It’s true that marathons around the country are getting slower, as more charity runners and run-walkers take part. In 1980 the average marathon time was about three and a half hours for men and about four hours for women, according to Running USA. Today, the averages are 4:16 for men and 4:43 for women. About 20 percent of the participants in the New York City Marathon take longer than five hours to finish.
But the legendary gold medalist Frank Shorter says the criticisms of slow runners are “snobbery.” “You never hear that from elite runners,” he told me. “Elite runners admire other people’s performance. I find it much better to welcome slow runners to the club than to vote them out.”
Greg Meyer, who in 1983 was the last American man to win the Boston Marathon, says that when he hears such complaints from average marathoners, he replies, “If it wasn’t for the run-walkers, you wouldn’t be finishing in front of anybody.”
The main benefit of the run-walk method is that it eases your body into exercise, makes marathon training less grueling and gives muscles time to recover, reducing the risk of injury. Walk breaks are an ideal way for new runners and older, less fit and overweight people to take part in a sport that would otherwise be off limits.
The downside is that just as you are out on the marathon course about 50 percent longer than the average runner, your training time is much longer, too four and five hours a weekend for long runs.
About 10 days before the marathon, I began to doubt my ability to finish the race. A flulike illness had sidelined me for a few weeks, and I’d missed some important training runs. I questioned whether it would be worth the effort to straggle over the finish line long after most of the runners had left.
But then, during an easy run on a trail near my house, I spotted another slow runner ahead of me. It took a moment before I realized his off-kilter gait was due to the fact that he was running on a Cheetah foot, an artificial limb that uses a flexible blade for the foot. He was young and fit, and I wanted to know his story, but didn’t stop him to ask. Instead I just watched his rhythmic run, and felt my own worries about race day fade away. It didn’t matter how fast I finished, just that I was out there, enjoying the view from the back of the pack.
Whether you participated in the 2019 New York City Marathon on November 3 or you cheered on the runners who did, if you’re like us, you’re dreaming about lining up on Staten Island next November for next year’s race, which is kicking off on November 1, 2020.
Each year, the 26.2-mile race through the Big Apple draws some 50,000 participants—in fact, there were a record-breaking 52,812 finishers in the 2018 race and an estimated 52,000 finishers in 2019, which makes it the largest marathon in the world. It also happens to be one of the hardest to get into, thanks to a notoriously selective system.
The 2020 race will be extra special, as it marks the 50th anniversary of the marathon. To celebrate the anniversary year, the New York Road Runners offered a special early drawing for runners, open for only 50 hours starting on race day, Sunday, November 3, and ending on Tuesday, November 5 at 8 a.m. ET. The drawing will take place on Tuesday, November 5. All non-accepted applicants will be automatically rolled over into the general application for the marathon and included in the second drawing. To enter via the early drawing, visit here.
Runners who miss the early drawing can apply for marathon entry via the second drawing, which opens on January 30 and closes February 13. If you’re among those praying for a spot in the race, here’s the official NYRR list of ways to get into the NYC Marathon:
- Enter the drawing
- Run for Team for Kids
- Run for another charity partner
- Live abroad, and book your trip through an NYRR international travel partner
- Have 15+ NYC Marathons under your belt
- Qualify based on time
- Claim a deferred entry
- Participate in NYRR’s 9+1 (or 9+$1K) Program
- Be an elite runner
Which route should you pursue? Read on to get more information about each option. Good luck!
Get Picked in the Drawing
Between January 30 through February 13, NYRR is accepting applications for the drawing, which will take place on February 26. If your name is picked, that’s certainly the easiest way to ensure you line up on Staten Island in November. But that happening is far from guaranteed.
For the 2018 New York City Marathon, 105,184 hopeful runners applied for the drawing—15,640 were accepted. That’s less than 15 percent, making the New York City Marathon more selective than many top universities.
To test your luck, you can sign up for a MyNYRR account and apply. It’s free! (But if you do get in, it’s $295 for non-NYRR members, $255 for members, and $358 for runners living outside of the U.S.)
Run With Team for Kids
Team for Kids raises money for NYRR’s youth programming. By running and raising $2,620 by September 30 for Team for Kids, you’re guaranteed entry into the race.
You can pledge to raise money for Team for Kids here, and—assuming you can pony up the requisite funds—breathe easy between now and November, knowing that your spot is safe on the starting line. Every year, more than 4,000 marathoners run the streets of New York thanks to this program.
Run for Another Cause
On the day of the race drawing (February 26), NYRR will announce the race’s official non–Team for Kids charity partners. What that means is, nonprofits can purchase blocks of guaranteed but non-complimentary entries ahead of time, then sell them to fundraising runners who will represent their organization in the marathon.
After these official partners are made public—more information will be available here—you’ll be able to work directly with those charities to secure your spot on the line. Fundraising quotas and deadlines vary by nonprofit, but if all else fails, this is your best bet to get a last-minute spot while giving back to a cause you care about.
- NYC Marathon 2019 Guide: Course Map, Start Time, Tracking Runners
- NYC Marathon 2018: By The Numbers
- The soundtrack is immense
- The bridges are spectacular
- The crowd support is turned up to 11
- Central Park is a runner’s paradise
- It’s not a PB course
- How the NYC Marathon Works
- New York City Marathon 2015 Recap: From The #Mile7 Water Station
- Take It Easy Before Race Day
- Don’t Underestimate The Logistics
- Stay Calm
- Feed Off The Crowd
- Other Things To Know
Travel to NYC from Abroad, and Make a Vacation Out of It
If you live outside the United States, you might be able to guarantee entry into the marathon if you plan your trip to the race through the ITP (International Travel Partner) program. Costs and availability of NYRR-recognized travel packages vary tremendously by country—but you can do your homework here—but all include airfare, accommodations, and of course, secured entry into the race.
Be an NYC Marathon Veteran
If you’ve finished 15 or more New York City Marathons, you are automatically allowed a spot in all future NYC Marathons.
Or, if you’re fortunate enough to have access to some sort of time-travel-enabling wormhole, dial things back a decade and a half and get running.
Qualify on Time at Certain NYRR Races (That Took Place Last Year)
If you ran any of these NYRR races in 2019, go back and check your official time: the Fred Lebow Manhattan Half, NYC Half, Women’s Half-Marathon, Brooklyn Half, Staten Island Half, or the New York City Marathon. Depending on your age and gender, there’s a chance you ran a time fast enough to get in. At the very least, this can help you plan to run fast enough to get into the 2021 marathon.
There are also a select number of spots available for runners who time-qualify in a non-NYRR half marathon or marathon.
Claim Your Deferred 2019 Entry
This one’s extremely specific. If you were admitted into the 2019 New York City Marathon but canceled your entry—officially canceled, that is—then you are guaranteed to be able to run in 2020. You just have to pay again.
Run a Ton of NYRR Races and Volunteer at One—Last Year
It seems next to impossible that you would have gone to these lengths in 2019 without knowing it would result in guaranteed entry into the 2020 New York City Marathon. But thanks to NYRR’s 9+1 Program, NYRR members who finished nine or more NYRR races, volunteered at at least one last year, who were NYRR members prior to December 31, 2019, are automatically admitted into the marathon.
If you ran nine races this year and forgot to volunteer, you can donate $1,000 in lieu of that to NYRR’s Youth and Community Services programs.
Be a World-Class Marathoner
If your name is Geoffrey Kamworor and you are turning to this explainer to figure out how you are going to secure your spot in the race, don’t worry: you’re fine. The top marathoners in the world—as well as extremely fast local athletes—more or less have an open invitation to compete. All they need to do is ask the race’s elite athlete coordinator for entry—or have their agent do it for them.
We’ll put it like this: elite or sub-elite entry only applies to you if you think you might walk away from the finish line having earned some money, rather than spent it.
Hailey Middlebrook Digital Editor Hailey first got hooked on running news as an intern with Running Times, and now she reports on elite runners and cyclists, feel-good stories, and training pieces for Runner’s World and Bicycling magazines.
NYC Marathon 2019 Guide: Course Map, Start Time, Tracking Runners
NEW YORK, NY — The 49th-annual New York City Marathon will bring tens of thousands of runners and many more spectators to the streets of all five boroughs on Sunday, Nov. 3. The race is a highlight of the year for both New York City locals and tourists — a rare accomplishment.
Whether you’re running 26.2 miles on Sunday, watching from home, trying to find a great vantage spot or trying to avoid the race course, here’s everything you need to know about the New York City Marathon in 2019.
The first New York City Marathon in 1970 looked nothing like today’s event. The race was run entirely within Central Park and only 127 runners — all men — participated. Now, the course spans all five boroughs and the field is much more inclusive.
The marathon kicks off on the Staten Island side of the Verazzano-Narrows Bridge and proceeds into Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx. Runners then double back into Manhattan and cross the finish line in Central Park.
Some particularly long stretches of the race include Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue and Manhattan’s First and Fifth avenues. Only a few miles of course actually occur within Queens or the Bronx.
Here’s the official course map as provided by New York Road Runners, the group that organizes the marathon:
Where to watch:
New Yorkers and tourists will be out in full force early Sunday morning to claim a prime spot to watch the runners. If you want to see all the runners with an unobstructed view, prepare to wake up early in order to claim a good spot.
The course’s main stretches on Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue and Manhattan’s First and Fifth avenues are always popular among spectators, but the crowds can be spread more thin because the course runs along the avenues for dozens of blocks.
Notable locations that can get packed include the Manhattan side of the Queensboro Bridge, were runners entering the borough from Queens begin the 16th mile of the race, and near the finish line in Central Park.
Watching from home:
The New York City Marathon is an internationally-renowned event, and most people tuning into this year’s race will be watching from home. In the New York City area, ABC7 will broadcast the race from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Live streaming will also be offered on the ABC app.
ESPN 2 will host the nationwide broadcast, also from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., according to the New York Road Runners. Again, viewers have the option of watching the broadcast using their phones or tablets and the ESPN App.
Both broadcasts will likely focus on the professional runners and fast finishers. Facebook will take over with a finish line stream from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and a “final finishers” celebration from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
If you know someone running the marathon, the TV broadcasts could be over before they cross the finish line. The TCS New York City Marathon App allows users to track individual runners and follow their progress through the race course.
The app is free to download and offered on both the Apple and Google stores.
The New York City marathon brings joy to just about everyone in the city, except for drivers. The 26.2-mile racecourse is entirely mapped out on city streets that would otherwise be reserved for motor vehicles, which means the NYPD closes a ton of streets on marathon day.
Police officials haven’t released a full list of street closures, but the entire race course will be shut down to cars as well as a number of nearby roads.
NYC Marathon 2018: By The Numbers
TCS New York City Marathon
2017 Getty Images
Update: Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia captured the men’s title with a time of 2:05:59, 2 seconds ahead of countryman Shura Kitata. Kenya’s Mary Keitany finished first among the women 2:22:48. It was her fourth win.
Runners will hit the pavement Sunday morning in Staten Island for the 48th TCS New York City Marathon. Competition to gain entry to the world’s largest marathon is fiercer than ever. More than 100,000 runners applied for entry and only 15% were accepted. The acceptance rate is lower than elite colleges like Williams, Georgetown or Notre Dame.
The final field will top 50,000, including runners who raise money, qualified on time or are NYC Marathon vets (15+ NYC Marathons guarantees a spot). The number of applications was up 7% from last year and 34% from 2014.
The star-studded field has 11 former champions, with the women headlined by Americans Shalane Flanagan, who last year became the first American women’s open NYC Marathon winner in 40 years, and 2018 Boston Marathon winner Desiree Linden. Ethiopians Tamirat Tola, Lelisa Desisa and Shura Kitata, along with Kenyans Daniel Wanjiru and Geoffrey Kamworor are the names to watch in the men’s field. American men have no shot at crossing the tape first.
Celebrities are a regular feature of the race and this year is no different. Former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber, actress Teri Hatcher and actor Brian d’Arcy are among the celebrities running this year for charity.
The NYC Marathon has grown tremendously since the first in 1970 when 55 runners completed the course. Tata Consultancy Services is in the middle of an eight-year, $100 million contract to serve as title sponsor of the race. The event generates hundreds of millions of dollars annually in economic impact for the New York metro.
WABC will handle local TV coverage starting at 7:00 am. ESPN2 will broadcast the race nationally starting at 9:00. Live streaming will also be available on the ABC and ESPN apps. The elite women kick off at 9:20 and the men at 9:50.
Here are the numbers you need to know about the NYC Marathon.
$1: Entry fee for the first NYC Marathon in 1970.
2:05:06: Course record set by Geoffrey Mutai in 2011. The three fastest times ever were set that year. The women’s record is 2:22:31 (Margaret Okayo, 2003)
4:37: Average finish time for 2017 runners.
9: Victories by Grete Waitz with her last in 1988. Bill Rogers holds the men’s record with four wins.
31: Race wins by Americans with 14 men’s champions, 8 women and 9 women’s wheelchair. Kenya, with 24, is the only other country with more than 10 champions.
41: Average age of runners.
42: Record number of NYC marathons finished by Dave Obelkevich, 75, including 41 straight. Connie Brown holds the female mark with 39.
