VLM - how many ballot places actually available to UK runners?

After yet another rejection magazine from the London marathon (bl**dy smug looking Elvis), I decided to undertake a quick survey amongst my friends on facebook to find out how many actually obtained a place. Since posting earlier this morning, we are on 16 rejections versus 3 places obtained.

This made me curious...how many places are available through the ballot to UK residents? No doubt a good chunk of places get filled through 'good for age' and runners not living in the UK. Also, a very large amount of places are sold to charities. So, how many places are left for the rest of us and what are the odds of actually obtaining a place through the ballot?

I'm sure the truth is a very closely guarded secret and would probably not be good publicity for the sponsors. Still, I'll keep applying in the hope that one day I'm lucky, although I'm starting to feel that I've a better chance of winning big on the national lottery.



  • i thought about 25,000

  • I don't think its officially published anywhere (although I've never looked too hard!) but my understanding is that its around 25,000 places available and they shut the ballot after they receive 125,000 applicants.  This gives you roughly a 1 in 5 change of getting in (as my figures are estimates).



  • I doubt it's as many as that.

    As you say it's probably a closely guarded secret so all you'll get are guesses ?
  • Just realised your facebook poll supports that theory as your ratio is currently just under 1 in 5, but if you had a fourth successful applicant to go with your 16 rejections you would be spot on the 1:5

  • Matthew: The last "best guess" I saw was that out of around 45,000 places 20,000 were for the ballot, 12,500 charity and the remainder for last year's deferrers, championship/gfa, 5-strikes-and-you're-in, overseas entries and corporate hospitality.

    So that makes it 1 in 6.25 chance of success which pretty much ties in with your 3 out of 19 place winners.

  • A few years back I coordinated the entries for a company. We had 12 entries and nobody got through the ballot.
  • The five strikes and your in was withdrawn a few years back, the whole thing is a farce. I have applied for the last 7 years and only had one successful entry, had to defer and they messed that up. Ok London is the one everybody wants to do but as the number of people who want to do it grows the event doesn't.
  • Very interesting, thanks everyone. The whole process seems to be very opaque as far as I'm concerned.

    Yes, my little survey seems to back up the 1:5-1:6 chance so far. However, anecdotally it would appear that the odds of getting a place are probably not so good. Very frustrating having it on our doorstep and not being able to take part most years. I've done the charity thing a number of times now, so would struggle to raise £1k+ these days, and unfortunately I'm not quite fast enough for GFA.

    Do we have any Virgin employees out there who might be able to influence the reintroduction of the aforementioned '5-strikes-and-you're-in' policy, or something similar?  

  • Nicholas............not sure how they can grow the event...............it already massively overpacked...........more number would reduce it to a martahon walk


    the 5 strikes and out policy was reduced because even a higher amount are applying and therefore they said they would not have enough spaces to accomodate those....

    as well as the ballot places and the GFA places.there are th overseas ones and the charity ones.......then there are those that are given to the runnning clubs and the elite places and the championship places..............they no doubt have a number of places for the main sponsors.......and for boris office to keep them sweet.......and then virgin as well...........and the second ballot places 

    so lots of places going around

  • One of difficulties with the ballot or anything similar is that human beings are generally pretty poor at assessing probability and what the freqeuncy of events should be. In Nicholas Chadwick's case, approximately 37% of people who applied 7 times would have the same result (1 success), assuming the odds are 1:5 of getting a place each year.

    However the algorithm is drawn up, the anecdotal success rate that I am aware of supports an approx. 1:5 - 1:6 chance.

    I managed 1:4, success last year, but I had to defer and will run this year.


  • I think they did away with that because it reduced even further the number of places available through the ballot!

    There is another route to a place, though - running clubs.  Clubs get guaranteed places (the number depends on the number of members they have), and can distribute them as they see fit.

    There may be a qualifying period before you're eligible for their VLM places though - only members of at least a year's standing can go in our ballot.

    Oh, and police forces get an allocation (not sure if it's just the Met and City of London, or if it's all forces).

  • They say there are 125,000 entries to ballot and pretty sure they have published that there are 20/25,000 ballot acceptances making the 1:6 ratio quoted above. Thats pretty good odds to get in compared to some things. Nicholas Chadwick - one entry in about 7 years is just about right and a fair return. They rarely mess up teh admin and often people fail to return forms correctly etc.

    The race cant getany bigger so we are stuck 100,000's wanting to do it only 40,000 odd places = disappointment.

    There are far too many people who want to run this race. So inevitably lots and lots of people will be disappointed. You tend  to hear more about now from the disappointed people, its human nature to have  a bit of a moan.  

    They can't reintroduce the 5 and in rule as within 5 years virtually all places would have to go to people under this scheme (if the odds of getting in are indeed 1 in 6/7 then you only have a slightly better than 50% chance of getting in at least once in next five years.) As soon as they accepted so many people into ballot it was inevitable they had to scrap the 5 and In and can't reintroduce it. Its just a heavily over subscribed race people....

  • Well put Keith, a lot better than I could have explained it image

  • why cant you enforce only ever running once through the ballot system in your life time, wouldnt that help as iv read on here before people who got in twice through ballot couple years apart.

    With such a huge amount of people why not have vlm part 2 in the autumn.


  • Wilkie wrote (see)

    Oh, and police forces get an allocation (not sure if it's just the Met and City of London, or if it's all forces).

    so do all the boroughs that the route goes through and the Canary Wharf Group for letting it through there, Lucozade, adidas all the other sponsors. I think your lucky of there are 12,500 Ballot spots left after all this.

