It is undoubtably one of the world's biggest marathons and certainly the biggest single one day charity fundraising event in the UK. In 2005 it is hoped that over £35 million will be raised for charities by 78% of the runners. In 2005 over 30,000 runners got out their shorts, running shoes, went through 88lbs of vaseline (helps prevent rubbing and chafing in the wrong places), and 710,000 bottles of water. The average marathon runner loses approx 1.1 litres of sweat per hour and despite this over the course the male runners used 440ft of urinal trough to relieve themselves. So here's your starting point if you want to run, pace, jog, walk or stagger the 26.2 miles which killed poor old Philippides (or Pheidippides), the first "marathon" runner in 490 BC.1
Today, the Flora London Marathon (FLM) is considered the pinnacle of all marathons. With Brit Paula Radcliffe winning the women's race in 2005, 2004, 2003 and in 2002 (when she made her marathon debut!!!) and then going on to get a new women's world record when she won Chicago, there is a new marathon fever in the UK and most runners would do all they could to enter the race. The London Marathon is seen as "everyone's race". World champions, Olympic champions, national champions, club runners, celebrities, wheelchair entrants, fun runners, people running in fancy dresss, young and old all take part in the streets of London at the same time. It's one of the few races where a world champion runner such as Roger Black can be over taken by someone in a giant Rhino suit or a woman in her seventies. There is even a fascinating group of runners which consist of people who have run all 25 London Marathons since time began.
It is the "people's marathon" but only 35,000 "lucky" runners get in. This guide attempts to unravel the Flora London Marathon 2006 entry system and gives advice on how you too can be part of this great race, which takes place on 23rd April 2006. This guide is primarily for UK residents, overseas entrants go through a different entry process - see below.
Look out for "Marathon News" magazine
Treat this free magazine as your Bible to the London Marathon. It will be in all major sports shops from 1st August 2005. Although we are now in the 21st century and most other major races of this size have online entry forms, the London Marathon still quaintly forces people to get out a pen and enter through the post with a form in Marathon News. Entries have to be in by 21st October 2005. All entries received by that date are put into a ballot and you are notified in early December as to whether you are successful. So far so good, but when you realise that in 2005 almost 100,000 people entered the ballot for around 45,000 precious places you will tend to wonder what your chances of getting a place really are.
So if you don't fancy your chances in the ballot, don't despair there are still a few other ways to run.
Be really, really fast
If you have run a full marathon (anywhere) in the past two years and you can prove that you did it within a certain time, you will get automatic entry because you are "good for age". Before you start getting too excited, this means you have to be pretty damn fast. Generally if you are man and have run a full marathon in 2004 or 2005 in 2 hours 45 minutes - 3 hours and a woman who's run in under 3 hours 15 minutes - 3 hours 45 minutes.
If you fit the above times and dates you have until 7th October 2005 to enter but you need to write to the following address for a "good for age" entry form - "Good for Age", The Flora London Marathon, PO Box 3460, London SE1 OYA. They will check your proof and get back to you with another entry form which you have to complete by 21st October 2005. For more details check out this link from the London Marathon's website.
Also UK Athletics affiliated members can get a guaranteed championship place if they've run under 2:45 (men) or 3:15 (women) in a marathon 2004 or 2005. These super fast runners should write to the following address giving details of their qualifying performance - a copy of the official results or a press cutting and an SAE to: Championship Entries, The Flora London Marathon, PO Box 3460, London, SE1 OYA. The closing date for letters is early January 2006 and the entry forms you get after your application letter have to be back by mid January 2006.
Join an athletics club
If you're not "good for age" another possible way of getting entry is to join an athletics clubs. UK athletics clubs are given guaranteed entries according to their size. Like the point above, the marathon's organisers want serious contenders in the race and good pace setters. The athletics clubs tend to raffle the places or give them to their best runners. Club secretaries should apply for their guaranteed places on club headed paper before late November 2005.
Run for charity
Perhaps the most worthwhile way of running in the London Marathon is to run for a good cause. It's also the only way to get in if you lose out on the ballot, are not championship level or haven't got a club place. Hundreds of charities have over 10,000 guaranteed Golden Bond places between them. They buy these places from the marathon organisers and then "give" them to people who want to race on the provisio that they will promise to raise a minimum sum of money for the charity (through sponsorship or other fundraising methods). Check out Marathon News for charities advertising their Golden Bond places and make your application to the charity accordingly.
