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By early January, most spaces in this year’s London Marathon (23 April, 06) have already been allocated. But if you do fancy taking on the gruelling 26.4-mile challenge, act fast and you might be lucky enough to grab a last-minute place running for an equestrian cause.

Alternatively register your interest with a charity now and there is always next year to look forward to. Or, if this all seems too much like hard work, then dig deep and sponsor some of those individuals who are planning to go the distance.

The Animal Health Trust

The Animal Health Trust has two guaranteed places still available for the London Marathon that must be filled before 23 January. The Trust offers support and back up to all its runners in the run-up to the event, with a target sponsorship of £1,000 per runner.

Once all five of its bonded places have been filled, the runners will be featured in the Trust’s newsletter and website, www.aht.org.uk, which gives individuals the chance to sponsor the runners online. Contact Christine Gird (tel: 01638 555665).

Spinal Research

Spinal Research has a squad of more than 100 runners taking part in the 2006 London Marathon and has a handful of places still available. Runners can secure their place for £50 and must agree to raise a minimum sponsorship of £1,250. All Spinal Research runners will receive a sponsorship pack, fundraising and training advice and a Spinal Research team running vest.

The charity is also keen to hear from any runners who have organised their own marathon places and would like to run to raise money to fund its research to find a cure for paralysis caused by spinal cord injury. Ballot runners have no sponsorship target and will receive support from the charity. Contact Jo Brewer (tel: 01483 891975).

The Blue Cross

The Blue Cross received 24 golden bonded places for the 2006 marathon. These places have all been allocated, but if you would like to be put on the charity’s reserve list, in case any runners drop out, please contact Heather Collin (tel: 01993 825567).

The charity is also keen to hear from any “own place” runners who have been allocated a place by the event’s organisers and would like to raise money for the Blue Cross, as well as any potential sponsors.

The Countryside Alliance

The Countryside Alliance has a six strong team of runners for the Flora London Marathon Team who are looking for your sponsorship. The team comprises British Deer Society member Charles Bromage; trainee teacher and passionate countrywoman Gail Lees; CA campaigns director Rob Gray; master and huntsman of the Spooner’s and West Dartmoor Hunt Guy Morlock; Lincolnshire farmer Phil Burtt and Lincolnshire-based business accountant Tom Hindmarch. To sponsor any members of the team contact Alicia Billyeald (tel: 01672 519470).

International League for the Protection of Horses

The ILPH has five individuals running in this year’s marathon and welcomes donations from anyone who would like to support the charity’s runners. The charity is holding a reserve list of individuals who were unsuccessful in applying for a place this year and encourages anyone interested in running in 2007 to get in touch. Contact Mel Wallis-Johnson (tel: 0870 366 6953).

Royal Veterinary College Animal Care Trust

The RVC’s Animal Care Trust has selected six runners for its golden bonded London Marathon tickets. Each of the runners will be raising £1,000 for the Trust. The organisation has a reserve list of potential runners, in case any of the initial six suffer an injury that prevents them from taking part in the race. If you would like to be included on the reserve list, are interested in taking part in 2007, or would like to make a donation please contact Alexis (tel: 01707 666237).

Visit: www.london-marthon.co.uk