Why do the London Marathon organisers discriminate against middle aged runners?

There are three main ways to get a place in the London Marathon:  via the ballet, via a charity or through a coveted “Good For Age” (GFA) place.  For a GFA place runners must achieve a certain time in a marathon run within the preceding 2 years.  These time standards are specified for different genders and ages.

The London GFA standards discrimination against middle aged runners.  Male runners aged 18-40 years need a sub 3:10 time while those aged 41-59 need to be sub 3:15.  Even at face value allowing just 5 minutes to a 59 year old compared to a 30 year old in their prime seems unjust.  However, it is possible to compare these standards more precisely using algorithms that rate race times for a specified age and gender (e.g. ScoreMyRun from GoodRunGuide.com).  Ratings of the London GFA times shows enormous variation, with much lower ratings for those in their prime (23-35) and those over 70, compared to middle aged men.  To illustrate, consider two runners aged 30 and 59.  If the 59 year old had to achieve a similar rating as a 30 year old running 3:10 for a GFA place, he would only need to run a time of 3:51 rather than the 3:15 currently required.  Conversely, if the 30 year old had to achieve a similar rating as a 59 year old running 3:15, he would need to run sub 2:40 rather than sub 3:10 as currently.  Thirty minutes or more in the marathon is significant by any standard.

This level of iniquity and discrimination is not inevitable.  For example, there is relatively little variation in the ratings of male qualifying times for the Boston Marathon.  This is achieved by having times specified in 5 year age bands and by paying more attention to making the times equitable.

The largest demographic group applying to the London Marathon is middle aged men.  Perhaps higher standards are to prevent them swamping the GFA start.  However, this is nothing other than blatant age discrimination.  Marathons are great levellers across society.  Merit alone should determine qualification for London GFA places.

Hamish McAllister-Williams
Morpeth Harriers and Athletic Club (still just GFA)

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Comments

  • I think it's because they don't want the race to be 80% middle aged baldy club runners.
  • The problem with the age group is that there are too many men running in that 40-59 age group...and too many fast ones.........

    similar if you look at women 40 -45.they dominay#te many of the races in this area.....

    so to be goof#d for you age you have to better than a lot of good runners........

    In Ironman you get a similar problem.......recently there was a race that had 1 slot for each age group in the woman........Two of the older ladies ran brilliant races and came in the top 8 .beating some of the pros...........yet the second of these did not get a kona place despite finishing 8th...........yet slower younger women you finished behind her by quite a margin got a coveted Kona place

  • It is a tough time given the wide age bracket. Boston would be 3:40 for 55 to 59 years of age, compared to 3:15 for 40 - 44 years. I think I will be complaining in the years to come!

  • I understand the arguments around demographics, but this does not stop the standards being discriminatory.  I think pressure should be placed on the organisers to make the situation more equitable.  As "Also-ran" says, Boston can do it, so why can't London? 

  • MartenkayMartenkay ✭✭✭
    Hamish McAllister-Williams wrote (see)

    I understand the arguments around demographics, but this does not stop the standards being discriminatory.  I think pressure should be placed on the organisers to make the situation more equitable.  As "Also-ran" says, Boston can do it, so why can't London? 

    Boston is a prestigious race run and organised by the Boston Athletic Association. They know a bit about running and appreciate the enthusiasm for their marathon.

    London is ermm well ahh..........run by eh..........know about well y'know............

     

  • I did a comparison a few months ago and the GFA for VLM was heavily skewed against middle aged men. See if I can dig up the thread

    Piers

  • Found it:

    I think the age graded equivalent percentages give a good comparison of Virgin Marathons GFA times.

    Men
    Age %
    18 68%
    39 68%
    40 67%
    59 77%
    60 72%
    64 75%

    Ladies
    Age %
    18 61%
    35 60%
    49 67%
    50 65%
    54 67%
    55 64%
    59 66%


    It is clearly slewed towards the ladies. Personally think GFA should be the 70 percentile, then it really would be "Good for Age"

    This would be;

    Senior Men: < 3:02
    Vet 40-45: approx < 3:05
    Vet 45-50: approx < 3:11

    Senior Ladies: < 3:18
    Vet 35-40: approx < 3:19
    Vet 45-50: approx < 3:32

    Piers

  • What about the fancy dressers? I deplore this elitist nonsense.

  • Mr PuffyMr Puffy ✭✭✭
    I wish I had a quid for every time I've read a thread on here telling the London Marathon organisers how to run their race.



