Every year the the result of London Marathon ballot disappoints far more runners than it delights, with only a small fraction of the hundreds of thousands of people who enter the draw nabbing a spot.

This was more true than ever with the ballot for the 2018 race, because a record 386,050 people entered. Of those, a mere 17,500 will be on the start line in Greenwich next year, leaving an awful lot of runners trying to find another way to enter 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 wish to run 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 their 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 2017 if you’ve been successful in getting a spot.

If you did happen to be successful in the ballot, that shouldn’t prevent you from considering representing a charity in next year’s race. If you have your own spot you can still run for a charity, and the fundraising targets will then be voluntary.