How we choose our London Marathon runners

London Marathon cheer point

Event Fundraiser Holly Evans has one of the hardest jobs in our events team: choosing who does – and (sob!) doesn’t – make it onto Sue Ryder's London Marathon team. Here, she explains how the process works and what you can do to be successful next year.

Over five months, I watched them trickle into my inbox. I filed them in a special folder and vowed not to view them; I promised myself I wouldn’t start the process until the deadline…

As the official ballot was announced, I waited as long as I could, hoping that every one of our supporters received a ballot place to prevent me having to make such tough decisions!

But I couldn’t put it off any longer: it was time to choose the 2017 Sue Ryder London Marathon team.

What we look for

The key questions we consider are: ‘Why would you like to take on the London Marathon for Sue Ryder?’ and ‘How will you fundraise for Sue Ryder?’

With such an over-subscribed event, every charity receives applications from people who just want to run the race and don’t know much about the cause to which they’re applying. It’s great that they think of us, but we want to be sure that we create a team of incredible supporters who have their hearts set on giving something back and for whom running for Sue Ryder is as important as running the marathon itself.

It’s also important to us that our team members have lots of ideas and concrete plans in mind for their fundraising. Reaching a target is a commitment – of time as well as effort – and we wouldn’t want anyone to get part-way through their journey only to fall behind and panic that they’ve taken on too much.

The selection process

I printed out all 253 applications, sat myself in a meeting room with a cup of tea, and read through each and every one.

First I created a ‘No’ pile of those applications that barely gave more than a name – and then many, many ‘Maybe’ piles. Maybe, I thought, but… there’s not enough fundraising information... or too vague evidence of their link to Sue Ryder… or they only want to run if their five friends can, too.

The hardest part of the process is the pile of definite ‘Yes’ applications. Following the first read, my ‘Yes’ pile contained 130 applications! With less than 40 places to allocate, I still had a long way to go…

Some stories brought a lump to my throat; some actually made me cry. Others were cheeky and made me laugh out loud.

Running the London Marathon is much more than a 26.2-mile stint; it was clear each application represented a person who was desperate to represent Sue Ryder in honour of someone that was deeply loved.

Over the next week, I re-read the applications every day, reluctantly removing one or two more from my ‘Yes’ pile as I went along.

It’s not an easy job, but someone’s gotta do it

Choosing who is more deserving of a place based on a few paragraphs written on a form is incredibly difficult and I am sure that people were missed who are amazing ambassadors of the work we do. The process isn’t flawless, but it is the fairest way we have to select the members of Team Incredible who will take on our favourite event of the year.

To the 215 people I had to disappoint: I really am sorry. It wasn’t easy! Don’t give up; we really value your support and hope you will join us at another incredible event.

To the lucky few who were chosen as Sue Ryder ambassadors: you are part of an incredible team ready to take on the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon. I know that you will do us proud and represent not only yourselves and your loved ones, but all those who we couldn’t put through to run alongside you.

With six months to go, the hard work starts now. Good luck Team Incredible!

Inspired to run the London Marathon for us?

Check out our events listing to see if we're taking applications. And if we aren't, see what other running events we are supporting in the future. And good luck!

Holly Evans

Events Fundraiser

Holly Evans

Holly was a Sue Ryder National Events Fundraiser in our central London-based team up until summer 2017. She helped to steward runners, cyclists, swimmers and trekkers through their fundraising journeys.