London Marathon Starting Pens

can you change pens on the day my brother in law and i want to run together but are in different colour starts


  • If it were just pens, you could probably just both start in whichever has the higher pen number.

    However, if you're at different starts, they are in different locations, and they are rather strict about swapping.

    You could arrange to meet up at the point where to routes join up, around mile three?

  • Thought I'd drag up an old thread with a relevant title than add another...

    When I estimated my time for the VLM, I consercitively put 4:30. I'm now thinking 3:59 might be possible. I know you can't move up pens and whatever you estimated (a year in advance!) is what your stuck with - but I just wondering given the number of entrants / congestion - is it possible / realistic to still finish sub 4 hours starting from the 4:30 pen? Just wondering because if the general concensous is no, then it seems a bit pointless trying and I'll just enjoy the experience and maybe look at entering another marathon to get a certain time.

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    One of my friends got a 2.59 from the 4 hr pen. So it's not impossible.
  • Yeah I did 3.43 or something from pen 6 - I'd put down 5 hours as I hadn't any idea how long it would take me.
  • Fair enough. I think I'll give it a go then. I know this is a bit of a difficult one to measure, but how difficult is it to overtake in terms of congestion at the start? Are you very likely to end up doing 10 minute miles at the start as you have no choice or with a bit of ducking and weaving, is it possible to get near to whatever pace you want? I've done Cardiff and Bristol HM's which have 15,000+ entrants so as there's different starts for London I'm thinking it'd be about the same?

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    The first 3 or so miles may be a bit slower eg 10 min miles but just go with it. Don't waste energy nipping in and out and overtaking.

    Once the field spreads out you can then up the pace and make your way through.
  • PhilPubPhilPub ✭✭✭
    legend777 wrote (see)

    I know you can't move up pens and whatever you estimated (a year in advance!) is what your stuck with

    That's not strictly true.  You can always try to blag a pen upgrade at the Expo, but they'll be more persuadable if you've got some evidence to back you up, e.g. race times.  I got upgraded from pen 4 to pen 2 when I decided I was closer to 3:00 pace than 3:30.  This was after showing them race times for a 10 mile and half marathon races over the previous few weeks.  Give it a go, they can only say no!

  • Legend, are you at the red or blue start? 

    I was at the blue start last year and there didn't seem to be any actual pens as such, just boards with numbers or something on so it seemed like you could start where you liked.  Admittedly I started right at the back as I was injured and didn't want to get in the way of everyone, and it may be a lot stricter at the front.  There are a hell of a lot less people at the blue start so you would also get a faster pace for the first three miles image


  • Last year my friend and I changed pens by nipping through a gap in the barriers, no one noticed. 

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    Really? Had they placed you too far back?

    They were being really strict where I was double checking the number on your bib before letting anyone in. There were also no areas to nip in.
  • There was a hole in the metal barrier. We only moved a couple of pens up.

  • and did  you then finish in the time  appropriate to your new starting penimage

  • Yes, we did. We were trying to get with the R/W pacers we wanted to run with. When you go in the ballot having not run a marathon, it is difficult to predict a finishing time. I'm sure many peoples times change drastically from what they predict.

  • When I ran the VLM it was chaos trying to get into pens and no one checked whether we were in the right one.  I ended up way back but it was almost better as the bottlenecks seemed to have passed when I got past the start line.

  • I was in a similar situation in last year's VLM where I'd put down an estimated time of 4:10. After a solid year of committed training, I managed to bring my spring half marathon time down to 1:37 so a 3:30 marathon was realistically on the cards. My pleas to be promoted up to an earlier pen fell on deaf ears both in the lead up and also at the expo.

    I was shoved into pen 8 out of 9 with most people looking to run nearer 4:30, so I knew I had a lot of work to do in the early stages. It was like running a gauntlet where I struggled to maintain a constant pace, slowing and speeding up to squeeze through gaps etc. Following the blue line was completely out of the question until Canary Wharf where people started dropping like flies around me.

    Sadly from about mile 21 onwards, I started to run out of steam due to my earlier struggles. I eventually crossed the line in 3:52. A friend of mine had been shoved into pen 9 and managed to beat my chip time by about a minute going through a similar experience.

    Long and short of it is it's possible to a run a decent time even if you've been placed too far back. Don't fight the crowds early on and go with them. When it thins out, that's when you should make your move and try to hit target race pace. Don't needlessly waste mental and physical energy speeding up and stressing out about the slower runners around you during the early stages.

  • secret to London now is not to worry about the pens or early pace just go steady. Its overcrowded till about mile 17. Stay in good nick then assess it from then. Worry about a pb somewhere else. London Marathon is a charity fun run.


  • Is there a way to find out what pen I'll be in? I can't remember what I put as my estimated time. My number is on the acceptance form. Does that relate to pen number? 

  • I don't think you find out until you get your pack about a month before the race.  Did you get in through the ballot?

  • Numbers don't bear any relevance to start pen. You only get the pen number when you collect your race number at the expo.
  • Thanks both. Yes, I got a ballot spot (second year of trying, I'm a lucky woman!). 
    My number seems scarily low - I thought maybe I'd somehow ended up with the Elites and Celebs image

    I should really be obsessing about my half marathon this Sunday than London next Spring image

  • You'll be on the blue start then.  I think all the blue numbers are low, I've had a ballot place twice and my numbers have been low, think it's just how they pick them.  Really at the blue start you can just start where you like, there are just poles up that say where the 'pens' are, it's a much smaller start than the red one, I've always started at the back of the blue start and it took about 20 minutes to get to the start line.  I had to walk the first time I did it because of a bad injury and by the time I got to mile three where the red and blue starts join there were about 2 others from the blue start with me but they were still streaming out of the red bit, reckon it must take ages to cross the line if you are at the back of the red start!

  • Red start does take a little longer, this year I started in the last pen,out of choice,and it took me about 40 mins to reach the start line, but then I had a fairly clear run all round, so, horses for courses

  • Did you manage to run together in the end? Has anyone managed to do this?

    I have the same problem this year. Should my partner manage to get into the blue area (with a red bid) would he also have the issue of having to get into a pen - or is it less of an issue in the blue area? If we just go to the back will they check? He could just wear a hoodie until he starts? We wouldn't hold anyone up if we just went to the back... Any advice appreciated - thanks!

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