London Marathon question

Hi, I do not want this post to become one of those "change the ballot entry system" posts one can easuly find every year right after the rejection letters are sent out.

I am running this year's VLM so my question is purely out of curiosity rather than frustration.

I often read and hear quite a lot of people saying they have done the London marathon several times and never worked out how that is possible.

Can someone confirm there are only 3 ways of entering it? GFA, ballot and charity? If so, what are the splits betwen them? Are the club places part of GFA or is this a 4th method?

So... people who have run London several times (up to 5 consecutive years) are either very lucky, very fast or with very generous friends.


  • There are guaranteed places given to affiliated running clubs (not related to GFA), plus certain organisations (police forces, for example) get some places which they can distribute as they see fit.

    My OH has done it three or four times, he got in via the ballot each time.


  • I've run the marathon I think 7 times including this year (touch wood) The ballot is also sprilt into age and times so they can get a good mix which explains why i've managed to get through so many times when I was a puppy and two of those times I've ran with someone else's number and been naughty. Your going to find that a lot of the people who get in each year do it through there club place which is a 4th way as it's the english natinal championship race, have been good for there age or just been very lucky.

    At the end of the day there are so many people wanting to do it that it's inpossible to work out as system that's fair to everyone.  

  • Official race sponsors also get places to allocat to their employees. 

    There is also the elite time too - so thats faster than the GFA times.

    GFA isn't very fast for most people. 

  • Any chance of klnowing the splits for the various ways of entry?

    Do you think it's something like this?

    Charity places: 45%
    Ballot: 35%
    Elite + GFA: 10%
    Club places: 5%
    Sponsors: 5%


  • I've done it 7 times and knocked a place back 3 times - BUT it was easier between 1984 and 1998 when I gace up running marathons.

  • Just phone them and ask them, anything else is speculation.

  • I doubt if they would say, Mr P.  I'd be very surprised if they did.


  • Theres more secrecy in the London Marathon office than there is at Willy Wonkas chocolate factory.  They don't ever hand out golden tickets. 

    It's their race so they dont have any obligation to tell us what they do with the places. 

    You could hang around outside the expo and conduct your own survey - that might tell you something if you really have to know. 

  • Local authorities that the race goes through their boroughs, police, ambulance also get places to give out so reducing the number of slots further.

  • Wilkie wrote (see)

    I doubt if they would say, Mr P.  I'd be very surprised if they did.


    OK I'm sure you're right but I will jolly well phone them tomorrow, I'm curious now.

  • Do come back and tell us what they say - I'd be interested to hear!


  • There's also championship entry which is between GFA and elite. Plus you get two years to enter with a qualifying time, so I imagine you could do it twice even if you only manage that time once.

  • Right.  I have just spoken to  a very helpful person at London Marathon Office. She wasn't able to give the exact figures but was happy to to paint a broad picture and to have it posted on here without any reservations. I'm not sure I heard right  re 1,000 club places, but assuming it's more than that it cuts down the charity allocation still further.  The person also pointed out that most "celebrity" runners have a charity place rather than a place from the Marathon organisers

    Of the expected 36,000 starters:

    • Public Ballot (inc overseas):  21,000
    • Good for Age: 4,000
    • Club/Championship places: 1,000 ( I might have misheard that)
    • Golden/Silver Bond: Remainder

    I asked about the number of entrants rather than starters and she said it was pro-rata the same proportion.

    I know there will be loads of odd places here to disprove the figures and there but there's the answer straight from the horse's mouth.

  • So even if all charity places were turned into ballot places, there still wouldn't be nearly enough places to satisfy the "it's not fair that the greedy charities have all the places" whingers?


  • It does paint a picture alright! I always thought the ballot places were second to the charity places but it would appear it's more like 2 to 1 the other way around.

  • Thing is if you watch the coverage on the BBC it's all about the charities and the "fun runners" according to the presenter's. I actually find that phrase quite patronising to both the ballot and charity runner's. Coming first isn't always the only goal worth doing challenging yourself depending on the starting point is a lot more rewarding. image

  • Ballot and 'charity runners' aren't mutually exclusive either i.e. a lot of ballot runners will also raise money for charity so those you see covered on BBC may well be saying they're running for charity but actually might well have got their place via the ballot. I've worked for a charity for over 15 years so know that a lot of our charity runners will be raising money for us via ballot places they've got rather than the gold bond ones (where they have to raise a lot of money etc..).

    I ought to add that I have been in the ballot 5 years in a row and finally got a place for 2013 - I will probably do a justgivng fundraising page for a charity so class myself both as a charity and ballot place runner.

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