I can remember the feeling when I looked at my iPhone on September 15, 2015 at 11 p.m. I tapped on the Mail icon and immediately saw an email from the Tokyo Marathon Foundation. Without even opening the email completely, I saw a preview and the word "Congratulations!" Immediately I knew what that meant. I screamed and ran into our study to tell my husband the good news. I couldn't believe it. I entered the lottery for the Tokyo Marathon one month before. I knew the acceptance/rejection emails were coming out the next day, but due to the time difference in Japan, I got the email the night before. I was thrilled. I remember reading an article a couple years prior stating that the Tokyo Marathon was one of the hardest races to get into. This was my first time entering, and I got in! What were the chances?!
Have you ever wondered what your chances are of getting in via the lottery (or ballot) for the Abbott World Marathon Majors (Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago & NYC)? In this post I review the statistics for each race based on the last couple years results. These are the statistics provided on the race website. International entries will vary, therefore the stated odds may be less for international runners. For the runner mathematicians and statisticians out there, here are some of the facts I ran across. Please note, these are results I found through basic internet searches and the race websites. They are as accurate and up-to-date as I could find. Results vary from year to year. Again, the statistics for international entries will be lower than stated. I do not have all the information for international runners.
Field size: 35,500 runners
Race origin: inaugural race 2007
The general entry applications for Tokyo Marathon takes place in August for a February race.
Breakdown of Applicants (As of August 31, 2016)
Total number of general entry applicants（Marathon, 10km): 322,703 entries
1. Marathon: (26,370 places*) 321,459 entries**
2. 10km: (400 places*) 1,244 entries
(*Numbers of places assigned to the general lottery entries exclude the following number of priority, charity entry places, etc. from marathon and 10km total entry places (35,500 and 500, respectively.)
(**The number of marathon applicants is higher than those from past races.)
Please note: international entries will vary, and may be less than the stated percent chance of getting in. I do not have all the facts on these entries.
Other application details for reference
・Priority entry for ONE TOKYO premium members [3,000** places] 28,873 entries
(**Application period: July 2nd - 31st
・Charity runners [3,000 places] 2,032 entries
・RUN as ONE -TOKYO MARATHON (Semi-Elite, general) [3,000 places]
Numbers from Tokyo Marathon 2016
*Capacity and numbers of places assigned to the general lottery entries differ from those in 2017.
・Marathon : (27,370 places) 308,810 entries
Source: Tokyo marathon website
There is no lottery or ballot system for this race. Entries are based on marathon Qualifying time and charity runners. Here is the breakdown for each of those:
Field size: 30,000
Race origin: First race was 1897
More than 80% of the field ultimately will be comprised of athletes who have met the qualifying standards. The balance will consist of invitational entrants, many of whom run for local charitable organizations
Qualifiers who were two minutes, nine seconds (2:09) or faster than the Qualifying time (in 2016) for their age group and gender were accepted into the 2017 Boston Marathon. In summary, you have around an 89% chance of getting into the Boston Marathon if you are able to run the qualifying time in a marathon.
• 26,171 applications were received during the registration period for qualifiers.
• 23,214 Qualified applicants have been accepted to date or are in the process of being accepted, pending verification of their qualifying performance.
• 2,957 applicants were unable to be accepted due to the large number of eligible qualifiers who submitted an application for entry combined with field size limitations.
During the registration period, the breakdown of accepted Qualifiers was as follows:
• 4,357 Qualifiers met their qualifying time by 20 minutes, 00 seconds or faster.
• 7,105 Qualifiers met their qualifying time by 10 minutes, 00 seconds or faster.
• 6,845 Qualifiers met their qualifying time by 05 minutes, 00 seconds or faster.
• 4,497 Qualifiers met their qualifying time by 02 minutes, 09 seconds or faster.
• 410 Qualifiers were accepted based on finishing 10 or more consecutive Boston Marathons
For reference, Qualifiers needed to be two minutes, 28 seconds or faster for their age group and gender for the 2016 Boston Marathon; one minute, 02 seconds or faster for the 2015 Boston Marathon; and one minute, 38 seconds or faster for the 2014 Boston Marathon.
You might be wondering how difficult is it to run your qualifying time for the Boston Marathon. I will compare the largest marathon, the NYC marathon finish times for women under the age of 30 for example. The average finish time for women under the age of 30 for the 2013 NYC marathon, for instance, was 4 hours 36 minutes. The qualifying time for the Boston Marathon for women age 18-34 is 3 hours 35 minutes. In essence, if a female (age 18-34) wants to run the Boston Marathon, she has to run a marathon 1 hour faster than the average marathon finish time to qualify (comparison times based on the average NYC marathon finish times only).
In 2015 Competitor magazine released an article "What Percentage of Marathon Finishers Go On to Run the Boston Marathon?" Here's what they revealed:
How many Annual Marathon Finishers in the U.S.? About 550,000
How Many Annual Marathons? 1,050
What Percent Run Boston Qualifying Times? 12%
How Many Annual Boston Qualifiers? Around 65,000
Field size: Capacity 36,550
Race origin: 1981
Taken directly from the Virgin Money London Marathon website: "A record total of 253,930 people entered the ballot for the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon. We accept a total of more than 50,000 runners as we can predict, after 36 years, almost exactly what proportion of entrants will drop out due to illness, injury or other reasons before Race Day". In 2016, there were 247,069 applicants and they accepted 53,152 of them. Please note, international runners will have less of a chance. I do not have all the numbers/facts for international entries.
***The London Marathon does not release the number of charity entries that they allow, which makes it difficult to predict how many runners comprise the entire field and how many were accepted via the ballot entry.
Here are the statistics from the past 3 years for the number of registered runners, number of starters and finishers:
2016: Registered 39,839 Started 39,523 Finished 39,140
2015: Registered 38,263 Started 38,020 Finished 37,675
2014: Registered 36,621 Started 36,351 Finished 35,875
Lottery results for the 2017 race will be revealed November 30- December 2nd 2016. These are stats taken from previous years.
Field size: 40,000 runners. For the 2016 race, there were a total of 41,283 runners and power walkers.
Race origin: 1974
I could not find the statistics for this past year on the number of lottery applications, but for the 2014 race, there were 74,707 registered for the 2014 BMW BERLIN-MARATHON lottery and participation is limited to 40,000 runners. Numbers subject to change this year. Also international entries will vary! I do not have the statistics on international runners.
Source: click here.
Field size: 45,000
Race origin: 1977
From the 2015 race, here are the previous stats:
A total of 71,040 runners applied to the lottery or registered via a guaranteed entry.
- 64% of the field was accepted through the lottery. In other words, of the 54,800 runners who entered the lottery, about 53% got in.
- 36 percent of the field earned a guaranteed spot.
From those runners who entered with a guaranteed application:
- 41.7 percent will run through a charity.
- 23.6 percent are time qualifiers.
- 17.4 percent are Chicago Marathon Legacy Finishers who ran the race five or more times in the past 10 years.
- 11.3 percent deferred their entry from previous years.
- 1.2 percent will participate through a tour group.
- 4.8 percent entered through other means.
Source: RW article.
The New York City Marathon
Field size: 50,000
Race origin: 1970
The TCS New York City Marathon lottery will take place between January 17- February 17, 2017. For the 2016 race, here are the facts and figures.
"19,083 runners will be accepted into the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon through the race entry drawing process held today. The number of entries is an increase of 4,757 (33%) from 2015, and 9,913 (108%) over the past two years (2014 and 2015). The race will be held on Sunday, November 6, 2016.
For the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon, 23% of non-guaranteed applicants will receive entry through the drawing process. A total of 82,172 non-guaranteed entry drawing applications were processed. Of the 19,083 runners who will receive entry through the drawing process, an equal percentage will be drawn from local, national, and international application pools. The increase in non-guaranteed drawing entries is the result of a smaller number of guaranteed entry applications received via the event’s race cancellation policy, as well as the end of the 2012 marathon resolution entry process.
125,000 applications will make up this year’s combined field of guaranteed and non-guaranteed entries, featuring runners from over 125 countries around the world. Runners received guaranteed entry through a variety of methods, which are detailed here. The application period for all entrants was open for one month, from January 21 through February 21. About 50,000 runners are expected to finish the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon."
There you have it! If you're interested in running an Abbott World Marathon Majors, I suggest you apply every year until you make it. What do you have to lose? Another, very admirable way, of entering these races is through charity. Please see my previous post describing ALL the ways one can gain entry into a World Marathon Major. Click here. Follow me on social media and subscribe to my blog for updates on my training and the World Marathon Majors. I will send you a reminder email to apply for the WMM events when registration is open.
You also may be wondering, what are the largest races in the world. Click here for a detailed article in Competitor magazine.
- New York City Marathon. 2014 Finishers: 50,386
- Chicago Marathon. 2014 Finishers: 40,595
- Paris Marathon. 2014 Finishers: 38,575
- London Marathon. 2014 Finishers: 35,878
- Tokyo Marathon. 2014 Finishers: 34,097
- Boston Marathon. 2014 Finishers: 31,932
- Berlin Marathon. 2014 Finishers: 28,984
- Osaka Marathon. 2014 Finishers: 28,076
Read my related article "How to Get Into an Abbott World Marathon Major" for more information on how to enter one of these races.
***Disclaimer: I am an ambassador for the Abbott World Marathon Majors. My opinions mentioned here are my own. My facts are based on my internet search and may not be entirely accurate, as numbers may vary from year to year.