If you’re keen to have a crack at next year’s London Marathon, this is an absolutely crucial week for you, because the public ballot for entry is now open. Unless you have an exceptionally quick and recent marathon time or are happy to run and raise funds for a charity, this is your only shot at entering the race, so read on for the details on how to enter the ballot and do it. Today.

When is the 2019 London Marathon?

The date for the next London Marathon is yet to be officially confirmed but it’s a safe bet that it will fall on Sunday 21st April 2019. This year’s event is on the 22nd April and the 2017 marathon was on the 23rd, so we’ll bank on that trend continuing.

How can you enter?

The public ballot for a race place runs for just five days each year. And the starting gun on those five days fired on Monday 30th April – you have until this Friday 4th May at 5pm. In the past the results of the ballot have been sent out in October, usually in the form of a magazine with a special “You’re In” or “You’re Out” cover. If you get the latter you get the chance to read all about the amazing event you will not be a part of.

How much does the ballot cost?

If you are successful in the ballot you will be awarded a provisional place in the race and sent a link to pay the £39 entry fee (£35 for club-affiliated runners, or £80 if you’re an overseas runner). Pay this quick-smart to avoid losing your spot.

When you enter you can also choose to pay the fee upfront and bequeath it to the London Marathon Charitable Trust. If you get a spot, this will pay for your place, but if you don’t the money will go to the charity. The benefits of this approach are not only the warm fuzzy feeling of donating money even if you don’t win a race place, but entry to a second-chance ballot. If you choose to bequeath your entry fee and miss out on the main ballot, you’re entered into the Lucky Bequest draw, which allocates another 1,000 places. And if you miss out there you get a training top, which will probably be marked with the London Marathon 2019 logo so you are reminded of missing out on the race every time you wear it.

Bear in mind that a London Marathon ballot place is incredibly cheap for such a big event – the New York Marathon, for example, costs $358 (around £253) for foreigners and $295 (£208) for Americans – and there are even a few 10K and half marathon races in London that cost more.

What are the odds of getting a place through the ballot?

It’s worth noting that the chances of getting a place through the ballot aren’t great. For 2018’s race a record 386,050 people entered, including 327,516 from the UK – a massive increase on the 253,930 people from the UK who entered the previous year’s ballot. The number of runners who secure a place through the ballot is generally around 17,500 (the final numbers are approximate because many people are given a place but don’t end up running, something the organisers take into account when awarding places).

What to do right now

Enter the ballot. This couldn’t be any clearer. Unless you’re an experienced marathoner and think you can bag yourself a Good For Age spot (see below for details), you’ll need a ballot or a charity spot to run in the race. So enter the ballot to maximise your chances. Before Friday at 5pm.

Are there other ways to get a place in the 2019 London Marathon?

If you’re unsuccessful with the ballot you can always apply for a charity place or, if you’re an especially speedy runner, you can apply for a Good For Age spot. For men aged 18-40 you will need to have run a sub-3hr marathon since 1st January 2017 to be in with a chance, while women in the 18-40 age group need to have run a sub-3hr 45min marathon. If you fancy you can run that time but haven’t yet, you’ll need to log it in an eligible marathon before 10th August 2018 to enter the 2019 London Marathon via a Good For Age place.

If you have the time for your age, you will have to apply for a Good For Age spot between 1st August 2018 and 4pm on 10th August 2018. Miss the window and you can’t claim a spot, even if you’ve achieved an eligible time.

A final note for the really very speedy runners out there. If you’re a man who has run a sub-2hr 45min marathon or a sub-1hr 15min half marathon, or a woman who has run a sub-3hr 15min marathon or sub-1hr 30min half marathon, and are a member of a athletics club associated with British Athletics you can apply for Championship Entry to the London Marathon.