The lure of a marathon lottery: should you put your name in the hat? – The Irish Times

The lure of a marathon lottery: should you put your name in the hat?  The Irish Times

After a wait of three years, the buzz was truly back at the recent Dublin Marathon. Thousands lined the streets to cheer on the runners and the atmosphere around the city was electric. If you were lucky enough to watch the faces and emotions of the runners as they approached the finish line, you may have started dreaming about taking part yourself one day.

Marathon fever

It is very easy to be seduced by a marathon finish-line. As our friends and colleagues show off their medals, it is hard not to feel captivated by their enthusiasm and their energy. Social media adds to the hype with a newsfeed full of race photos and finish-line smiles. Marathon organisers are smart enough to know that these are the weeks when marathon fever is at its peak. So it is no surprise that the doors have opened for the lottery for next year’s marathon. Potential runners and walkers have just a few more days to get their name in the hat. Are you tempted?

The pressure of a lottery

There is nothing like a deadline and the feeling of possibly missing out to spur us on to enter a marathon lottery. The very first two marathons I took part in were in London, the home of the marathon ballot, where race day tickets are like gold dust. People entered every year in the hope of getting a spot, sometimes without ever considering if running such a distance was the right thing for their body. The scarcity of spaces made the challenge more tempting. And with the focus purely on the lottery right now, I’m wondering if all those signing up have actually considered what’s ahead if they actually do get accepted.

Why do you want it?

I have been asked many times this week if signing up is a good idea. My advice to these runners is the same as I will offer you. Firstly, ask yourself why you want to do it. Is it purely the vision of the race day or do you truly want to train for a marathon? What is going to keep you motivated on days when you don’t fancy getting out there? Your “why” should excite you and maybe even scare you a little. Be careful you are not signing up to run a marathon just because your friends are doing it. Fear of missing out (FOMO) has a lot to answer for. You are not missing out on anything if you push your body into long distance before it is ready physically and mentally for the challenge.

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Inspiring each other

Everyone knows someone who has completed the marathon distance, someone who just like you, a recreational runner who has knuckled down and put in the miles and achieved the impossible. These runners are inspirational and they plant seeds of temptation in us, making us wonder if we too could take on this famous distance. If they can do it, surely I could give it a go. Any maybe you can. But have you got a good level of fitness to take on the challenge? Are you injury free and will you actually have the time next year to commit to training?

The right foundation

Don’t rush into the marathon distance if you are new to running. I would highly recommend you have at least two years running in your legs and be very comfortable over 10k distance right now if you want to run a marathon next year. If you do not have a strong running base, you risk getting disillusioned with your running, getting injured or overwhelmed by the training as the mileage increases. You also risk comparing yourself with others which can really impact your running confidence. A marathon is an incredible achievement but not something that should be rushed into. Behind every smiling finish line face is many months of dedication, focus, setbacks and determination.

Go with your gut

I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom about marathons. I actually do love them and have run almost 50 of them, but I hate to see people taking part without giving the training the focus it deserves. Worse still is talking to people who feel they have to run the marathon purely because they have a ticket which they applied for on a whim. The medal is only one moment of the marathon. The marathon itself is months of training and should be something to look forward to rather than dread. Marathon training focuses your entire summer and autumn. It’s not a decision to be made lightly but if you gut is saying to go for it and you are willing to prioritise training, then why not put your name in the hat.

More than this marathon

While the lottery puts pressure on committing to one day out exactly a year into the future, remember that is not your only chance to run a marathon next year. If you decide not to put your name in for the lottery, or indeed, if your application is unsuccessful, all is not lost. In fact, not getting a place might be the best thing for you. It may open up next year for other opportunities and exciting challenges. Every big town and city has its own marathon, at home and abroad. There are many events where you can sign up much closer to the race date. It is difficult to visualise how we might be feeling one year from now and while having the date in a diary can be motivating for some, it can bring anxiety and pressure to many others.

So if you do get in

So what happens if next week you get that email which says “Congratulations you have a place”. How will you feel? I know many of you have not thought beyond that moment. Well the good news is that you don’t need to start long distance running right away. Take the rest of this year to start planning and aim to kick off the new year fresh, motivated and excited by what’s ahead. Read all you can, research training groups, coaches and marathon gear and gadgets. Its good timing too, as once you tell your family your good news, it means that all you will get for Christmas is running related gifts! Another bonus of your lottery win.

Entering the lottery

The good news is the lottery to take part in the 2023 Irish Life Dublin Marathon is currently open and will close on the night of Wednesday, November 16th. There is a €10 fee per lottery entry, which will be redeemable against the entry fee of €110 (and if you are not successful in the lottery, €7 will be refunded). (See irishlifedublinmarathon.ie for details.)

The ballot for the 2023 TCS London Marathon is already over. But if you really want to enter, the best bet is to look for a charity spot. Each year, major charities are given a number of London Marathon entry places. They allocate these places to runners who agree to raise a minimum amount of money for that charity. (see tcslondonmarathon.com for details).

– In the meantime, sign up for one of The Irish Times’s Get Running programmes (it’s free!) First, pick the eight-week programme that suits you.

  • Beginner Course: A course to take you from inactivity to running for 30 minutes.
  • Stay On Track: For those who can squeeze in a run a few times a week
  • 10km Course: Designed for those who want to move up to the 10km mark. Best of luck!

– Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie.