3 Ways to Get Into the New York City Marathon

Young woman doing a workout outdoors. She is wearing sportswear, jogging on the track field.

Studio Taurus / Stocksy

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 need to plan far in advance to secure your place.

There are three main entry categories for the New York City Marathon. You can enter either through a drawing, by running on behalf of an eligible charity, or through guaranteed entry rules. Within each category, there are different options.

How to Apply Through the Drawing

The New York Road Runners (NYRR), who organizes the event, hold a drawing every spring. Most years, anywhere from 14,000 to 20,000 runners apply with a one-in-four chance of getting picked.

But, the 2020 NYC Marathon is the 50th anniversary of the event and more runners are looking to run. There were 185,000 applicants for the race to fill just 4000 spots. So, your chances of getting in this way in 2020 is just 2%.

There are three different drawing pools:

  • International residents
  • U.S. residents who live within 60 miles of New York City
  • All other U.S. 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 three groups:

  • Bronze level partners: Offer guaranteed race entry to at least 15 participants
  • Community level partners: Commit to 5 or 10 guaranteed entries
  • Silver level partners: Commit to at least 50 guaranteed entries and also provide race day perks including transportation and a tented start area

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.

Any individual who has completed 15 or more New York City Marathons, along with entrants in the previous year's marathon who had to cancel prior to the race, are eligible for guaranteed entry.

Finally, members of New York Road Runners who completed at least nine NYRR-scored, qualifying races and have either made a minimum $1,000 donation to NYRR's youth, community, and volunteer programs during the prior year or volunteered for at least one event during the previous calendar year are also eligible.

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.

By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT
Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach.