valid points and can sympathise... however no probs my end.
You could see the problem at the start happening a mile off and many runners near me (black number, sub 1:30 or thereabouts) decided to move quite near the front in front of the slower runners to get a fair shot - I decided to do the same, where we had no probs. That said not sure if it did more harm than good (5:59 first mile - following the faster runners, whoops!).
Must say re. prob at the finish, I ran the half last year in 1:55, so around the finish time where the prob seemed to occur and there were no issues. As mentioned maybe the cause was the blankets should've been moved further back or runners should have the sense not to stop immediately on passing the finish line to avoid creating a backlog. (seems similar to the scenario where there's an accident on the opposite side of the motorway to the one your on, traffic builds up unnecessarily as people stop to take a look - no need for it.) Also the sheer quantity of runners was chaos expecting to happen - you could see the hoards on the opposite side of the road at mile 6. That said as mentioned - many other bid marathons handle it.
After all, not enamoured by the event but seeing as the start/finish is 3 miles from my house, every chance i'll continue to do it.
Virgin Baby... (nothing to confirm this with) but a runner I bumped into at a recent race said he was running for Kids with Leukemia he said they don't have a minimum sponsorship but ask how much you think you can raise and select runners based on their approximation and pitch.
KK - you almost took the words right out of my mouth re. athletic sport vs charity event.
This kind of activity/talk/excitement does come up year after year though (sound like a veteran but only been running a year or so) as people are naturally excited at getting in or disappointed at being rejected.
Having run it last year, I think you do want to experience it at least once but for me personally i'm not that fussed about doing it again... a 30000+ marathon is not for me and being an average runner around the 3:30-4hr mark and getting stuck in the crowds and/or if having a bad day - walking in front of thousands of street lined spectators can feel a bit embrassing and frustrating. That said, I can see myself entering the ballot year after year, just to give myself the option of running but as is the case this year, if and when I don't get in, there are plenty of other options as you allude to.
For big marathons... Paris/Rotterdam/Edinburgh still have plenty of places and they're all seen as good ones (although perhaps a bit costly with travel).
My run at London was for charity last year and whilst I think charity is good, as with some of the stuff, I saw on the Great North Run, the sob stories can sometimes get a bit much.
gladrags... I understand they're phasing out the system but I believe if you already in the 'system' with two or more rejections they would honour your 'record/history' until you finally get your place either through ballot or reaching the alloted no of rejections. Feel free to correct me if otherwise.