London Marathon Ballot Rejection Truth

It’s May 1st 2017 and runners world-wide know what that means. It’s the day that 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.



Joining the party. Here’s my screenshot.


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. They followed what was 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, when they took over as sponsor in 2010, got rid of this rule, but honoured it for those who had previously entered the ballot with Flora. I’m not sure whether you had to have just one failed attempt with Flora in 2009 for it to be honoured, or whether you had to have 2 failed attempts (2008 & 2009) as some forums seem to be discussing, but even if you started applying in 2008 and had 5 consecutive failed rejections (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), you would have been guaranteed a place in 2013. If it was honoured from 2009, you would have had a place in 2014.

This means that if you started applying for 2010 like I did, the maximum consecutive rejections possible is 8. If 2009 ballot entries were not honoured, then it’s 9.


VLM Marathon News 2014


I’ve been unlucky in the ballot every year since I started trying to enter for the 2010 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’m in the ballot. I’m eagerly awaiting my 9th rejection. I hope this will be the year my luck changes, but if not, we can commiserate together.

And don’t forget, there’s other methods of running. I won a competition to run in 2015. It does happen!

Good luck!


  1. May 1, 2017 / 8:57 am

    I got into the London Marathon in 2016 by winning a competition :). It was only my second year of not being accepted through the ballot, but now that I’ve done the marathon once, I’m not entering anymore. Once is enough for me. However, I was so jealous when watching the marathon on telly this year, I wanted to be there. I guess the London Marathon is special.

  2. Rebecca
    May 1, 2017 / 7:20 pm

    Please believe me when i say this but i am not trying to rub this in, however my partner anthony applied for the ballot in 2014 and he got straight through the ballot 1st time. He posted how chuffed he was and received backlash from the people who have entered lot’s of times… and as someone who has entered the ballot for the last 3 years i feel that pain. I genuinly do believe because of this though that it is totaly random and absoloutly the luck of the draw. I have entered again this year as well as my partner however i have also registered my interest with a charity in case i don’t get through. £1800 is a lot of money however i believe where there is will there is a way.

    • May 1, 2017 / 8:48 pm

      A friend of mine ran in 2015 after getting in first go as well. You’re right, it shows that it is totally random!

      I’m really sorry he received backlash – that just isn’t fair at all. Some of us have to get lucky!

      Good luck to both of you in the ballot this time, I hope you get through! x
      Helen recently posted…London Marathon Ballot Rejection TruthMy Profile

  3. May 2, 2017 / 6:12 am

    Also, there are other marathons! It always surprises me (more in October) the people who get the rejection email and then don’t do a different one.
    Maria @ runningcupcale recently posted…Winchester parkrunMy Profile

  4. May 3, 2017 / 7:23 am

    I get that London is special (it is!) and why people have their hearts set on it – but to Maria’s point above, there are other equally brilliant marathons that often don’t get a look in! I got rejected the first year I applied, signed up to Paris literally the day I got the rejection letter and then was lucky enough to end up with a GFA to get into London thereafter.
    As articulated pretty clearly though, it is called a ballot and some people get lucky early on (and also multiple years in a row) and some people don’t. Luck of the draw really and I don’t think there is any way to beat the system other than trying one of the other entry options. Shame about the 5 year rule, but I think the volume of people who would have needed to be honoured under that would have just massively escalated to be unmanageable with the popularity of running over the past 10 years!

  5. May 12, 2017 / 2:24 pm

    My London Marathon ballot history is as follows:

    2005 – entered the ballot for the 2006 event and got in first time.
    2006 – unsuccessful in the ballot for 2007.
    2007 – entered the ballot for the 2008 event and got in.
    2008 – didn’t enter the ballot.
    2009 – entered the ballot for the 2010 and got in. Didn’t run due to injury.
    2010 – didn’t enter the ballot as I had a guaranteed place. Didn’t run due to injury.
    2011 – entered the ballot for the 2012 and got in. Didn’t run due to injury.
    2012 – didn’t enter the ballot as I had a guaranteed place. Didn’t run due to injury.
    2013 – didn’t enter the ballot.
    2014 – unsuccessful in the ballot for 2015
    2015 – unsuccessful in the ballot for 2016 but won a place via social media
    2016 – didn’t enter the ballot.
    2017 – didn’t enter the ballot.

    So I’ve hobbled my way around London three times and have failed to start (some might say wasted places) four times. I won’t be hobbling around London again unless it’s with a GFA time (highly unlikely!).

    I much preferred the old system, runners had to track down a Marathon News magazine which contained a good old fashioned paper entry form. These magazines were like gold dust. Far more effort than just ticking a load of boxes online. You knew you’d got a place if you hadn’t donated your entry fee when your cheque was cashed. As the ballot did’t open until the summer (I think) there was a lot less waiting.

  6. Jonny
    October 2, 2017 / 10:48 am

    I have genuinely applied every year since 2007. Not only have I not got in once, I have also not been told of the 5 times and the 6th place guaranteed and neither have Virgin stated this on application. I know this existed previously but it was never mentioned to me before or after application.
    Statistically, based on the present entry system I can apply for 20 years and there is a 20% chance that I will get in on none of those occassions. The sentence “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.” is harsh and untrue.

    • October 3, 2017 / 6:57 pm

      It might be worth you giving the office a call and asking about this. As it sounds like you may have been missed in the system. I have no idea whether they will offer a place, but you should have been offered one if you have been applying in consecutive years since 2007.

      Based on the present system, yes I think that tallies in with what I read earlier – that 70% of people applying now, assuming the ballot stays where it is, will not get in over 5 attempts.
      Helen recently posted…Planning for a Spring MarathonMy Profile

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