3 Ways to Get Into the New York City Marathon

Runners cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at the start of the ING New York City Marathon on November 3, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The New York City Marathon is not only the largest marathon in the world but one of the most popular. Because of this, gaining entry as a runner can be as hard as the race itself. The annual marathon is held on the first Sunday of every November but you would need to plan far in advance to secure your place.

You can get into the New York City Marathon either through a lottery, by running on behalf of an eligible charity, or through guaranteed entry rules.

How to Apply Through the Lottery

The New York Road Runners (NYRR), who organizes the event, hold a lottery drawing every spring. Anywhere from 14,000 to 20,000 runners apply each year with a one-in-four chance of getting picked. There are three different drawing pools:

  • One for U.S. residents who live within 60 miles of New York City
  • One for all other U.S. residents
  • One for international residents

The entry fee varies by application type but can run from just over $200 for New York Metro residents to over $340 for international competitors.

The application period runs from mid-October of the preceding year right through to mid-February of the year you plan to attend. You can begin the application process on the TCS New York City Marathon website.

How to Enter on Behalf of a Charity

The New York City Marathon's charity program offers runners a guaranteed spot if they agree to do so on behalf of a charity. You would need to commit to raising a specific amount of money for any one of over 400 charities listed on the marathon website. The eligible charities are divided into four groups:

  • Gold level charities provide race day perks and a VIP experience.
  • Silver level charities also provide race day perks including transportation and a tented start area.
  • Bronze level charities offer guaranteed race entry.
  • Community charities offer the same benefits as Bronze charities but are designed to raise funds for community-based non-profits.

It is important to plan early as some of the featured charities book out quickly. Several offer free marathon training as part of their benefits package which includes team weekday workouts and weekend training runs with a U.S. Track and Field certified coach.

How to Gain Guaranteed Entry

Several groups of individuals are eligible for guaranteed entry based on qualifying standards. This doesn't mean that every eligible person will get in. You would still need to make your application and pay your entry fee during the prescribed window.

At the top of the list are athletes who have qualified based on race times at any one of several NYRR-scored full or half marathons. You would need to achieve a specific qualifying time for your age group and do so between January 1 and December 31 of the previous year.

Other persons eligible for guaranteed entry include:

  • Members of New York Road Runners who have completed at least nine NYRR-scored, qualifying races and have volunteered for at least one event during the previous calendar year.
  • Members of New York Road Runners who completed at least nine NYRR-scored, qualifying race and have made a minimum $1,000 donation to NYRR's youth, community, and volunteer programs during the prior year.
  • Entrants in the previous year's marathon who were forced to cancel prior to the race.
  • Any individual who has completed 15 or more New York City Marathons.

Guaranteed entries are also provided by international tour operators as part of their marathon travel package.

The TCS NYC Marathon also has other programs, which may change from year to year, that provide guaranteed entry. An example is the Run With NYRR Community Champions program, requiring a $2,620 charitable donation, and the NYRR Team for Kids, which as a $2,620 fundraising commitment.

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