Didn’t get a place in the London Marathon? Try these events instead 

Don’t abandon your marathon dreams just yet, we’ve got some other options.

If you’ve received the 2024 London Marathon Ballot email telling you that you’ve not secured a place – fear not. A record half a million people (578,374) tried their luck for the race next year, and although it’s disappointing to not land a place (I didn’t get in either), it doesn’t mean that you can’t still train – and complete – the marathon distance  

To put the running fire back in your legs, we’ve got five alternative events for you to consider, so next year, you can still wave your medal in people’s faces while bragging: “I’ve run a marathon!”  

A group of marathon runners in a raceCredit: Shutterstock/Dziewul
There are plenty of other marathons to get involved in

1. Get your London marathon vibes in Scotland

Edinburgh hosts the second largest marathon in the UK, attracting more than 30,000 runners, trumped only by – you guessed it – the London Marathon. The Scottish course was once voted the fastest marathon in the UK, by Runner’s World, so it’s an ideal race if you have a need for speed.   

Starting in the Old Town, this route will take you past some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, including the statue of Greyfriars Bobby, a dog who spent 14 years guarding the grave of his owner. You’ll also see St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh Castle and the Scottish Parliament building.  

The route then heads east out of the city and along the North Sea coast – the lack of hills helping it to be one of the fastest courses. As it makes its way, it passes the Old Golf Course at Musselburgh Links, which has documented that people have been swinging clubs there since 1672.

But you won’t have time to join in a game, because you’ll want to get to the finish line down the road and claim your medal.  

Edinburgh Marathon Festival 2024  

 When: Sunday May 26 2024  

Where: Edinburgh, Scotland 

Price: £68 

2. Try an off-road trail marathon

A trail marathon is the experience of a lifetime. Not only do you avoid the smog of urban areas, but it gives you the chance to remember why you started running in the first place – for the pure joy of it.   

They’re my favourite events, because they’re a lot more relaxed than road races. People aren’t afraid to slow down and enjoy being there. Many trail runners will tell you it’s not about times, it’s about the experience.  

The courses are set in beautiful locations; my favourite ones include sections that are usually inaccessible to the public – which makes me feel really privileged. However, I won’t lie, trail marathons do have some challenges.   

The ground is often uneven, and if it’s been raining, you’ll be sure to finish covered in mud. But that’s the fun of it – it’s an adventure. So, if you’re looking for the opportunity to be a kid again while tackling a marathon, give a trail a try.  

South Downs and Arundel Marathon  

When: Sunday January 21 2024  

Where: Arundel, West Sussex 

Price: £49 

A runner following a path through the woods with the sun setting in front of them.Credit: Shutterstock/Tomas Picka
Trail marathons take you off road and into the wild

3. Spread your wings with a marathon abroad 

The London Marathon is undeniably iconic, but there are so many other marathons across the world that you could take on. You could use a marathon as an opportunity to explore another country – it’s what I would have been doing this year, if I hadn’t lost my passport.   

The six biggest marathons in the world are: Tokyo, Boston, Berlin, Chicago, New York City and London. However, most countries hold running events, including, Cyprus, Brazil and Italy, where you can enter, and gain a place straight away, without a ballot.  

Helsinki City Marathon is on my list for next year (if I manage to hold onto my passport), because it’s a place I’ve wanted to explore for years. The plan is to run the marathon, then spend the rest of my holiday recovering in a sauna, feeling smug – bliss.  

Helsinki City Marathon  

 When: Saturday May 11 2024 

Where: Helsinki, Finland 

Price: €69 (approximately £59) 

4. The Great Wall Marathon is a test for your legs

Running for long periods of time can get a bit boring, but there’s a marathon in China with the opportunity to mix it up – with a few thousand stairs.  

The Great Wall Marathon (yes, as in the Great Wall of China) has 5,164 steps, with steep ascents and descents that, according to its website, make it one of the world’s toughest marathons.  

You’d need to add in some hill and stair training to your marathon plan, and some mental focus training (I do it by repeating “relentlessly moving forward” to myself) for when the going gets tough. But apart from that, all you need to ask yourself is: am I up for the challenge?  

The Great Wall Marathon 

When:  Saturday May 18 2024  

Where: Huangyaguan, China 

 Price: Six-day package tour with Albatros Adventure Marathons, $1,695 (approximately £1,330) 

5, If a marathon isn’t far enough, you could try an ultra

If you’ve got an appetite for more mileage, a 50-kilometre (31-mile) event could be one to add to your race calendar. Senior ultra-athletes are gaining more attention in the media, changing perceptions on what we’re capable of as we age 

Ultra running event participation has grown more than 1,500 per cent, from 34,401 runners in 1996 to 611,098 in 2018, according to a study by Run Repeat. It was also noted that there’s been an increase in the number of runners over 50. 

 These events are about pacing yourself, and not about speed. Ultra-runners are not afraid to slow down or walk the more challenging parts of the route, to ensure they make it to the finish line. In March 2023, four 80-year-olds completed a 100-mile race in Nevada, USA – showing the world that you can be an ultra-athlete whatever your age.  

The North Wales 50k  

When: Saturday April 27 2024  

Where: Prestatyn, Wales 

 Price: £46.50 

Rebecca Frew

Written by Rebecca Frew she/her


Becky Frew has written various articles for newspapers and magazines focusing on fitness, is a qualified run leader, and a certified sleep talker trainer who loves to help advise people how they can nod off easier. When she is not writing or reading about fitness, she is at hot pod yoga, bounce class, training for an ultra-marathon or booking anything with a medal and free food at the end.

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