45%: Percentage of finishers from outside the U.S. last year. Italy (6%) and France (5%) had the most runners.
57: The average temperature on race day. The coldest was in 1995 at 41 degrees at the time of the first runner finish. The warmest was 80 degrees in 1979.
84: New Yorker Ginette Bedard was the oldest finisher at the 2017 NYC Marathon with a time of 6:12:53.
90: Runners with at least 30 completed marathons.
99%: Percentage of racers who started last year’s race and completed the 26.2-mile course. The record was 99.5% in 2010.
139: Countries represented in last year’s marathon.
2009: Last American man to win the race was Meb Keflezighi in 2009.
$255: Entry fee for U.S. runners who are New York Road Runners members ($295 for non-members). The cost is $358 for foreign runners.
1,600: Portable toilets at the start with 396 along the course.
$2,500: Amount runners can raise with selected charities to guarantee a spot in the race (some charities require $3,000). The NYRR partners with 382 official charities.
12,000: Number of volunteers during race week, including 10,000 on race day.
50,773: Number of finishers in last year’s marathon, down from the record of 51,394 the previous year.
60,000: Gatorade Endurance Energy Gels at Mile 18.
$100,000: Prize money for both the men’s and women’s winner of the race. Second place is worth $60,000.
105,184: People who paid a non-refundable $11 to enter a lottery for a spot in the 2017 race. Only 15% of those people were selected. The rejected do not get their money back.
$825,000: Guaranteed price purse for the 2018 race with potential time bonuses as well, including $50,000 for a new NYC record by a male or female finisher.
1+ million: Estimated number of spectators along the course for this year’s race.
1,211,994: Starters of the race all-time since 1970, with 97% completing the course.
$35.5 million: Amount raised last year for charities by nearly 9,300 runners.
$96.3 million: Annual revenue for the New York Road Runners, up 12% over the previous year.
$270 million: Total amount raised since the start of the Official Charity Partner Program in 2006.
The New York City marathon takes place this Sunday. Here’s why many runners think it’s the greatest 26.2 on planet earth.
The soundtrack is immense
From full gospel choirs to beat-boxers, via jazz bands and old-time crooners, the NYC marathon is a treat for the ears as well as the eyes. Music is a huge part of the city’s heritage and plays a starring role in its marathon too. Do NOT wear earphones. The greatest playlist on earth does not compare to the sounds of NYC on marathon day.
The bridges are spectacular
There are bridges, and then there’s Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, which runners cross at the start of the marathon. The double-decked suspension bridge that connects Staten Island and Brooklyn is a spectacular piece of engineering – 200m high and more than 1,200m across. It provides a suitably grand beginning to the world’s biggest marathon.
The crowd support is turned up to 11
NYC support is big in number and loud in volume. ‘There’s a sense that people come out just to support the runners,’ says RW’s Deputy Editor, Joe Mackie, who ran the race in 2013. ‘After the quiet of the bridge sections, you’re hit with this amazing wall of sound. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.’
Central Park is a runner’s paradise
The original NYC marathon was simply loops of Central Park. Today it offers the perfect finish to a route that takes in the very best of what the city has to offer. ‘From a sight-seeing perspective, the route ticks a lot of boxes,’ says RW’s Editor, Andy Dixon, a four-time finisher of the marathon. ‘And to finish in Central Park, a runner’s paradise, is the icing on the cake.’
It’s not a PB course
This might sound like a strange reason to love a marathon. But the fact NYC isn’t as quick as London, Berlin or Chicago means you can run it without fretting about the clock. There is a time and a place for PB-chasing. But it is not here. This is a marathon to run for the experience, which is unlike any other. Enjoy it, soak it in, look around, keep your head up. There is no other race like it. Enjoy every mile.
Ticking off the majors?
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How the NYC Marathon Works
Debra L. Rothenberg/FilmMagic/Getty Images
Runners stream across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to start the 34th annual ING New York City Marathon in 2003.
In 1896, one of the events included in the first modern Olympic Games in Athens was a distance race from Marathon Bridge to Olympic stadium in Athens covering 24.6 miles (39.6 kilometers). In 1908, 2.2 miles (3.5 kilometers) were added to this race at the Olympics in London to enable the royal family to view the finish from its box at Wembley Stadium. The modern marathon was born.
Marathon running is one of the most grueling tests of human endurance. At 26.2 miles, a marathon is equivalent to running around a 400-meter running track more than 104 times. But marathons are run through street courses and are anything but flat.
The New York City Marathon is the largest marathon in the world. More than 37,000 people (it’s capped at 38,000) took part in the race in 2009. It’s also one of the five World Marathon Majors — the other four being the Boston, Berlin, London and Chicago marathons. When the World Championships and Olympics take place every four years, they’re added as well.
- How a Marathon Works
- How the Boston Marathon Works
- How the Chicago Marathon Works
- How to Train for Your First Marathon
- What are the toughest marathons in the world?
The race is put on by the New York Road Runners (NYRR) — a group of more than 300,000 dedicated runners — and in recent years the event has been sponsored by ING. The first race, held in 1970, had 127 entrants out of which only 55 crossed the finish line. Over the years, the course has changed and the number of participants has grown exponentially. So has its popularity.
The NYC Marathon isn’t just for elite runners either. Many participants are handicap athletes participating in wheelchairs or on handcycles (high-tech, hand-driven tricycles). Others simply walk it.
But before you can run the NYC Marathon, you have to get in. That’s easier said than done, as you’ll soon learn. So let’s begin with learning how to get into the race in the next section.
Joyciline Jepkosgei had never pushed her powerful legs over 26.2 miles. It hardly showed Sunday — certainly not as she drove away from marathon veteran Mary Keitany.
Jepkosgei upset the four-time New York City Marathon champion to win the women’s race, a historic debut that left her seven seconds off the course record.
Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya won the men’s event for the second time in three years.
After pulling away from Kenyan countrymate Keitany with about three miles left, Jepkosgei crossed the finish in Central Park in 2 hours, 22 minutes and 38 seconds, the second-best run in course history.
The 25-year-old Jepkosgei holds the world record in the half-marathon but had never run this distance. She looked pained climbing the final hill but strode confidently over the final line.
Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya crosses the finish line to win the Professional Women’s Finish during the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon in New York on November 3, 2019. Getty
It was too much for Keitany, a 37-year-old who collapsed after finishing 53 seconds later. She had won four of the previous five NYC Marathons.
Jepkosgei is the youngest New York winner since 25-year-old Margaret Okayo in 2001. She also won the New York City Half-Marathon in March and is the first runner to win both events.
Kamworor made it a Kenyan sweep moments later with a final time of 2:08:13.
He pulled away from countryman Albert Korir in the 24th mile. Korir finished second, and Ethiopian non-elite runner Girma Bekele Gebre was third.
Defending men’s champion Lelisa Desisa dropped out after seven miles, perhaps hurting following a grueling victory at the sweltering world championships last month.
Desisa, who is from Ethiopia, was in 17th place at the seven-mile mark before leaving the course. It was 45 degrees F at the start of the men’s race, ideal for marathoning.
The 26-year-old Kamworor finished third last year after winning in 2017.
He was greeted at the finish line by training partner Eliud Kipchoge, who completed the first sub-2 hour marathon last month — a feat accomplished under conditions so tightly controlled it didn’t qualify for the record books.
Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya crosses the finish line to win the Professional Men’s during the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon in New York on November 3, 2019. Getty
Kamworor, also the world record holder in the half-marathon, is the 10th multi-time winner.
American Desiree Linden set the pace for the women early and was the top U.S. finisher at sixth. The 2018 Boston Marathon winner hasn’t decided whether she will push on to the Olympic team trials in Atlanta on February 29.
The 36-year-old wants to gauge her recovery before deciding whether to pursue a third Olympics.
“Right now’s not the time, just based on how my calves and my feet feel,” Linden said, half-joking.
Kellyn Taylor, an American putting her firefighting career on hold to pursue the Olympics, finished seventh.
Sara Hall, another U.S. Olympic hopeful who has taken on an unusually heavy race schedule, dropped out in mile 18 after running the Berlin Marathon on September 29.
Manuela Schär of Switzerland won her third straight women’s wheelchair title, giving her eight consecutive marathon major victories. After rolling ahead of the record pace for much of the race, Schär crossed the finish about a minute off the mark at 1:44:20.
Daniel Romanchuk of the United States repeated as men’s wheelchair champion in another tight finish over Switzerland’s Marcel Hug. Romanchuk held off Hug by one second for the second straight year, crossing the finish line 1:37:24 England’s David Weir and American Aaron Pike were also within 10 seconds.
Last year, Romanchuk became the first American and youngest competitor to win the men’s division as a 20-year-old. He followed with victories this year at the Boston and London marathons. Hug took the New York title in 2016 and 2017.
Organizers were expecting around 52,000 runners to complete the marathon a year after a world record 52,813 crossed the finish.
Participants from all over the world came to take part. CBS New York spoke to one runner who traveled from Australia.
“The crowds and the atmosphere, all the way along, it’s just one big party for 42 kilometers, and to finish in Central Park is pretty special,” he said.
One man said the spectators make the New York City Marathon unique.
The runners weren’t the only people up bright and early for the marathon. Some volunteers arrived at 3:30 a.m. to set up and prepare.
They say it’s exciting to be part of the event and help out the participants.
“When you’re a marathoner and it’s cold out in the morning, you can tend to forget the clear plastic bag, you tend to want to get through, get to your corral, it’s a little bit chaotic, a little. But then once you get in, the adrenaline starts pumping and you’re ready to go,” one volunteer said.
All information is subject to change.
Course Fluid Stations
Fluid stations are at located every mile from mile 3 to mile 25. They provide:
- Poland Spring® Brand 100% Natural Spring Water (also available at the start and finish)
- Gatorade® Endurance Formula™ Lemon-Lime Flavor (except for mile 17).
Fluids are dispensed in recyclable cups on tables on both sides of the course. To avoid the bottleneck at the first table, get a cup from a later table. Please keep moving after you pick up your cup.
The Poland Spring® Hydration Zone—including water stations, sponges, and music—will be located at mile 17 on First Avenue.
- Honey Stinger Organic Energy Gels will be available at mile 11 and mile 18 in the following flavors: Acai Pomegranate, Fruit Smoothie, Vanilla, and Strawberry Kiwi (caffeinated).
- Chiquita bananas will be available at the fluid stations at miles 20-23.
For your safety, take fluids and food only at official stations.
Biofreeze™ Relief Zone
The Biofreeze™ Relief Zone will be at mile 20, offering your choice of self-apply spray or gel product. For your safety, do not ingest.
Portable toilets (including wheelchair-accessible ones) will be located at every mile from mile 3 to mile 25.
New York City Marathon 2015 Recap: From The #Mile7 Water Station
You will get wet. And when you take off your shoes at the end of a very long day, you will maybe find a runner’s dried up snot rocket nestled between your shoelaces. So many runners failed to grab the cups we were holding out and just knocked them right into us. I had water thrown on my feet, on my legwarmers, all over my poncho, and occasionally on my face.
Got my snot in my sneakers and my sneakers on my snot. Not my snot, though. Some lady’s snot. We applauded her.
It will be one of The Best Days of Your Life. I didn’t think anything could compare to actually running the New York City Marathon. And while, yes, I am eager to get my booty back through those five boroughs, I am so grateful for this experience. I loved cheering for the runners and being right there to support them and show them so much love. I loved celebrating so many runners’ accomplishments, from the lead pack to the very back of the pack. Every runner was so grateful, so smiley, said thank you, and seemed genuinely pumped to be running the New York City Marathon.
Look at this! This is awesome! YOU are awesome!
I loved meeting so many people during the marathon and seriously geeked out every time someone recognized me. Now we are all best friends. Let’s do it again soon.
Hurry up. Now wait.
Congratulations to all of the finishers and thank you to all of the fellow volunteers and people who work tirelessly to make Marathon Day such a special day for so many people and their families.
Much love, New York City Marathon. I can’t wait for you to come back around next year!
Photo credit for pretty much all of these goes to NP photographer extraordinaire Ben Gross. Great documentation, Ben!
Along the course, 62,370 gallons of water and 32,040 gallons of Gatorade will be served in 2.3 million paper cups that can now be recycled, thanks to new technology. Another 60,000 PowerBar Gel packets will be available at Mile 18.
About 11 tons of trash will be collected at the 24 fluid stations, much of it cardboard, plastic jugs and cups. The 24 station “captains” have more than 400 years of experience combined. Along the course, 137 bands (all vetted by New York Road Runners) will perform on dozens of stages. Runners can check their times on the 106 clocks on the course.
Among the more than 6,000 volunteers on race day are medical workers at the 38 aid stations. They will have on hand 11,410 pounds of ice, 13,475 bandages, 57,059 salt packages and 390 tubs of Vaseline. They will have 435 cots and 30 defibrillators that, hopefully, will not be needed.
In all, 1,200 vehicles will be used during the race, including many assembled into convoys that clean the course as runners push ahead. School buses will pick up stragglers. Runners who make it to the finish will be handed one of the 52,000 medals, and possibly one of the 60,000 heat sheets and 52,000 food bags.
Jim Heim, who works with Ciaccia, said the Road Runners operations staff was “a well-oiled machine,” in part, because it has hosted events throughout the year. But he acknowledged that “at every event, there’s something that is going to go wrong.”
It’s easy to understand why so many runners have the New York City Marathon on their to-do list. It’s one of the six Majors, is a great way to see the nation’s largest city and, oh yeah, it’s the biggest one in the world. A record-setting 51,394 athletes crossed the finish line in 2016, and the finisher total exceeded 50,000 four of the last five years.
For many of those runners, NYC isn’t just a one-time thing to check off of a bucket list—though it often starts out that way—but is an event that they look forward to accomplishing each year. We talked to five runners who’ve run New York at least 10 times, to put together the best tips for first-timers taking on the five boroughs. Here’s what they had to say:
Take It Easy Before Race Day
Getting around New York involves a lot of walking. Sure, you’re a marathoner and can handle a little walking. You might even be a local and roll your eyes at this warning. That’s precisely why you need it. All the extra steps you take in such a walkable city could take a toll come race day.
“Stay off your feet as much as possible,” says Bette Clark, 63, of Yonkers, N.Y. Clark trains with Van Cortlandt Track Club in the Bronx and is running her 11th NYC marathon this year. For visitors, relaxing can be especially challenging. “I know when I’ve run races in other places, that’s the hardest thing—I want to do everything, I want to see everything,” Clark says.
If you can, visit the race expo to pick up your bib Thursday or Friday, Clark recommends. Depending on where you’re coming from, you may have to walk a ways to get to the Javits Center. It’s also a big space, and there are a lot of people. Navigating that the day before a marathon isn’t ideal.
Don’t Underestimate The Logistics
The New York City Marathon is a point-to-point race in the nation’s largest city, which also happens to be a collection of islands—getting around before and after the race takes a lot of time. “It’s hours before and hours after—it’s different from any other marathon” says Chris Solarz, 40, of Manhattan. Solarz knows what he’s talking about. The Central Park Track Club runner has finished more than 300 marathons, including the last 14 New York City marathons.
It all starts with the journey to Staten Island, which can easily take an hour, if not two. Once you arrive, you need to check your bag (if you have one) and go through security. Then you wait. “As much as you know to wear warm clothes, I never seem to bring enough,” Solarz says. “You can have your race ruined by being too cold when you start.”
All the runners we spoke to said to bring plenty of throwaway clothes and things to keep you warm and dry, like a trash bag, shower caps to cover your feet or even a change of shoes. They also recommended taking a snack. “They do have coffee and bagels, which is good, but it’s a lot of time to wait if you left your home at 4 or 5 or 6 in the morning and you’re not starting till 10,” Clark says. “I know a lot of people who said they were starving when they started. They hadn’t thought to bring extra food.”
And after it’s all done, you have to get home. Unless you live or are staying near Central Park, it’s a trek. It’s a good idea to have dry clothes in your gear-check bag or with a friend or family member who is meeting you after the finish.
Most runners struggle to manage their nerves before a marathon, but that’s particularly difficult when you’re sitting in a field for a few hours before the start. “You spend a lot of time and a lot of nervous energy in these corrals in this big setup camp,” Solarz says. “For everything that’s great about that excitement, it can be very boring and very stressful.”
Michael Ring, 55, of Brooklyn ran his 20th NYC last year and recommends looking for a spot away from loudspeakers where you can sit and try to relax before the race. At the start line, nerves give way to excitement, and you have to remind yourself not to gun it up the Verrazano Narrows Bridge while Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” plays in the background.
“They blast that as the mayor sends you off,” Solarz says. “It’s an excitement in the air—it’s hard to explain and hard to replicate elsewhere.”
It’s important to remember that the first mile is uphill, so even if you’re not feeling the strain in the moment, you’ll feel it later. “It’s so exciting—you’re on the bridge, you hear the music,” Clark says. “You really have to be careful, you have to run those first miles slower than your goal pace. Even though people warn you about it, you have to be told over and over again. You just get swept away.”
When you turn onto 4th Avenue in Brooklyn (just after mile 2), you get the first taste of New York’s incredible, unmatched crowd support. “Brooklyn is Number One. The bridge to 4th Avenue, oh my god, it’s a huge crowd,” says 65-year-old Admas Belilgne. Although not a Brooklynite (she lives in Manhattan and is originally from Ethiopia), Belilgne has run 30 New York City marathons in a row and says this six-mile stretch continues to be her favorite. Belilgne has the third-longest streak of women who have run NYC (women aged 72 and 74 have 34- and 39-year streaks, respectively).
“One thing that I can say is it’s always exciting, especially the crowd, the people encouraging,” Belilgne says. Enjoy the excitement, but pay attention to your pace, because it’s easy to go too fast in Brooklyn and have it come back to bite you in later, quieter parts of the course. That’s what happened when Ring attempted his first NYC marathon in 1980 at 17 years old.
“No one advised me on two key things: hydration and pacing,” Ring says. “I drank 10 glasses of water in Bed-Stuy, I puked all over Queens, and I collapsed on the Queensboro bridge.” He didn’t finish. Had he crossed the bridge, he would have heard the roar of the crowd on 1st Avenue in Manhattan, another famously exciting section where it’s easy to go too fast.
“You come over the 59th street bridge and there’s massive crowd support,” says Denis Sweeney, 38, of Manhattan. “People will just get too excited and they’ll pull out the tubes too soon. You’re only at mile 16 or 17. You need to keep something for later.”
Feed Off The Crowd
Yes, all that patience and balance we just talked about is important, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore what’s happening around you.
“I always feel that each high five you get in Brooklyn equals 10 seconds of power in the Bronx,” Ring says. Thirteen years after his first attempt, Ring finished the NYC Marathon for the first time. He ran it every year after that until 2014, when he developed Guillain-Barré syndrome and, as a result, became a quadriplegic.
He recovered use of his limbs and ran the 2017 New York City Marathon with Achilles International, finishing his 20th NYC and 30th marathon in less than 10 hours. One of his main pieces of advice is to soak up the energy around you and read the signs people are holding along the course.
“I always felt that they’re cheering for me,” Ring says of the crowds on 1st Avenue. “I’m going to push up that hill a little bit harder, and they’re cheering, and I’m a rockstar, even if I’m one of 55,000 people.” The energy along the course is one of the event’s main draws.
“The crowd support on 1st Ave and in Central Park is so incredible,” Sweeney says. Sweeney, a lieutenant in the fire department and part of the FDNY running club, has raced the last 13 NYC marathons. “I went to watch my sister do the Philadelphia Marathon, I’ve done the Boston Marathon, nothing is like New York.”
Other Things To Know
Anticipate the quiet suffer fest that is the Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge. “It’s very, very quiet on the bridge,” Clark says. Not only is the incline challenging, it’s one of the few parts of the course without spectators. “I run on that bridge a lot. It’s nice, it’s a great bridge to run on, but in the middle of a marathon, it’s tough.”
All the runners mentioned the challenge of the Queensboro bridge. “You’ve run more than a half marathon but there’s still double digits to go, and it’s a big hill,” Solarz says. “Coming out of Queens and all that cheering, then there’s dead silence and you’re running on the bottom half of the bridge. You don’t even have the beauty of the sky. You’re in this dark and desolate subterranean running chamber.”
It’s A Long Way South From The Bronx
Several of the runners said that the race doesn’t start till you get to the Bronx—but you still have more than 10K to run once you cross the Willis Avenue Bridge. Turning into Manhattan feels like the end is near (and it is) but don’t get too ahead of yourself.
“You’re going through Harlem and you start to see trees. Do not—do NOT—get your hopes up, because believe it or not, it is NOT Central Park,” Sweeney says. Every year, people around him mistake Marcus Garvey park for Central Park. “You’re like, ‘Oh yeah I’m almost there, Central Park.’ Wrong park.”
Look For The Positives In Central Park
It’s important to remember that Central Park is 50 blocks long, and you have to run it from top to bottom (and then some). You know you’re close to the finish, but that doesn’t make the last miles easy. Belilgne says the hardest part of the course for her is in Central Park, even though she trains in the park constantly.
“Every year when I hit that portion I say, ‘Why am I doing this?’” she says, describing the incline from miles 23 to 24, and then the short uphill at 24.5 miles. But once she sees the boathouse, she knows the worst is behind her. There’s about 1.5 miles left, and the excitement of the finishing stretch makes it easier to manage the pain.
During the Central Park miles, Ring says he likes seeing all the people who have already finished, wearing their medals, cheering on everyone still running. He recommends racers use that for inspiration. “When they get to Central Park, they’re going to see finishers walking home, and they’re going to get a glimpse of the medal they’re about to earn,” Ring says. “That always drove me.”