Changes to London Marathon Good for Age Applications

I've just discovered that the Good for Age applications process is changing for the VMLM 2019 onwards.

According to a recent blog post (link below), it would appear that the London Marathon GfA process is switching to a system similar to Boston Qualification, whereby the times published represent the maximum time required to apply, however no longer guarantees entry.

There will be a maximum of 6000 GfA places (3000 males and 3000 females) and if the number of people achieving the times required to apply exceeds that then those times will be reduced to cull the applicants until they're down to the fastest 3000.

I think it's fair to assume that the times are set so that at least 3000 applications will be filed, so you can only assume that you'll have to run significantly under these times to be confident of a spot, as per the Boston Qualification process.

As a 18-39 male, it's more than a bit disheartening to have seen the GfA time cut from 3:10 to effectively a 2:58 (or lower?!) in the space of 5 years.

I posted a similar thread in Spring Marathons, specifically regarding M18-39, but thought it might be beneficial to repost here for everyone who might be attempting to run a GfA time soon, as it may affect your race plans.


  • NayanNayan ✭✭✭
    i think they justify the changes partly by aligning them with the other abbot world marathon majors but mostly by 'gender parity.' Which seems to imply having harder targets for men, presumably because not enough women apply for GFA, or something like that. 
  • Over 5 years?  Luxury.  In 2003 the 18-39 GFA time got cut from 3:15 to 3:00 in one go.  Finding that out in the GFA start pen was properly disheartening, I can tell you.

    At least though we still knew if we were in or not. 

  • AW3AW3 ✭✭✭
    edited April 2018
    @Nayan if you ask me, the whole gender parity thing sounds like a bit of a smokescreen to detract from something that is largely negative for participants. Surely the cut-off times are specifically designed to spread out qualifiers across gender and age ranges; there's always been a substantial difference between the Male and Female qualifying times across the board and I don't see that the new system is going to encourage any more women to apply because if anything the system has become more complex and potentially punitive.

    @Cheerful Dave
    What do you mean cut to 3:00 in 2003? Are you talking about the London Marathon here? Were they cut that low and then subsequently put back up more recently? Admittedly 2003 is a bit before my time as a runner, but I've only ever known the M18-39 (or wasn't it previously M18-44?) GfA times being cut from 3:10 to 3:05 (for 2014?) and from 3:05 to 3:00 (for 2018?).

    My main query is how many people normally qualify via the GfA program? Does 6000 people represent a cut in the total number of spaces available and how far under the published times is one likely to need to run to get a spot now. I'd really be interested in some more details about how it'll work, but given how shady they are about the processes behind the public ballot, I suspect it'll be a blackbox process with the output being a crappy magazine in your postbox.

    I don't want to seem like I'm on a massive rant but from the article it would appear that if (or when) the number of applicants exceeds 3000 they'll reduce the time for each age category evenly across the board until the number of runners is cut to 3000. Again this is somewhat unfair on the faster categories, because it means a 2:59:01 M18-39 runner would be bumped ahead of a 5:29:00 M80+ runner even though the former is proportionally a better time in relation to the cutoffs.
  • AW3 said:

    @Cheerful Dave
    What do you mean cut to 3:00 in 2003? Are you talking about the London Marathon here? Were they cut that low and then subsequently put back up more recently? Admittedly 2003 is a bit before my time as a runner, but I've only ever known the M18-39 (or wasn't it previously M18-44?) GfA times being cut from 3:10 to 3:05 (for 2014?) and from 3:05 to 3:00 (for 2018?).

    Yes, London.  I got into the 2003 race on the back of a 3:03 finish in a marathon the previous October, a week before the GFA closing date (GFA applications were all by post back then).  Target was 3:15 for 18-39.  For the 2004 race the target was 3:00, it stayed there for a few years before being raised to 3:10, then back down to 3:05 more recently as you say.
  • AW3AW3 ✭✭✭
    Interesting, thanks for the history lesson  :D
    Before the London ballot went online it was a lot easier to get a ballot place and there was a guaranteed entry after 5 failed attempts.  Online the number of applicants increased dramatically and no longer was a place guaranteed after 5 failed attempts.   So then many runners started working on getting GFA times and last year with the amount of club places cut too even more were going down the GFA route.  

    So it seems the GFA, certainly for the men, is now oversubscribed.
  • Maybe I'm just being cynical but it's surely just a large charity run now, with London charging charities a lot for the places and making a healthy profit out of it.
  • rodeofliprodeoflip ✭✭✭
    It's their race and they can run it how they like it. But as someone who worked hard to get GFA and now has to find a way to get even faster  if I want to continue this, it seems that the club-level runners are being pushed out, personally I think it would make more sense to keep GFA as it is and have less charity places? The charity runners tend to run slower and the road is busier, encouraging more faster runners would help distribute people more evenly. Of course, less charity runners = less gold bond places = less £££.
  • rodeofliprodeoflip ✭✭✭

    VLM would say that they are a charity and there is no "profit". I can understand that, once they've paid Mo Farah's appearance money.
  • I think the appearance money is usually paid by the sponsors - so Virgin Money. 

    I did read that the men had 3200 GFA places this year - so it's only down by 200 - it might not be as big a deal as we thought.
  • Rodeo, yes it's their gig so they can run it as they want, I for one don't see all the hype around it.....
  • Sure that a large part of the race is charity runners - I don't think the race would appeal as much to the Britis public as it does if it was all serious runners.

    Still 6000+ of the runners are Good for Age - plus the Club places and the Championship qualifiers. 
  • @cougie oh interesting re 3200 gfa men. Any ideas re women's numbers?

    Did my first marathon (dublin) last year - 3.43.22. I guess it's unlikely to be good enough for 18-39 female...
    Anyone got any suggestions for getting in a Marathon before august registration?
  • I think the women were slightly less. 3100 or so ? 

    I've put in for Gloucester marathon - I was planning a fairly lazy year as I was in for London next year but now I'm 2 1/2 mins outside cutoff dammit.
  • The change in criteria creates a problem as well. So now if you want a GFA place in (say) the 40-44 age category, you need to have run the time when you're over 40. If you (as I did) ran a 2h59 as a 39-year-old, even are now in your 40s, when they fill the GFA places fastest first, you're lumped in with the 18-39 year olds. So then if I were to run a 3h01 as a 40 year-old, which time should I use when I apply? the FASTER 2h59 which is only 1 minute under the qualifying time for 18-39 year-olds, ie the ballot I'd be compelled to enter it into, or the 3h01 that's 4 minutes under the 40-44 threshold?
    Essentially the change in criteria create a bunch of sub categories: the 40-44 year olds who have run a qualifying time while aged 40-44, and the 40-44 year olds who ran the time when 38 1/2 to 29 and 364 days. (and ditto for every other age category). It's deeply unsatisfactory..... Surely the sensible thing would be to say the age categories are the age you'll be on the day, and accept that it;s possible the runner may have run the qualifying time when 1 1/2 years under that threshold. The new system just muddies the waters.
  • If you happen to have times for two age groups you pick the one that's under by the biggest margin.  No brainer really.
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