The New York City Marathon is one of the top marathons in the United States and one of the six world marathon majors. But you don't have to be one of the top runners in the world to participate in this world-class event. Depending on how you gain entry to the marathon, you might need a bit of luck, though -- while some ways give you a 100 percent shot at entry, you can also qualify by lottery.
Nonguaranteed entrants are the runners who gain a spot in the NYC Marathon by way of a lottery. The race organizers have three lottery drawings: one for people in the New York City area, one for other U.S. applicants and one for international applicants. The number of entrants in the lottery isn't known until the deadline. As a result, the NYC Marathon website states, "neither the percentage nor the number of entrants ultimately selected in each of the categories can be determined before that date." The website Competitor, however, estimates that just 1 in 6 nonguaranteed entrants gains a spot in the race.
Time-qualified runners must meet specific qualifying times in another race. If they do, they have a 100 percent chance of being accepted into the race as long as one of the open spots is available. These qualifying times are quite fast, however -- significantly faster than the qualifying times for the prestigious Boston Marathon. As of 2013, women aged 18 to 39 need to have completed a previous marathon in just 3 hours and 10 minutes or less to be eligible. There are only 2,000 time-qualified spaces available as of 2013, however, so you need to be quick to register to get your spot.
9+1 and 9+$1K Programs
You'll also have a 100 percent chance of getting into the NYC Marathon through the New York Road Runners' 9+1 and 9+$1K programs. To participate in either program, you need to join the New York Road Runners and complete nine of their races in the year prior to the marathon. For the 9+1 program you need to also volunteer at one New York Road Runners event during the year, and for the 9+$1K program you instead need to make a $1,000 donation to the New York Road Runners' Youth and Community Services programs.
Other Guaranteed Entrants
The NYC Marathon gives a 100 percent chance of entry both to seasoned veterans of the marathon and to those who've been denied the opportunity in the past. Runners who have completed 15 previous NYC Marathons are guaranteed entry into the race. Runners who have been denied entry through the lottery three years in a row are also guaranteed a spot in the marathon.