​​How To Get A London Marathon Charity Place

A runner in the London Marathon 2021 wearing a green running vest with the logo of Macmillan Cancer Support on it
(Image credit: Ben Queenborough for London Marathon Events)

Ever since the London Marathon ballot stopped capping entries at 125,000 people, the number of people throwing their hat into the ring for a race place has grown every year. Unfortunately the number of places available through the ballot has stayed the same, with the result that the ballot disappoints an increasing number of runners every year. 

The results of the 2023 ballot have now been announced and hundreds of thousands of runners will have been told they’ve missed out. The only option for people seeking a spot now is a charity place – unless they’re quick enough to claim a Good For Age or Championship place. Getting a charity place at the marathon, however, is the most rewarding way of all to complete the 42.2km – and it’s arguably a more reliable method of obtaining a place than simply entering the ballot.

More than 410,000 people entered the ballot for the London Marathon 2023, and even more are expected to apply for a ballot spot in the London Marathon 2024. Only around 20,000 race places are awarded via a ballot, so the odds are not in your favor.

The other main option available is a London Marathon charity place—unless you’re quick enough to claim a Good For Age or Championship place. Getting a charity place at the marathon, however, is the most rewarding way of all to complete the 26.2 miles, and it will keep you motivated though the long months of marathon training as well.

It’s arguably a more reliable method of obtaining a spot than entering the ballot, though that’s not to say it’s easy to get a charity place. You’ll need to move quickly: Some charities are so oversubscribed that they close registrations more than six months before the race.

If you want to apply for a charity spot and already have a cause that’s close to your heart, look at that charity’s website to see if it is accepting applications for places in the 2024 London Marathon. If you don’t already have a cause in mind, visit the London Marathon website to see a list of charities that have guaranteed places in the race.

You can apply to more than one charity to boost your chances of getting a place, though it is best to stick to organizations that you have a genuine connection with. That’s because charities will generally choose their runners based on that connection, as well as an estimation of how much the runner will be able to raise. If you have taken part in other events to raise money for a charity in the past, that could help your chances.

Each charity’s website will have details on how to apply and what it expects from its runners. Charities have to pay for places, so bear in mind you’ll be required to bring in a large amount of sponsorship money if you are given a place—£2,000 (around $2,500) is typical. This will probably not be a voluntary target, which means you’ll have to make up any shortfall yourself. Some charities also charge a registration fee, payable on offering you a place, which is likely to be in the region of £100.

If that figure seems daunting, take a look at this fundraising advice for a marathon for some recommended strategies. It’s only a small taste of the support and ideas you’ll receive from the charity you’re running for—they’re invested in your success after all.

People by a Macmillan Cancer Support banner cheer on runners in the London Marathon

(Image credit: Jon Buckle for London Marathon Events)

You don’t just get a race place. The charity will offer support for your marathon training and fundraising, and on the day itself you’ll have your own dedicated cheer squads looking out for your organization’s vest. It can make all the difference, as we found out when we spoke to Tom Barron, who ran the London Marathon to raise money for Afghanaid.

“I hit a real low point at the 22nd mile of the race,” says Barron. “I was struggling, but I remember looking up and seeing 30 or so people wearing green Afghanaid shirts in the crowd all cheering me on. That was such a well-timed pick-me-up.”

Most charities will let you know at least six months before the race if you have been successful in applying for a place, so you can start training in good time for the event.

Finally, even if you get a place in the London Marathon through the ballot rather than a charity spot, you can still raise funds for a cause you believe in. Once you have your ballot place, inform the charity that you’ll be running the event and that you’d like to raise money for it. You’ll still be provided with excellent support and you won’t have any mandatory fundraising goals—you’ll just be trying to raise as much as possible. It’s a win-win.

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.