Updated 30th October 2018
Runners worldwide know what happens each year in May. The London Marathon ballot opens, we all throw our names into a hat and we wait. And wait. And wait. At the end of September / early October, some of us will be rewarded for our patience with a place into the Holy Grail of marathons. Most of us will be left being bitter on social media, or pretending that we didn’t want to do it anyway.
For those of you who are interested in stats, Dan put a post together exploring the real odds of getting through the ballot. The odds are better than winning the lottery jackpot, anyway.
Facebook and Twitter are currently rife with screenshots of people confirming their entry into the ballot. There are also plenty of comments along the lines of “third attempt, third time lucky?” and so on. And along these lines, there are also the people who claim that they’ve been in the ballot 15 times or more in a row and have never been able to run the race because they have never been successful.
And these are the people who irritate me. By all means, have a moan about your repeated failed attempts. I know I do!
But don’t claim you’ve never got through 15 times in a row. Some are even claiming 20.
The previous sponsor of the London Marathon was Flora, with 2009 being the last year they sponsored the event. During this time, the London Marathon organises followed a system known as the “5 year rule”. This system meant that if you were unsuccessful 5 years in a row in the ballot, on the 6th attempt, you would be guaranteed an entry.
Virgin took over as sponsor in 2010, and this was when the London Marathon organisers axed the rule, but honoured it for those who had previously entered the ballot with Flora. Here is a copy of an email my friend The Phd Runner received in 2010 for the 2011 marathon:
2011 Virgin London Marathon – Priority Online Ballot Entry Scheme
In the past, the London Marathon has been able to offer a guaranteed race entry to runners after 5 consecutive unsuccessful ballot applications.
Unfortunately, due to the incredible growth in numbers of applicants, we have decided that we cannot continue to operate this system in future.
However, we acknowledge that it would be unfair to remove this well established system without notice so instead, we have decided on a phased withdrawal of the system over the next few marathons by introducing a Priority Online Ballot Entry Scheme for the benefit of all previous applicants with at least 2 rejected ballot entry applications in 2009 and 2010.
Our records show that you have made 2 consecutive unsuccessful applications and as a result we are offering you the opportunity to maintain your record of consecutive applications in the ballot by following the link from this special invitation email to the Priority Online Ballot Entry System and completing your registration in advance of the main public ballot, which opens on Tuesday 4th May.
The username and password provided below are exclusively for your use and cannot be used by anyone else.
You will retain your place in the Priority Online Ballot Entry Scheme until you either obtain a place in the race through the ballot entry process in the normal way, or you qualify under the ‘five times consecutively rejected’ rule highlighted above, whichever comes first.
In addition, in order to remain in the Priority Online Ballot Entry Scheme you must keep us updated with any change in your email address so that we can be sure that we can contact you in subsequent years until the scheme finally closes.
Lastly, please note that you must complete your priority application by 5pm on Friday, 30th April 2010 otherwise you will lose your place in the Priority Online Ballot Entry Scheme. You will still be able to apply through the main public ballot for the 2011 race which opens on Tuesday 4th May but you lose your rights outlined above.
If you have any questions about your place in the Virgin London Marathon Priority Online Ballot Entry Scheme, please call our Helpdesk on 020 7902 0200.
We look forward to receiving your priority application by the deadline highlighted above and wish you every success in the ballot for the 2011 race.
Dave Bedford – Race Director, Virgin London Marathon
This means that if you started applying for 2011 like I did, the maximum consecutive rejections possible is 9 (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019). If you honestly started applying for the London Marathon for 2009 or before, you’ve had the opportunity to run. It was just down to you to make sure that you entered the right ballot.
I’ve been unlucky in the ballot every year since I started trying to enter for the 2011 race. It’s annoying and I understand why people feel miffed as that’s a lot of years to miss out on. I had a rather embarrassing rant about it myself on my blog a few years back, which I’d love to delete, but feel needs to remain for the sake of honesty.
But please, stop trying to claim that you are the most hard done by of them all. If you’ve honestly been in the ballot 15 times in a row, you’ve had the opportunity to run London.
I enter the ballot every year. Every year I hope that my luck will change. But if it doesn’t, hey, we can commiserate together. Or enter online competitions – I won a Twitter competition for the 2015 marathon!