Over the last week you may have seen a lot of Facebook posts about the London Marathon as emails have gone out offering “Good for Age” places. So what does this really mean, and why is it a goal for so many British runners?
There are three ways to get a place in the very oversubscribed London Marathon. The first stop for most runners is via the ballot. Applications for the ballot usually open for the following year straight after the race takes place, but with thousands of applicants per place, you may be lucky straight off, or you may be waiting years to be successful. A second route is to apply for a charity place and commit to raising a sum of money in order to run, usually ranging from £1500-£2500. This is hugely worthwhile – London Marathon fundraisers have raised over a billion pounds for charity since it was first run in 1982 – but is understandably a big commitment. The final method is to qualify by time. Your choice is to qualify as an elite runner (I wish!), a Championship runner, or with a Good For Age Place. Championship (champs) runners are competing in the British Marathon Championship competition. Current champs qualifying time is under 2h40mins for men and 3h14 for women – a very challenging time. The final time qualifying category is Good for Age (GFA). These are a set of times staggered by age, on the principle that achievable marathon times decline by age, so older runners can qualify with slower times. These times are still tough, but more accessible to amateur runners, so are popular with runners as a challenging goal to aim for, and a good way to get a coveted place in one of the World’s greatest marathons.
To qualify this way, you need have run a certified marathon in a qualifying time, within the qualification window and then submit the evidence. London Marathon publish full details on their website here: https://www.tcslondonmarathon.com/enter/how-to-enter/good-for-age-entry
Times and the qualifying window can vary from year to year, but for example, for a place in the 2022 London Marathon, a 48 year old male runner (now you know my age!) had to run 3h10mins and a 48 year old female 3h53 mins at a certified measured course between the 4th October 2020 and 3rd October 2021. They then would have submitted evidence of their time (often a web link to the marathon results), evidence of British nationality (photo of passport in my case) and evidence of UK residency (photo of a bill or bank statement showing address). The qualifying period for the 2023 London Marathon is currently open and closes on 7th August 2022. So if you think you can achieve a GFA time, make sure your marathon is within the qualifying period.
Why don’t women have to run as fast as men to qualify?
Women don’t run as fast as men over the marathon distance. However, the disparity between the times is larger than the percentage difference between elite male and elite female marathoners, and this is because London Marathon tries to get an equal number of male and female good for age runners. As there are less female applicants, the times are comparatively slower, a fact often bemoaned by male runners struggling to meet their faster time!
Does running within the time guarantee you a place?
Not always. London Marathon cap GFA places at 6000 (3000 men and 3000 women). If more than this apply, the cut off times will be raised evenly across the age categories, making it tougher to get in.
So how do I get fast enough to qualify?
That’s the hard bit. Very few runners are simply good enough, as shown by the amount of entrants above. Achieving a qualifying time generally means following a well-designed training programme consistently for 16-18 weeks, and for most runners, it will probably take more than one marathon cycle to achieve the goal. Using myself as an example, I first achieved a GFA place in my 4th marathon. It may also take strength and conditioning work to help prevent injury, good recovery and looking after your nutrition. All of this is where a coach can come in useful – they can individualise your training to you so it fits around your life, keep you accountable and motivated, and of course, produce a plan that is personalised to get you to your goal as quickly as possible.
However you decide to get your place, and whatever your goal, very good luck – and drop me a line if you need any help getting there.
Will you be targeting a place in the next London Marathon? Have you managed to get a GFA? If so, do you have any tips for our members?
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