The minimum amount ranges from around £800 to over £2,000 depending on the charity. These places are highly sought after as if you are unsuccessful in the ballot (each year figures between 40,000 to 70,000 people are unsuccessful) and you can't get a place through any of the methods above it's the only way you can be sure of entry. As the charities have paid good money for the places they want to make sure they are going to get a good return.2 Therefore the places are usually only given to people who look as though they will actually raise what they promised to.
Lots of factors are taken into account when considering who to give the Golden Bond places to:
- Your experience of fundraising in the past
- Whether you have a personal reason for running for the charity - eg someone in your family has been affected by the illness the charity is trying to cure
- Where you work - if you work for a large company and feel that lots of your work colleagues will sponsor you, or that your company will match your fundraising efforts from the company coffers
- Whether you have a fundraising plan - how exactly are you going to raise the funds - ie raffles, car boot sales, auctions, fundraising web page - see example for Get Kids Going
- Whether you've run a marathon or a big race in the past
- Your chances of getting good publicity - running in fancy dress increases your chances of getting seen on TV where you can promote your charity. It will also help you to get plugged in the local press before you take part. People usually pay good money to see anyone dressed in big furry outfits running 26.2 miles!
So bear all of the above in mind and see how well you could do them when you make your application to charities for a Golden Bond place.
The very fact that you're looking at this guide means you have internet access, so why not make the most of the net when trying the raise funds. The London Marathon have teamed up with a company called Justgiving.com so that you can build your own personalised marathon sponsorship page. In 2004, more than one in seven charity runners used Justgiving and raised a staggering £3.4 million for good causes!. You can add a picture of yourself, add a personal message and get your own web address which you email off to friends, family and colleagues anywhere in the world and they can sponsor you by credit or debit card.
Charities love this type of fundraising as it saves them tons of admin as the money goes straight to their bank account - often before you've made your first step in the race. It also means you don't have to run after people when you've finished the race to collect your pounds. Chancellor Gordon Brown is also involved as you can automatically get an extra 28% included in Gift Aid Tax if the people sponsoring you are UK tax payers. This tax bonus won't cost you or your friends a penny. Give it a try, it might help your application for that Golden Bond Place and it's certainly a pretty easy way to fundraise. For more details and help there's a freephone number you can call - 08000 286183.
Anthony Nolan Trust and The Stroke Asssociation - The Official London Marathon 2006 Charities
Each year the London Marathon Organisers choose one or two charities which get their special backing and support. These particular charities receive a large number of extra guaranteed places and are certainly worth approaching if you are struggling to find a place.
If at first you don't succeed try, try, try, try and try again
The marathon rewards tryers and if you can prove that you have entered and been rejected five times since and including 2001 (and the marathon will have records of this) you will get automatic entry on your sixth attempt - but you'll have to contact them to let them know. So don't give up.
All overseas applications have the same deadline of October but if you wish to enter through a travel agent's special tour there are often places available until the end of January 2006. Call Sports Tours International for full details on + 44 0161 703 8161.
Uli is a German with a London Marathon passion and has produced a brilliant personal website. He says: "Only when booking at a travel agency your start is guaranteed. You will have to book transport and accommodation with it (certainly you would prefer to organize this on your own but that's the price for it). However, some agencies may sell the number without the journey (at higher price). Just give it a try."
For more very helpful information on overseas entries why not visit Uli's site on entering the London Marathon.
Could you actually run the London Marathon?
It has been said that with the right level of training anyone could run a marathon. The amount of training depends on your fitness levels, age, diet, weight etc etc and it can take at least six months of training. You'll find a lot of training guides on the internet but a good place to start is the BBC Science's guide to the art of marathons . Some people's bodies it claims are built for marathons. It may also be in some people's genes. Who knows? But training is vital even if you are simply running for charity or are planning on walking the entire route.
The London Marathon email newsgroup and the Runner's World magazine online Forum are also great places to discuss your training and ask for advice on all sorts of wierd and wonderful matters including which socks to run in, whether you should train while exercising your canine friends and much more practical stuff too.
You might also take a look at just one of the page of Uli's personal London Marathon website. As mentioned above Uli is a German with a London Marathon passion and has produced a brilliant personal website. His how to enter guide is a good rival to this page and the rest of is his site is a whole cornucopia of news, pictures and opinions about the London Marathon including an up to date list of those "Good for Age" times.
Go for it, don't forget to check out the helpful referenced websites in the panel on the right. Good Luck and Have Fun!
It seems seems unlikely that any professional foot courier of ancient Greece would have perished after such a run, but the legend of Philippides took hold, and out of that legend grew the modern marathon race. For more see the marathonguide.com link in the panel on the right.2 Check out the "Golden Bond system" article from The Guardian in the referenced entries which highlights the competition for these valuable charity places.