  • Much as online activity increases the moans we all hear, it is online activity that has forced the withdrawal of the 5 and in.  If people had to fill a form in and post it I think you would see the number of applications drop off  But you can't turn clocks back.

  • lisa.....lots of people liked the proposal a few years back that everyone had to run a marathon first before they would be allowed to enter VLM.so that they could prove that they took it seriously and just didn't want to go for teh party...........

    as it is so many people just enter ...don't train very hard..........walk it and then never bother with the sport again./.......and so reduce the places for those who run week in week out every year....

    I don't agree with that.but there will be a thousand different ways that people think there is a fairer way...................the fact is there isn't because its a lottery..........and so many people want to do it......

  • I agree i think its too easy to enter the race these days.In the past you hd to go to a specified shop to get the entry form and then fill it out and complete it. The old method would certainly have put off those who were not really 100% interested and may just decide on a whim to enter. I would wonder if there is any difference in the numbers actually running the event since the online entries come into being?

  • Why can't they make the event bigger, we are talking about the largest city in the country that holds massive sporting events on a regular basis not some back water. The great north run had 55k participants this year and Newcastle ain't that big!!!
  • I've got in 3 times out of 7 ballot entries.... must just be lucky, or in a weird demographic that they like.


    They seriously shouldn't make it any bigger - it's busy enough as it is and I will NEVER do the great north run simply because of such a ridiculous number of competitors ( I hesitate to call them runners because how the hell do you run with so many folks in your way - good god - the glasgow half is getting too big and it's only at about 10k).


    But hey that's why I usually do smaller races. 

  • I think there can only be about 10 numbers available on the overseas ballot. I think I have more chance of swimming backwards than getting a number...

  • 55,000 people DIDN'T take part in the GNR "only" 39500 ish did so - and think that was biggest field ever.

    VLM can't get any bigger, in the peak times it is pretty  rammed around whole course, only way they could take more people is finding more 3:15 and lower runners or over 5:30 runners. Guess complainers wouldn't particularly like either option.

    VLM is what it is (biggest and most successful marathon & Charity fundraiser in UK) because of both the running and the charity angle, Do you think the million odd people who turn up on streets turn up to watch the sub 3:15 shawn haired racing snakes at the front or for the middle/back of packers struggling?

    VLM is not Boston and making people pre-run a marathon would fundamentally alter race and it isn't going to happen. People say it should be for "proper runners" what ever that means but that misses point - there are hundreds of "proper runners" marathons out there - I wonder why none are as big as London image

    Still give it a few days and things will go quiet again

  • I did always hope that all the fans had turned up to watch me. I do have some hair and am not a racing "snake" though.
  • imageMaybe they did Millsyimage

  • This question of what proportion get ballot places has been discussed and speculated on for many years, and it is just that -- speculation -- as the organisers never reveal the breakdown. But the figures usualy bandied around are in the ballpark suggested -- that you have a 1 in 5 or 6 chance of getting a ballot place.

    The race was hugely oversubscribed even before the days of online entry, but at least at one time you had a few weeks or even months to get your entry in before they closed off applications.

    What has really changed is this -- that for the last couple of years they have opened applications for next year's race on the very day of this year's race. This is an utterly crazy idea as there must be loads of people watching on TV who get caught up in the excitement and enter online without giving it much thought.

    Result? Applications are usually now stopped only 24 hours after opening. Madness.

    Why not have a breathing space of at least a couple of weeks before opening applications to make sure you're pretty serious about it?

    For the record, I got in on the ballot in 2002, the first year I appled. Since then, not a sniff.

  • Thought this year it did open a week or so later?

    But two thoughts...

    1) Number of people not turning up hasn't changed much - they still get 35/36K starters. So no real evidence that opening early has had a dramatic effect on drop outs caused by people not taking it seriously

    2) I guess one of the aims of the organisers (which we may/may not like) is to attract new people. How many people first marathon was FLM/VLM? If they have aim of attracting new people then better for them to have an online entry (rather than shops) and as soon after race as possible. May not agree but understand the strategy.

    Its a successful product and one that I doubt theyu will change much

  • Thanks for the thoughts and comments everyone, there are some very valid points made. FLM was the first marathon I ever ran and it's been responsible for me running about 40 marathons since. In that respect, the FLM/VLM is certainly a good thing as it attracts new people to the sport. It's also great that it generates so much money for charities. I ran the Berlin marathon at the weekend and I only saw a handful of charity runners.

    I will just have to come to terms with the fact that one of the Big 5 marathons is on my doorstep and I won't be able to participate each year. I just hope the odds of ballot entry do not change unfavourably in the future. In the interim, I'll strive to shave 5 minutes off my p.b. to obtain a GFA place and hope they don't raise the bar there either (I think my current p.b. would have given me a place in the marathon a few years back). Talk about moving goalposts image 

    I certainly don't want them to increase the race size, as the current route is too narrow in places to support the current volume of runners as it is. Perhaps they could look at other potential routes in the future if they wanted to expand the capacity. Perhaps something from the Olympic Park for example?

  • Have also contacted family, friends, etc. and have found that out of 27 applications NO-ONE was succesful, obviously we are in a large catchment area and there were too many applicants, still thats the way it goes, we will never get to change it, lol. Good luck to all who have been lucky, may see you on day as I have one more avenue to try 

  • I would guess the most oversubscribed entries are those with a 3:30 to 4:30 expected finish time. Slimmer chance of getting a place if this is you, just my assumption.

    Am I right in thinking the GFA is pretty much a guaranteed entry? Or is this also rationed? My point being, if anyone considers themselves a "proper runner", and better than the rank and file who rock up for the experience of it all, then train harder and you're guaranteed a place.

  • I think GFA is as many places as applied for

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