London Marathon plans hybrid event and revamps process for allocating charity places 

22 Jan 2021 News

The London Marathon has set out a series of changes to the ways it allocates places to charities, meaning it will work directly with more voluntary organisations.  

This year’s London Marathon will take place in the autumn and will be a hybrid event, with 50,000 places available for the London race, and 50,000 available for the virtual race. 

Under the changes, which are due to be phased in from 2024, the marathon will work directly with more charities, but those who hold coveted Golden Bonds will see a reduction the number of places they can secure. 

Organisers also said that the cost to purchase additional spaces through advertising packages would be reduced as it brings this in-house. 

2021 event 

This year’s event will take place on 3 October, when it is expected that most people will have been vaccinated against Covid-19. 50,000 will run the course in London and 50,000 will have one day to run or walk the distance where they are, and receive the London Marathon t-shirt and medal. 

In 2019, 43,000 people took part in the race and £66.4m was raised for charity. 

People who are unsuccessful in the public ballot for the London race will be offered the option to take part in the virtual event, before applications are opened more widely. 

Charity places in the virtual event are available for the standard fee of £28. 

Organisers said they are working with others on a virtual event for the spring to help charities raise money, and that more details would be announced in February. 

Last year, when it became clear that most mass participation events would need to be cancelled, a group of event organisers set up the 2.6 Challenge, which raised over £10m. 

Bond system 

The Golden Bond scheme was introduced in 1993, with each bond guaranteeing five places in the marathon for around £300. 

These can be renewed perpetually on a five-year cycle and the scheme has been closed to new participants for some time, making it hard for newer charities to access guaranteed places in the event. 629 charities currently hold Golden Bonds. 

A Silver Bond scheme was set up in 2007 offering one guaranteed place every five years. 

Thirdly, 500 charity places are available through an annual charity ballot. 

From 2026, Golden Bonds will be held for four years and guarantee four places. The Silver Bond scheme will end in 2025. It is also phasing out a system of one-year bonds for charities. 

London Marathon is introducing two new types of charity places. From 2024, charities that don’t hold Golden Bonds can apply for two-year places. And from 2026 they will be able to apply for four-year places. 

Changes are coming into effect over a number years to enable people to carry over their places from 2020, when the event was cancelled, and help charities to plan ahead. 

The annual ballot for 500 places will continue to be available for charities that do not hold guaranteed places.  

Further review in 2029 

Under the changes announced yesterday, London Marathon says it will work directly with 2,500 charities every year, which is 1,000 more than previously. 

This is the first time that the system has been properly reviewed, but London Marathon bosses said a further review would take place in 2029. 

It has already assured Golden Bond holders that there will be no further changes to their allocation until 2033. 

Hugh Brasher, event director, said: “The London Marathon, for many charities, is the biggest fundraising day of the year and the demand for places from charities is huge. 

“We had to balance our responsibilities towards charities that have worked with us for decades with opening up the London Marathon to other charities for the first time in more than 20 years. We believe that our new scheme does that and gives our existing long-standing charity partners certainty on places up to 2033.” 

Advertising changes 

Charities can also obtain further places by buying advertising packages. However, there has previously been criticism that these packages can be expensive and confusing. 

Yesterday, organisers said they were bringing these packages in-house, which Brasher said would make them “better value than ever before”. 

The programme for the 2022 London Marathon will open in early February with existing advertising charity partners offered a priority window to join the programme. There will be an opportunity for new charities to enter the programme from the end of March. 

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