Ever since the London Marathon ballot stopped capping entries at 125,000 people and remained open for five days, the number of people throwing their hat into the ring for a race place has grown every year. Unfortunately the number of actual places available through the ballot has stayed the same, with the result being that the ballot disappoints far more runners than it delights every year.

A record-breaking 386,050 people entered the ballot for the 2018 race, with 327,516 from the UK – a sizeable jump on last year’s 253,930. You can expect another increase and more records to be set in the ballot for the 2019 race, which means there will be more runners than ever who miss out and have to seek another way of entering the race.

For most that means a charity place. Getting a charity spot at the marathon is arguably the most rewarding way of all to complete the 42.2km and it’s a far more reliable method of obtaining a place than simply entering the ballot.

To apply for a charity spot, visit the website of the organisation you want to raise funds for. If you don’t have a cause that’s close to your heart already, visit the London Marathon website to see a list of charities that have guaranteed places.

Each charity’s website will have details of how to apply and what it expects from its runners. Charities have to pay for the places, so bear in mind you’ll be required to bring in a fairly large amount of sponsorship money if you are given a place – around £2,000. This will probably not be a voluntary target, which means you’ll be asked to make up any shortfall yourself.

You don’t just get a race place though. The charity will offer plenty of support for both your marathon training and fundraising, and on the day itself you’ll have your own dedicated cheer squads looking out for your organisation’s vest.

Many charities will already have pages on their websites where you can register your interest in running for them at the London Marathon (you can apply to more than one to boost your chances). You’re likely to be told towards the end of 2018 if you’ve been successful in getting a spot.

Although you have a better chance of getting a charity place than one through the ballot, remember that charities are also oversubscribed. They will generally choose their runners based on the connection they have to the cause and an estimation of how much the runner will be able to raise. If you have taken part in other events to raise money for a charity in the past, that might help your chances.

The temptation will be to wait to apply for a charity spot until after the ballot results come out in October, but there’s no harm in getting the process started now. If you have a charity you’d like to run for and are lucky enough to get a race place through the ballot, you can still fundraise for the charity – the only difference will be that your fundraising targets will then be voluntary and the charity won’t have to deduct the race fees from your total.