Photo: Julienne Schaer
There’s no question that the massive spectacle known as the is one of the most exhilarating events of NYC’s fall season. This year’s race, on November 5, will feature roughly 50,000 elite marathoners, para-athletes, seasoned amateurs and determined first-timers from around the world, all of whom will test their mettle on a scenic 26.2-mile course that winds its way through the five boroughs. Along the route, runners will be cheered on by more than a million spectators, with bands, DJs, portable stereos and impromptu block parties adding to the cacophony. Here’s the info you need to feel a part of the action.
There’s a full week of events leading up to the marathon (and even one after it), including shorter races for adults and kids, an opening ceremony, a fundraising gala and a at the that’s free and open to all, with hundreds of booths, assorted presentations and strategic suggestions from the NYRR Running Lab. For a full schedule, visit the . During the race itself, entertainment stations along the course provide music and encouragement.
On TV and streaming
Live coverage of the race will be broadcast locally on ABC and nationwide on ESPN2, and will stream online on the ESPN app.
The course offers spectators and fans plenty of good viewing locations, starting at Bay Ridge in Brooklyn—where runners come off the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge near the start of the race—and moving all along the course up to the historic finish line in Central Park. See “Choosing Your Spot” below for ideas.
If your friends or family members are running, they’ll be counting on their own personal fan club to cheer them on to the finish. You’ll need a prerace plan to navigate the crowds.
• Agree on where you will be, including the specific side of the street. It’s much easier for your runner to find you than for you to pick them out of the pack. A well-placed loved one can be just the pick-me-up a runner needs during a particularly tough stretch.
• Know your runner’s number, starting wave and expected pace in order to best estimate his or her arrival window at your location. The race provides an app and online tracking system (check the Apple Store and Google Play closer to the race date to find it) so that you can monitor your runner’s real-time progress.
• Stand out from the crowd. Wear a distinctive outfit that is easy to spot, or make an eye-catching sign. (Marathon organizers will provide sign-making supplies in designated cheering zones.)
• Make a postrace game plan. You can enter the official , which is organized alphabetically, along Central Park West between West 63th and West 66th Streets. It is also best to pick out and reserve a place for a postrace meal ahead of time, as the area will be quite crowded and finishers quite hungry.
For details on the course, check out the official and . There are all kinds of viewing options, each with its own flavor. Commercial corridors like First Avenue on the Upper East Side and Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg are close to subway stops as well as markets and restaurants for refueling. These stretches are crowded, loud and exciting.
At several key locations, you can position yourself for a magnificent view of the pack. Drop anchor at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues in Brooklyn, near the landmark Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower (just short of mile 8), to catch runners making their way up Fourth Avenue. The location is right on top of a transit hub, and plenty of cafés and shops line the route nearby.
At Fifth Avenue and 90th Street in Manhattan, as runners enter Central Park at Engineers’ Gate, most of them will have already . This is a beautiful spot (for spectators, at least), with a long vista up Fifth Avenue, but bring food—there are relatively few nearby delis, bodegas or cafés.
For the most intense experience, head to Central Park South at Columbus Circle, where runners push through the closing mile. Some put on a final burst here, while others just do their best to hobble to the finish. Expect an emotional roller coaster and big crowds. (Note that for grandstand seating, at the very end of the marathon, you’ll and you’ll head to a special entry point in the park).
Before leaving home, check the weather report so you know what to expect. Bring protection from the sun and/or rain gear, as the forecast dictates. You will be outside and on your feet for hours, so wear comfortable shoes and bring an extra layer of clothing.
Essential resources for spectators include a (the marathon plays havoc on surface transit, including cars and cabs; note too that the subways can be crowded, particularly after the race) and the course map. As well you’ll want your cell phone, a camera (if you have one you prefer over the one on your phone), a water bottle and some food: energy bars, nuts and fruit make good snacks.
Once you’ve settled on a viewing location, double-check your mile position on the course map and be sure to get there in time to catch the elite runners or cheer on a friend. The marathon begins in phases: wheelchair competitors (8am) and handcyclists (8:22am) start first, followed by the professional women (8:40am) and men (9:05am). The rest of the field starts the race in five staggered waves, at 9:10am (right behind the professional men), 9:45am, 10:20am, 10:55am and 11:30am.
Get into position before the time approaches for your runner to appear. Be visible, with camera in hand and sign held high. You will want to be ready and alert but also patient—even an accomplished runner may not be on his or her intended pace.
You might consider having a special treat handy for your intrepid marathoner. After running for miles, nothing hits the spot like a banana, a peeled orange or even a fruit smoothie. Check in advance, though—runners have different approaches to eating during the race. (Also, take care not to step out onto the course. As the miles mount, marathoners’ lateral agility decreases drastically.)
A word of caution for spectators: you may find yourself inspired to get off the sidelines and run the marathon in 2024. For details on applying, check the ; more information will become available after this year’s race. We’ll be out there rooting for you.