Did you get the ‘Sorry’ magazine or email from the London Marathon this week? I know how you feel – I’ve had a few of them myself! London is high on the bucket list of most marathon runners, and you get so excited at the prospect of getting a ballot place. But for most of us it’s a ‘no’, just because of the sheer volume of applications they receive. Apparently the odds of getting a ballot place are around 7-1, so they don’t stack in your favour. And it’s even more annoying when some people seem to get in year after year and others never get lucky.
Of course the ballot isn’t the only way into London. In the end I got a place via the Good For Age system. The only benefit of being old is that for V50 women the GFA qualifying time is sub four hours, and I finally managed to achieve that last year, so I’ll finally be lining up next April after years of bad luck in the ballot. I’m always surprised that many people don’t seem to know about Good For Age, but it’s worth checking out if you’re prepared to put in some effort to get there. Obviously you could get a charity place, but most of them have a very high minimum fundraising target for London, which is a lot of pressure for runners. I guess it’s an option if you have lots of generous friends!
And you know, London isn’t the only cool marathon. I’ve done a few other spring ones that have been really good. If you’re chasing a PB (or a Good For Age qualification!) I’d recommend Manchester, which has the flattest course in the UK; and apparently it’s even the right length these days! It’s where I got my first sub 4. This year there were some issues with baggage reclaim being very slow, but hopefully the organisers will have sorted that out for 2017. I’ve run and reviewed Manchester twice, in 2013 and 2015.
In 2014 I did the Milton Keynes Marathon, which is a bit later than London (in May) but a really good event. Well-organised, with an interesting course that takes in some lovely parkland, and a finish in the MK Dons football stadium where you can see yourself on the big screen! There’s also a half marathon option if you have friends/family who’d like a shorter challenge. You can read my review here. Although I didn’t get one in 2014, they apparently now do a very cool cow-shaped medal, so I may have to go back for that one day!
In April this year I ran the Paris Marathon, which was a great experience. The only problem (for me) was that it was really warm and sunny, which is apparently the norm at this event – I do much better in the cold! Although I didn’t perform particularly well, I did enjoy it, and there was also a really chilled and friendly breakfast warm-up run the day before. Running past many of the best-known sights in the city was fantastic, and there was even a rave tunnel! You don’t have to go through a ballot to get a place, but it does sell out, so get in soon if you fancy it – entry is already open. You can read my Paris review here.
So don’t despair if it was a ‘no’ from London this time. There are lots of other great marathons out there – these are just a few – and they’re all 26.2 miles long. I actually know a couple of people who’ve done London in the past and not really enjoyed it; they actually found it a bit overwhelming. Hopefully your turn will come one day – and if not, get training for that Good For Age!