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Virgin Money London Marathon: How to Get In

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A few of the most famous and world-renowned marathons are held in April and two, in particular, are part of the Abbott World Marathon Majors with them being the Boston Marathon, held on the 3rd Monday in April and usually 1 to 2 weeks later, the Virgin Money London Marathon. Both are extremely difficult to enter as neither has an automatic entry process as in registering, paying and simply running the race. Boston has no lottery process and requires a previous qualifying time in another marathon while London also has pre-qualifying times, you also do have a glimmer of a chance to enter London through a ballot system. However, the odds are not, particularly in your favor. Back in 2009, an online process began to register for the ballot with 155,000 people entering the lottery that year and 32% of those registered received an entry. However over the last 10 years, each year the popularity has progressively increased where last year in 2019 a record-breaking 414,168 people entered the lottery and the chance to officially enter has lowered to 13%. Holy Smokes! Although the actual chance is small, the process to enter the ballot is simple and you can’t win if you don’t play. But do not fear out of the approximately 40,000 spots available, there are a few other ways to enter the Virgin Money London Marathon. While no one option provides an easy solution, they nevertheless are additional possibilities and we list all the options for you.

The following ways on how to get into the London Marathon fall into a few simple categories: by chance, by raising money, by being fast, and a couple of other miscellaneous ways. Here is where we break it all down for you.

Be Lucky by Ballot:

Most people apply to get in through the online ballot process through the Virgin Money London Marathon website. The approximate 17,000 places are randomly selected. While the chances are really, really small there is still a chance so there is no harm in entering and hoping for the best!

The date for the 2020 event is yet to be confirmed however if it follows the past recent years, the London Marathon typically takes place on one of the last two Sundays in April. The ballot usually opens just following the calendar race date. For the April 28, 2019 marathon, the ballot opened shortly after race day on April 22, 2018, on April 30 for 5 days until May 4th, 2018. So, be sure to keep your eyes and ears open in the next week or two to apply for the ballot for the 2020 race. After entering, you will have to wait for the results which come around mid-October.

Raise money for charity:

If you didn’t win the golden ballot ticket, the second most popular way to enter the London Marathon is through a charity place where there are about 15,000 bibs available through this fashion. Several different charities purchase guaranteed “Golden Bond” places in which you can apply for and, then in return for the race place, they will expect you to raise a minimum amount of typically up to 2000 pounds. You can find a charity to your liking on the London Marathon website. Even if you won a lucky ballot place, you still have an option to raise money for a charity that is near and dear to your heart.

Be fast. Good for age places:

An option only available to UK residents who also run fast, these runners can qualify for the London Marathon by having run a previous race under certain times differentiated by age through the Good For Age entry. There are currently only 6,000 places, equally divided between men and women who have achieved the qualifying times. The window for the 2019 race would have to have been achieved between 1st January 2017 and 10th August 2018 and you would have had to submit between August 1st-10th. A quick turn-around, runners then received a confirmation on August 15.

The times vary from year to year but here are last years qualifying times:

MenTime (in hours)WomenTime (in hours)
Age 18-39sub 3:00Age 18-39sub 3:45
Age 40-44sub 3:05Age 40-44sub 3:50
Age 45-49sub 3:10Age 45-49sub 3:53
Age 50-54sub 3:15Age 50-54sub 4:00
Age 55-59sub 3:20Age 55-59sub 4:05
Age 60-64sub 3:45Age 60-64sub 4:30
Age 65-69sub 4:00Age 65-69sub 5:00
Age 70-74sub 5:00Age 70-74sub 6:00
Age 75-79sub 5:15Age 75-79sub 6:20
80+sub 5:3080+sub 6:40

Be faster. Championship places:

If you are a member of an athletics club that is associated with British Athletics, you can get a championship place by having run a championship-qualifying finish in either a half or full marathon within 2 years before the London Marathon you are applying for. Submitting typically begins in November and closes in early January.

Here are last year’s championship qualifying times:

MenTime (in hours)WomenTime (in hours)
Full marathonsub 2:45Full marathonsub 3:15
Half marathonsub 1:15Half marathonsub 1:30

Be a professional. Elite Places:

With just under 100 elite places, here are the elite time frames:

Men: Sub 2.18.00 Marathon or Sub 1.05:00 Half Marathon
Women: Sub 2.38:00 Marathon or Sub 1.14:00 Half Marathon

Run with friends. Running club places:

Being associated with British Athletic affiliated clubs can have several benefits including team camaraderie, friendly competition, and challenging workouts, but also they can provide you with a chance to win a place into the London Marathon. There are 1,000 club places that can benefit hopeful marathon runners. A club that has up to 150 members will be allocated one place, up to 250 two places, and this continues on until capped at four places. Depending on the club, they may have their own ballot or use a point system based on your own racing and volunteering. This lottery will probably provide you with the best odds!

Elite wheelchair & para entry:

For more information on qualification standards and participating as a wheelchair or para-athlete, please go to the London Marathon information page here.

Come from overseas with tour operators:

There are tour operators that are licensed by the event, guaranteeing a certain number of race entries. This method is the most ideal for international runners who want to travel to London specifically for the marathon.

Some other far-fetched but not impossible ways include:

Check social media or the internet for competitions to win places. Sponsorships are sometimes available through race organizations that are partnered with the Virgin Money London Marathon. Or you can just keep working on your acting or singing career and get invited as a celebrity runner!

Deferring your place:

If you got into the London Marathon by any of the above-mentioned possibilities but happen to, unfortunately, fall ill or injured, you have the option to defer your place to the following year. Your race entry fee will not be reimbursed and will need to be paid again the following year, however, you are guaranteed to keep your place.

Alternatively, if you fail to find a way to get to the start line of the London Marathon, there are several other spring marathon options. Try searching the several dozen throughout the USA and internationally including Paris, Vienna, Rotterdam, Rhodes, Edinburgh, Manchester, and Hamburg, to name a few. There is always next year to keep trying your chances for London.