How To Qualify For London Marathon

How would you like to run 26 miles around some of London’s most iconic landmarks?

The London Marathon is one of the biggest and most popular marathons in the world, so if you want to participate in the prestigious event, it’s essential that you do your research and preparation.

The race itself is held in April each year, attracting thousands of runners from all over the world.

How To Qualify For London Marathon

It takes place over a distance of 42 kilometers (26 miles) through the stunning backdrop of central London.

But, just how difficult is it to gain entry into this iconic race? Can anyone from anywhere in the world apply for a place?

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the nine ways you can successfully gain a place in the London Marathon.

We’ll also look to answer a few of the frequently asked questions.

The Ballot

Perhaps the most popular way to enter the race is the London Marathon ballot.

This ballot is completely random, so it’s entirely luck whether you get in or not!

Just be mindful that every year a new record number of people apply, so don’t automatically assume that you’ve got a good chance of entering the race via this route.

If you’re successful with your ballot place, you can also raise money for a charity of your choosing.

This isn’t compulsory, but it’s great for charities as you’re effectively saving them money (they haven’t had to purchase a place in the race for you).

If, however, you’re unsuccessful in the ballot, there unfortunately isn’t any kind of waiting list.

Therefore, you’ll have to pursue another avenue, with charity places (see number two) the most popular.

Run For A Charity

As touched upon above, running for a charity is a common way people gain entry into the London Marathon.

This is because a long list of charities buy “Golden Bond” places from the London Marathon, with 15,000 available in total.

While it’s great that charities gain access to these guaranteed places, it does mean they have to set a minimum fundraising amount that you have to raise in return for the marathon place.

This minimum amount can vary from one charity to another, but the standard amount is usually around the £2,000 ($2,634) mark.

It’s worth noting that some smaller charities might ask for less than this though.

Good For Age Places

If you’re fast within your age group, there’s a chance that you might be able to qualify for the London Marathon through a Good For Age place.

These places are only available for UK residents, and unsurprisingly, the qualifying times get slower and slower the higher the age group.

In total there are 6,000 places available through Good For Age, and these are split equally between men and women.

However, it’s important to note that these places aren’t guaranteed entry. At the final stage, they’re allocated on a fastest first basis.

Therefore, even if you manage to qualify through your running time, there’s every chance that others in your age group will have submitted faster times.

This is why it’s recommended to also enter the ballot as a back-up option – especially if you know you’re going to be close to the cut-off time.

Running Club Places

This method is again only available for UK residents.

If you want to gain entry to the London Marathon through your running club, British Athletic affiliated clubs can apply for places, with roughly 1,000 available.

It’s then up to running clubs to make their decision on who gets their one or two places.

For example, lots of running clubs decide to do their own ballot, linking it to how much racing and volunteering the candidates have done for the club.

So, if you’re a UK runner in a UK-based running club, the best thing to do is check if your club has places and then go about the most effective way to get them.

If you’re not registered as part of a running club, this might be a good reason to join one.

Championship Places

Championship Places

Similar to qualifying through running clubs and Good For Age, you need to be a UK resident to qualify through a Championship place.

What’s more, you also need to be registered to an athletics club associated with British Athletics and possess a Championship-qualifying marathon or half marathon time.

To provide a rough guide for Championship qualifying times, listed below are the times for the 2022 London Marathon:

  • Men’s full marathon – sub 2:40:00
  • Women’s full marathon – sub 3:14:00
  • Men’s half marathon – sub 1:12:30
  • Women’s half marathon – sub 1:28:00

With the London Marathon typically scheduled in April (barring the last couple of covid-affected years), applications usually open in early November, before closing in January.

Elite Places

If you’re able to run a marathon at an elite speed, there’s every chance that you’ll already know how to enter.

Or, at least, your agent will be able to do it for you.

The “elite” pace to qualify for one of the 100 places is usually a sub 2:18:00 marathon time for men and a sub 2:38:00 marathon time for women.

In terms of half marathon pace, it’s sub 1:05:00 for men and sub 1:14:00 for women.

Win A Competition

It’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for competitions where you can win places.

More often than not, the best places involve race organizers, sponsors associated with the race (e.g. Lucozade Sport), and other outlets such as running magazines.

Go Through A Sponsorship

Many of the sponsorship organizations linked to the London Marathon are provided with a small number of places for the race.

Therefore, if you’re working for one of these organizations, you’ll be eligible to apply for one of these places.

Become A Celebrity

The final way to get a place in the London Marathon we’ll take a closer look at is to somehow become a celebrity!

While this might seem unlikely on the face of it, there’s always a chance that you can make yourself known and make it onto a celebrity Z-list.

Not only will you then get a place in the marathon, you’ll also have the chance to line up alongside other celebrities, and even use some of the nicest toilets at the Green Start – a win-win scenario!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Defer A London Marathon Place?

Yes, if you can’t participate in the race because of injury, illness, or another reason, you can easily defer your place to the following year.

This can be done up to the day before the marathon, but it’s worth noting that you’ll have to pay the entry fee again the following year.

There are a couple of exceptions to this rule meaning that you won’t be able to defer your place.

For example, you can’t defer a Championship or Good For Age place as these spots are based on time-limited qualification times.

You also can’t defer charity or sponsor places as they go back to the organization.

How To Enter The London Marathon Ballot As An International Runner?

You can enter the London marathon ballot as an international runner if you meet certain requirements.

You must be a citizen or resident of the United Kingdom and have lived there for at least three years.

Furthermore, you also need to be 18 years old by the time of the race.

What Is A Good London Marathon Finishing Time?

Taking into account all the runners who compete in the marathon, anything under four hours is considered a good finishing time for a man, putting them in the top 40-45% of runners.

Whereas, for women, any finishing time under four hours and 30 minutes is seen as impressive.

Is Running 50 Miles A Week Enough For Marathon Training?

If you’re running 50 miles a week on a consistent basis, you should be able to complete a marathon fairly easily, so long as you’re doing at least one long run (20-30 kilometers) per week.

It’s also important to learn to pace yourself if you want to cope with the physical demands of running a marathon.

The Bottom Line

To conclude, qualifying for the London Marathon is a challenging process, but one you can definitely achieve with the right preparation, a positive attitude, and sometimes a little bit of luck!

Megan Rinzel
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