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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.
Morpeth Harriers and Athletic Club (still just GFA)