The TCS New York City Marathon is less than a month away! I’m so jealous of everyone who will be running it this year. If it’s your first time running the NYC Marathon you will not be disappointed. It was my first marathon and one I’ll never forget. I also ran it last year (2013) and it was even more amazing the second time.
I wanted to share my perspective on NYC Marathon course tips and strategy. The course runs through all five boroughs, and there are different things to expect within each one. Let’s go through the course, starting with the wait at Fort Wadsworth.
BEFORE THE RACE
Give yourself plenty of time. Last year my mom and I literally had to run to our corrals and were probably the last ones to get in. Why? Because we should have gotten on an earlier ferry. The ferry was on time but once we got into the terminal we waited probably 30-45 minutes for a bus to take us to Fort Wadsworth. That’s a lot of standing around before running 26.2 miles! Plan out the logistics and try to get there 2 hours or so before your wave. That gives you plenty of time to get there, get settled, put your gear on, go to the bathroom, eat, do bag check etc.
Pack warm clothes. By now you already know to wear layers and throwaway clothes at the beginning. But make sure to pack something warm for the finish. I know that you have the option to exit the park early if you don’t do bag check, but I’d rather just pack my bag and put in a jacket and comfy shoes. Last year I fit my puffy winter coat in the bag they gave me. Just stuff it all in there!
Write your name on your shirt. This is obviously something to be done before the race (though people hand out markers at the start village in case you want to write on your shirt). Some people think this is cheesy but I’d say the spectators are what really got me through the race. It feels awesome to have hundreds of people screaming out your name and cheering you on. Total strangers who are out there yelling your name. This is why I love running and spectators (which I wrote about more here). I also like to add in something corny on the back of my shirt too Here are my shirts from 2011 and last year:
Get to your corrals on time. You don’t want to be locked out and have to wait more time to start. Or if you’re like my mom and I, you don’t want to have to run and be the last ones in and all rushed getting yourself settled that you miss all the start line festivities. From what I remember, there are port-a-potties on the walk to the starting line.
Okay let’s get right into the race itself!
Miles 1-2: You’re running over the Verrazano Bridge and it’s awesome. Yes, everything you’ve heard about not feeling the one mile uphill is true. You are too amped up to notice it. Look over the sides and you’ll see the New York Fire Department and their water display. Look at the NYC skyline and know you’re about to conquer that city
Miles 2-13: These are all in Brooklyn. Honestly, I’d say cheering wise this was my favorite part of the race (besides the finish of course). There are so many spectators out in full force screaming your name as you run by. I like this better than the famous First Avenue because the road isn’t as wide, which means it feels like you’re running through a tunnel of people all cheering for you.
My family met my mom and me at mile 8, which I believe is right by a subway station…I think they got off at the Prospect Ave. station. There are several subway stops on Fourth Avenue, so your spectators can get off the subway, see you, then get back on to go to their next location, which for my family was the Queensboro Plaza stop to see us before we went over the Queensboro Bridge.
Miles 13.1-15: At the halfway point, you cross over the Pulaski Bridge. We practiced this a few times in our long run training so I knew what to expect. It’s a hill but not too long, you’re up and over in no time. Just maintain even effort and try to save what you can for the Queensboro Bridge.
Mile 15-16: This is where the bridge starts. Both years I’ve had a tough time here. It’s not that steep it’s just an incline that never ends! I believe I measured it to be almost a mile. There are no spectators so it’s just you and your fellow runners. Stay strong and pump your arms to keep propelling yourself forward. At the end of the bridge there are signs that say something along the lines of “Only 10 miles to go” but in a way more motivational sense. I can’t remember it now! Just think to yourself, 10 miles is nothing! You did 10 miles how often in your training? I like to pretend the previous miles of the race were just a warm-up
Mile 16-20: These miles seemed never ending to me not gonna lie. You’re running up First Ave. which is a slight incline that lasts forever it seems. It’s cool to be able to see all the runners in front of you, but I also just felt like mile 20 was so far off. Towards miles 18-19, the crowds get thinner. We were supposed to meet my family there but they didn’t make it on time. I’d rather have them closer to the finish anyway.
Mile 20-21: You’re in the Bronx for a little bit before you will cross another bridge into Manhattan. There are lots of fans in the Bronx as well who will be cheering you on!
Mile 21-24: Thankfully that bridge you cross onto Fifth Ave. isn’t an incline. I remember getting to this point and telling my mom okay let’s speed up! Well, we tried anyway. Around mile 23 you are running along side Central Park, but the incline starts. It’s a long, steady climb before you get into the park. Be strong and use whatever mantra you need. I actually didn’t mind this section because my hip flexors were tight and running on an incline helped a bit.
Mile 24-26: You run through the park!! You are so close! You will go through some undulating hills here but the spectators are amazing. You will definitely feel that runner’s high. Try to pass as many people as you can! At mile 26 you come out of the park and then you’ll be going towards Columbus Circle. SO MUCH CHEERING! I was smiling the whole way to the finish line. You go back into the park and see the Mile 26 mile marker…only .2 to go!!!
Mile .2: Run strong because you’re there. There is a slight incline to the finish but there are signs counting down the distance (400 yards, 200 yards, etc.) Cross the finish and get your medal!
Someone left a comment about this and I wanted to add this section in. Water stops can get crowded but it’s never crazy enough that you’d have to stop all together to get water and wade through people. Just keep running until the last tables in order to have more space.
My suggestion would be to wear a fuel belt with 1 or 2 bottles. That’s what I did, and I was able to skip 2-3 water stops, and when I needed to refill my bottle, the volunteers were great about it. They would see me running up with my open bottle, and they’d grab a jug of water and come running up to me and top me off. Took less than 15 seconds I bet you. If you don’t want to carry anything, you’ll be fine. Like I said, just run to the later tables as opposed to the very first ones where everyone goes.
Before you start walking to bag check, grab two mylar blankets (one for your shoulders and one to tie around your waist). They really do keep you warm!
I found that post-race was the hardest for me. Not only do you walk one mile to get your bag from bag check, then you have to walk to wherever your family is meeting you. Certain areas are restricted to the public which makes it hard. I suggest meeting at the West Side YMCA on West 63rd Street. We are YMCA members so we are allowed to use their locker rooms and showers (we didn’t though because I just wanted to get home). But even if you’re not members you can use their restrooms or lobby as a meeting place. We got out of Central Park around 83rd or something? I was not about to walk 20 blocks so we took the subway to meet my family.
Have a concrete meeting location because you either a) won’t have much cell battery left after running (mine died) or b) won’t get good service because everyone will be using their cell phones too.
Most Important Tips
If you didn’t want to read that whole thing, here are my most important tips:
- Have a set plan on where to have your spectators. Map out the exact time they should be there/when you think you will run by there, along with their subway plan. Make sure to tell them if you will be running on the left or right side of the road.
- Pack warm clothes for the finish!
- Have a meeting location for after the race.
- Start slow!! Queensboro Bridge is tough and you want to get there feeling fresh(ish). Try to even split or negative split.
- NUMBER ONE: HAVE FUN AND ENJOY THE SPECTATORS!!!
I’ll be there this year cheering on all the runners and I can’t wait! Writing all this and reading my own race recaps makes me wish I could be running this year. Best of luck to everyone!!!
Here’s my recap video from last year where you can really see how there are spectators every step of the way
Follow Reach Your Peak: