Last week I was among nearly 38,000 London Marathon finishers but what are the chances of me running next year? Major ballot changes may make it fairer but certainly won’t make it easier when the 2016 London Marathon ballot opens tomorrow.
I was one of over 100,000 people to be left disappointed by the ballot for 2015 London Marathon places. Fortunately for me, a small charity I support, African Children’s Fund, had a little more luck. They secured a single place through the inaugural “Charity Ballot”, granting single places to 500 charities who don’t already have places through the Gold & Silver Bond schemes.
After raising over £2,600 for African Children’s Fund this year through the generosity of my friends, family and colleagues, it’ll be a good few years before I can start rattling the tin again. And in any case, I’m unlikely to attract sponsorship for a second marathon – it would be tough but not tough enough.
So my hopes of running another marathon on the streets of London rest in the fate of the dreaded/revered/disliked* (delete as appropriate!) London Marathon Ballot!
The 125,000 ballot places for the 2015 London Marathon were taken in under 10 hours and with it looking like the 2016 ballot would close even quicker, and with even more complaints, the organisers have made a big change:
The 2016 London Marathon ballot will be unlimited.
The ballot for the 2016 London Marathon will open this Bank Holiday Monday, May 4th 2015, at an undisclosed time, and will remain open, regardless of the number of people who sign up, until 17:00 on Friday May 8th 2015.
So we’re all happy then?
Well, the 5 day window means everyone who wants to be in the ballot can be, so I guess that is fairer but it won’t make it any easier to get a place in the 2016 London Marathon.
In 2015, there were 125,000 people signed up to fight for around 17,000 start places. That’s more than 7 people lining up for each place. Not great odds, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Given that there have been complaints from people that couldn’t even get into last year’s ballot, there are certainly more than 125,000 people wanting to sign up. But just how many people could be in the 2016 ballot? If 125,000 signed up in less than a day, does that mean we’re looking at half a million people signing up? Probably not, but what is the number likely to be?
Anyone who runs will know that we’re part of a growing sport. In the 2013/14 Active People Survey, more than 2 million people are involved in running at least once a week.
Now, the chances are, a large proportion of the 2 million aren’t interested in signing up for any marathon, let alone London so how can we get a better idea on numbers?
It may be safer to say that most people who run a marathon have, at least, run a half marathon before.
Using some of the information on the Run Britain Rankings website, I estimate that around 180,000 men ran a half marathon last year. If we use the gender ratio of this year’s London Marathon to calculate the number of women running a half marathon last year it would equate to 110,000 women.
If we assume that some of those won’t be interested in upping their distance, but there will be an equal number of people who decide they’ll give a marathon crack without having run a half before, it’s probably about right.
So there could be towards 300,000 people waiting for around 17,000 places. That’s nearly 18 eager marathon runners for every balloted marathon place. Oh dear.
[Update 15 May 2015]
The London Marathon have now announced how many people signed up for the 2016 ballot – a surprisingly low, in my opinion, 247,069 people.
While I expected the numbers to be higher, it still means the likelihood of securing a ballot place for the 2016 London Marathon will be about 1 in 15 so keep those fingers crossed!
[End of update]
So the ballot may well be fairer, but it certainly won’t be easier. Some of us will be lucky, even more of us than usual will not be. Instead we’ll have to try to gain a place in the 2016 London Marathon through the other channels:
- Elite entry (less than 100 places): only those of you with legendary race records need apply
- Celebrity entry (less than 100 places): if you think you’re famous and have a cause or story that is newsworthy then get in touch with the organisers
- Championship entry (approx 1000 places): running a sub 2:45 marathon (for men) or sub 3:15 (for women) – or an equally rapid half marathon time
- Good For Age entry (approx 5000 places): a sub 3:05 marathon (for men aged under 40) or sub 3:45 (for women aged under 40) – times get more lenient as you get older
- British Athletics Club entry (less than 1000 places): British Athletic affiliated clubs can apply for places based on the number of adult members – but don’t expect many, it’s approximately a place for every 60 or 70 members
- Charity entry (approx 15000 places): promise to raise money for a huge variety of good causes but don’t be surprised to have to go through a selection process, such is the demand for places
There is of course another option, and that is to choose one of the other marathons held in the UK every year – there are 150 listed on the Find A Race website alone! Or perhaps go further afield and make a trip of it – Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, New York?
Watching the London Marathon twice from behind the barriers convinced me to become a marathoner. Having now experienced London Marathon from the tough side of the barriers I know just why so many of us want a place.
So, to all of you who decide to put your name forward, good luck. I hope you are one of the lucky people who are able to experience what I did this year. And if you do get a place and the going gets tough, remember all the people who would have taken that place off your hands and do us proud!