John and Blaine at Mile 8 of the New York City MarathonEntry into the 2011 New York City Marathon lottery process opened on January 10 this year, and the application period will remain open until April 19 of 2011. That seems a bit early to me given that the race is not until November 6, but those are the dates that they have put forth.

If you enter the lottery, then you will have probably about a 1 in 3 chance of actually getting accepted into the race (although those numbers will vary based on how many people actually enter the lottery this year.)

However, it is possible to bypass the lottery through a guaranteed entry, and having a guaranteed entry application you will in most cases have a few extra days (or months, in the case of charity runners) to get in.

There are 7 ways to secure guaranteed entry:

  1. Run a fast enough marathon or half-marathon to meet the qualification standards of the race. Unlike the Boston Marathon, you need to run the listed time or faster in order to qualify for guaranteed entry and the age group standard you need to meet is your age on the day of your qualifying race, not on the day of the New York City Marathon. Your race has to have been run between January 1, 2010 and January 31, 2011 and the results must be verifiable online.
  2. Raise money for one of the charities listed on the home page for the marathon. Once you commit to raising a certain amount of money, you will be held to that; if you don’t raise enough money then the balance will be charged to your credit card.
  3. Sign on with one of their International Travel Partners if you live outside of the United States. It will cost more than an individual bib would, but will also provide transportation and lodging. This option isn’t available to Americans or to hand-cyclists, though.
  4. Belong to one of these 4 special groups that can guarantee their entry into the marathon:
    • People who got into the 2010 New York City Marathon but cancelled before the race. If you fall in this group, you will need to pay for the race again, but you can be guaranteed that you’ll get to run.
    • People who have failed to be chosen in the lottery for the past 3 years and did not find an alternative way into the race. You have to have applied (and been denied) for the 2008, 2009 and 2010 races; other years aren’t considered.
    • People that have run the New York City Marathon at least 15 times. If you want to run again, they’ll let you in.
    • People that have belong to the New York City Road Runners Club. You have to have been a member since at least January 31, 2010, you have to have run at least 9 New York Road Runners qualifying races in 2010, and you have to have either volunteered at at least one of their races or have donated at least $1000 to the NYRR youth, community and volunteer programs in 2010.

Once you have applied as a guaranteed runner (for example, by running a qualifying time that lets you bypass the lottery) then what can you expect to happen next?

I was recently asked this question:

Anyone have any experience with this process? At the end my “Marathon Registration Status” was “In Lottery” and the auto reply email spoke of notification in mid-March yet they gathered my qualification info. I’m not on pins and needles about this but would like to run there in the fall, if possible. Does “guaranteed” really mean “guaranteed” here and do they really take two months to confirm “guaranteed” entries?

When I ran the marathon, I applied with a guaranteed time, and they also put me through the lottery.

Technically, you do go through the lottery…you just have a guarantee that your application is going to be picked so that you can run.

Technically, you won’t “find out” that you are in the race until everybody else does, but as long as you register as a guaranteed runner and apply with a verifiable qualification race listed then you do not have anything to worry about.

If for some reason they do make a mistake with your guaranteed entry and you don’t get in, there is a dedicated email address at the New York Road Runners Club that you can address any concerns to. If you are worried or have any questions, just email your confirmation number and your qualification credentials to [email protected] and they will take care of you.

If you actually registered properly, though, you should be all set and will find out after the lottery process that you got “picked” to run the 2011 New York City Marathon. The only year that I have run the race was in 2006, and I had no difficulties whatsoever.