A quick and dirty look at the new 2019 London Marathon GFA times

Yesterday, London Marathon announced that they were changing the way good for age entries worked, starting with the 2019 race. Instead of everyone who made the qualifying time in each age category getting a guaranteed place, 3,000 places for men and 3,000 places for women would be available. If there are more applicants with the qualifying times than places then the qualifying time will be reduced (evenly across each age category) until there are only 3,000 qualifiers of each gender left. They also changed the age categories in line with other major marathons and this has led to some pretty big jumps in qualifying time for people the ‘wrong’ side of the new categories.

I don’t have time to do a full analysis of who has currently run qualifying times since 1st January 2017 in each age category, so I thought I’d do a quick and dirty look at the 2017 results to see who would qualify for GFA places under the new rules, stripping out those who would qualify for championship places. The age categories don’t map completely, but this is quick and dirty stuff.

The Good for Age qualifying times for the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon are:

Men Time (in hours) Women Time (in hours)
Age 18-39 sub 3:00 Age 18-39 sub 3:45
Age 40-44 sub 3:05 Age 40-44 sub 3:50
Age 45-49 sub 3:10 Age 45-49 sub 3:53
Age 50-54 sub 3:15 Age 50-54 sub 4:00
Age 55-59 sub 3:20 Age 55-59 sub 4:05
Age 60-64 sub 3:45 Age 60-64 sub 4:30
Age 65-69 sub 4:00 Age 65-69 sub 5:00
Age 70-74 sub 5:00 Age 70-74 sub 6:00
Age 75-79 sub 5:15 Age 75-79 sub 6:20
80+ sub 5:30 80+ sub 6:40

Let’s start with the women. Going through the rest of the age categories we end up with a table that looks like this based on the 2017 results:

Women Qualifying Time (in hours) Number under 3:15 Number between 3:15 and QT
Age 18-39 sub 3:45  186  876
Age 40-44 sub 3:50  59  391
Age 45-49 sub 3:53  25  318
Age 50-54 sub 4:00  12  272
Age 55-59 sub 4:05  4  105
Age 60-64 sub 4:30  0  81
Age 65-69 sub 5:00  0  34
Age 70-74 sub 6:00  0  33
Age 75-79 sub 6:20  0  4
80+ sub 6:40  0 3

In 2017 there was only one age category for 70+ so I have listed all of those that were sub 6:00 as 70-74, those between 6:00 and 6:20 as 75-79, and those between 6:20 and 6:40 as 80+. That gives us a total of 2,153 women who meet the qualifying times just from last year’s London Marathon.

Now let’s have a look at the men.

Men Qualifying Time (in hours) Number under 2:45 Number between 2:45 and QT
Age 18-39 sub 3:00  392  701
Age 40-44 sub 3:05  104  437
Age 45-49 sub 3:10  31  376
Age 50-54 sub 3:15  15  287
Age 55-59 sub 3:20  0  138
Age 60-64 sub 3:45  0  103
Age 65-69 sub 4:00  0  58
Age 70-74 sub 5:00  0  82
Age 75-79 sub 5:15  0  17
80+ sub 5:30  0  16

This would give a total of 2,215 men meeting the qualifying time just at London. On first glance it would seem that if you meet the new qualifying time then you should be fine, but remember that London is only one marathon (and not necessarily the fastest). People will also be running qualifying times at Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, Brighton, Manchester, etc.

For shits and giggles lets have a look at how many people would have been guaranteed a place under the old system based on the 2018 GFA times and age boundaries to see how many people may now be losing out (either because of the 3,000 cap, the age category change or the time change).

This is the old table:

Men Time (in hours) Women Time (in hours)
Age 18-40 sub 3:05 Age 18-40 sub 3:45
Age 41-49 sub 3:15 Age 41-49 sub 3:50
Age 50-59 sub 3:20 Age 50-59 sub 4:00
Age 60-64 sub 3:45 Age 60-64 sub 4:30
Age 65-69 sub 4:00 Age 65-69 sub 5:00
Age 70-75 sub 5:00 Age 70-75 sub 6:00
76+ sub 5:30 76+ sub 6:30

So, starting with the women again:

Women Qualifying Time (in hours) Number under 3:15 Number between 3:15 and QT
Age 18-40 sub 3:45 (no change)  186  876
Age 41-49 sub 3:50  84  679
Age 50-59 sub 4:00  16  361
Age 60-64 sub 4:30 (no change)  0  81
Age 65-69 sub 5:00 (no change)  0  34
Age 70-75 sub 6:00 (no change)  0  33
76+ sub 6:30  0  4

As we can see an 85 additional women qualify under the new procedure, as by splitting the age categories into 5 year increments the second half of a decade get an extra few minutes.

Onto the men ( and this is where the age category jumps get painful in the new procedure):

Men Qualifying Time (in hours) Number under 2:45 Number between 2:45 and QT
Age 18-40 sub 3:05 (no change)  392  701
Age 41-49 sub 3:15  135  1,237
Age 50-59 sub 3:20  15  458
Age 60-64 sub 3:45 (no change)  0  103
Age 65-69 sub 4:00 (no change)  0  58
Age 70-75 sub 5:00 (no change)  0  82
76+ sub 5:30  0  33

Under the old system, 2,672 men would have qualified for GFA places, meaning that 457 will now miss out. This doesn’t sound like much, but it’s quite a high proportion, and it comes from the tighter times for the younger halves of the old age categories. A 54 year old now has to run 3:15 instead of 3:20, a 44 year old 3:05 instead of 3:15.

I feel bad for those who have just run Brighton or Manchester, thinking that they crossed the line in a qualifying time only to find out that not only don’t they meet the new time, but even if they did they are still not guaranteed a place. At least with Boston (where you also need a qualifying time to even apply for a place) there are a lot more places available.

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