    It is their race to do what they like with. Like it or lump it.
  • I wish I had a quid for everyone person on here who when they get shafted they just bend over and say "they can do whatever they like"
  • The BusThe Bus ✭✭✭

    They've certainly eased up on the GFA for younger runners without a relative easing for middle aged runners (think it should all be tougher myself!) - but at the end of the day, it's up to the race organisers who they want in heri race. It aint a democracy!

  • MinniMinni ✭✭✭
    kittenkat wrote (see)

    And they discriminate against men, the women go up to 3.50, I think the cut off should be 3.30.

    Agree with this KK, its very easy for a lady to get a GFA.  Although strangely as a senior lady I would have failed to qualify as I couldn't get under 3:30 but now as a middle aged lady I'm a fair bit quicker (and I'm not the only one).  Perhaps the times should be reduced for ladies as they get older!   image



  • If you read 'Born to Run' it claims that age related endurance decline is very slow.  According to the book peak endurance is in the late 20s but the decline has a long tail with a 64 year old having a similar endurance to a 19 year old.

    Assuming BtoR has some validity the 3.15 gfa time makes sense.  I at 42 obtained a GFA at my first marathon after running less than a year.  How hard can it be?

  • Am I missing something, surely just run faster!

  • Without the fancy maths I prefer to use the current World record as a base line. This means that the ladies times approximate at 15 minutes slower than the blokes.

    But I still agree, 3:15 was a challenge to achieve in my 40's. Now I've passed 50 and it's going to be difficult to log anything like that. A 3:30 target would be lovely!
    Equivalence for ladies would have been 3:30 and 3:45. Neither is easy, but the correlation to world record pace holds up reasonably.

    OK Choisty, you tell me your age and PB, and I'll make assumptions about your training regime.

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    I think if they could they would probably get rid of all the serious runners apart from the elite. We don't make good TV and I'm not sure how much money they make as my GFA entry was only ??32. I wonder how much they charge the charities?

    For as long as I possibly can I will keep taking a GFA place as I'm sure it annoys them. I'm a 34 yr old bloke by the way.
  • Did they have GFA back in the 80s ? I guess not as that would have flooded the field with athletes. We've got a lot slower since then - so GFA can still be achieved - just run more. 

  • Mr Puffy wrote (see)
    I wish I had a quid for every time I've read a thread on here telling the London Marathon organisers how to run their race.

    It is their race to do what they like with. Like it or lump it.

    I wish I had a quid!

  • Johnny Blaze wrote (see)
    I think it's because they don't want the race to be 80% middle aged baldy club runners.

    Or those with their own hairimage

  • "There are three main ways to get a place in the London Marathon:  via the ballet, via a charity or through a coveted “Good For Age” (GFA) place."

    Clubs affiliated to UKA also get places, the number depeding on the size of the club.

    You're more likely to get a club place than a ballot place in my club.

  • I'm rubbish at ballet

  • I thought being a minor celebrity was also a catergory that would gain you a place in the VLM. You even get your own start pen. So if you don't make the GFA grade get your self on a reality show of some sort and bingo guaranteed placeimageimage

  • 2Old2Old ✭✭✭

    I had to get to 50 before I got a GFA and then-not expecting to- did it twice in a year.Ironically, the first London GFA was achieved at Boston which I wouldnt have been able to run if 3.15 was the GFA for that race -3.30 was the GFA for me then for that race. Saying that ,it took my third attempt at London to go uner 3.15-this year- as in 2010, I failed by 23 seconds.

     Im hoping they relax  the GFA  ready for when Im 55 as Im not convinced I can keep going at this pace much longer-bits seem to be falling apart! Thats the point I suppose -endurance may remain but the rest of the body wont repair quickly or at all when broken and it seems to break a lot more now than when I was younger.

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭

    Does anyone have any idea how much the charities have to pay for their places? As they seem to want people to raise thoudands of pounds which seems a lot.

  • ??300 was the figure quoted in the Dispatches progamme
  • 300 pounds
  • E mmyE mmy ✭✭✭

    @NLR - doesnt it depend on the type of place? Gold or Silver bond? 300 is definitely right but I can't remember if it was for gold or silver.

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    Wow 300 from a charity per place. If I was running a business then I can see why they would make more places available for those paying ??300 and then make the system more difficult for those that are only paying ??32 (GFA)

    I'm not saying I agree with what they are doing but it must make business sense for them.
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