London marathon ballot…also known as ‘why does everyone think London is the only marathon?’

Ahhh it’s that time of year again when everyone is impatiently waiting for their ballot result – whether it’s a magazine and compensation in form of a top that EVERYONE knows is because you didn’t get in…or this year it appears they are resorting to just sending emails.

I’ve run London 3 times (here and here are the most recent recaps) and I’ve got my place for 2017 sorted (except I think I’m going to defer)  And something I often hear is  “Oh you must have been really lucky to get a place in the ballot 1/2/3/4 times”.

Nope. I didn’t get into the ballot. I have NEVER got a place in the ballot. I entered the ballot once for the 2012 race. I didn’t get in. I didn’t then sit around for 10 years, entering again and again and complaining about not getting in whilst being not so secretly jealous about those who are running. When I didn’t get in, I entered another marathon (Paris), managed to run a Good for Age time and therefore could get into London automatically, avoiding the ballot. And then repeated this process.

I just DON’T understand why London seems to be the be all and end all, the defining moment, the one event that everyone seems to see (well I mean I do get this, the media hype is a big player) but people – moreso in the non running community – need to understand that any marathon is as good as any other.  “Is the Paris marathon the same distance as the London one?” Why yes, a marathon is a marathon is a marathon. YOU’RE RUNNING A FREAKING MARATHON, THIS IS GOOD ENOUGH IN ITSELF.

If you’re complaining about not making it in, ask yourself a question – what do you really want from this race? Why is London such a big deal? Is it really? There are plenty of other big city marathons with great support and a great course. They might not be as iconic, but they are still doing the job of being a marathon. There are also plenty of nice non-city marathons…

Also, while we are on it – why does the marathon seem to be the defining race length? Do it justice. A sub 20 5k is equally (if not moreso) impressive than a 4 hour marathon. Or a 3.30 marathon as I can do that but not sub 20.  Get better at running shorter, build your experience and THEN try the marathon – attempting it too early is pretty much going to fail and you’ll enjoy it a lot more as a seasoned runner.

And if you do really want to do it, put some effort in and get a place based on your ability (see above – get better at shorter distances, build your speed and stamina and then take it up a notch) I am sure MANY will disagree, but I actually don’t think running 3.45 or under is that unachievable for a lot of women in the senior age bracket. It is definitely harder for men – 3.05 takes some significant training, even with some genetic advantage (hmmm) but 3.45 is hardly the New York extremes for automatic entry. Or join a club, do your time and volunteering, then try and get a club place. Plus, you’ve then got a club full of experienced people to help you with your training…

I mean, I’m not slamming London by any means – it’s a great course, the atmosphere and supporters are amazing, there’s something spine-tingling about being on that start line, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You’re probably thinking “well why have you done London multiple times and continue to enter…?” Which is a fair question! I didn’t have much intention to do another marathon after Paris…but thought I may as well take up the opportunity to give London a go as I just had to fill in a form, have my time validated and pay some money.

However London is also VERY convenient for me. I don’t need a hotel, I don’t need to pay ridiculous travel costs, I know where I’m going, I can practice on the route, I know loads of people running and I know loads of people supporting. I’ve literally just become lazy about marathonning.

If you want to understand all the numbers, some solutions and general goings on of the ballot, take a look at this article by Dan here.

And for all of you who have been lucky to get a place – treasure it and don’t waste it. Rocking up on the start line with zero training and doing a poor job of it is unfair on those who would have embraced it, put in the hours and done a fabulous event justice. So take pride in your bib.

Thoughts? Alternative ballot ideas? Better-marathons-than-London suggestions? Better-distances-than-marathon suggestions?

5 thoughts on “London marathon ballot…also known as ‘why does everyone think London is the only marathon?’

  1. I’ve done seven marathons and not one of them was London. There ARE so many cool marathons out there and London will always be there. Keep applying but don’t put your eggs in just that basket I’d say. And yeah 3:45 compared to 3:05 is a joke. Boston’s a bit better with 3:35 and a graded entry system but still.


    • I’d also be interested to know how they have their forecasting set up, particularly as they give everyone a spot – unlike Boston – which must make it tough to model how many GFA/Champs place you might get in any given year! I think I’m giving marathon running a rest next year…


  2. I completely agree with this! Last week my facebook feed was dominated by “I’m in/out” posts, and photos of the matching magazine. London has never appealed to me- for one the huge crowds make it seem too stressful. My first marathon was Stockholm- great to combine sightseeing with running, and then my other marathon was Brighton as I love running there and it was a good place to spend a weekend. I also like to plan out my year (book holidays early) so I would not want to have to wait for so long after applying to find out whether I had got in. I’d love to run a Disney one, but they are never in the school holidays so it isn’t an option for me. I think if I did another one (I might in a few years) I’d choose somewhere interesting to combine it with a holiday.
    I would be nowhere near a good for age, but then my interest isn’t particularly in getting quicker with running.


    • I kind of agree with the crowds point – although they are great, after a while, it grates…particularly if you’re struggling on the last few miles and just want to get your head down and get on with it. I’m not being ungrateful, just sometimes it’s easier to push through the pain without people shouting in your face every metre!!


  3. Love this…
    To be honest, I did enter the ballot because…well, why not? & I didn’t get in, which is no problem at all.
    Because, I’m not 100% sure my heart would have been ‘in it’..I’m not even 100% sure that I want to run a marathon *gasp*..
    I think I’d rather run a faster 5km, or run in some seriously beautiful and maybe even more ‘off the beaten track’ type places…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s