chosen at random and 50% get notified by email. If you’ve pre-paid your fee and don’t get in you are not refunded, it is donated to charity.

So, in answer to the question:

Yes, I’d love to take part in the London marathon, and yes, I’ve entered the 2017 ballot. I will keep entering and if I’m lucky I’ll run it before I’m 40.  I probably have more chance of becoming famous and gaining a celeb entry than I do of getting a place through the ballot.

On the other hand there are lots of other great marathons across the UK which are just as good and have a much easier entry process.

Roll on October – maybe this year I’ll be promoted to a rejection magazine rather than an email!