26.2 New York City marathon tips
Last Updated on 24th July 2020Reading Time: 7 minutes
There are the “big six” marathons and the New York City marathon is one of them! 🙂 London, Berlin, Chicago, Boston and Tokyo being the others. It’s a prestigious event and if it’s on your “bucket list” it’s a monumental one to tick off. Of course if you haven’t already been to NYC already it ticks that one off the list too! But what about some New York marathon tips?
How can you get a place?
There’s an international ballot which makes it slightly easier to get in as a foreigner. I’ve run it twice now, 2013 and 2014. Both times for maternal health charity ‘Every Mother Counts’, once with one of their charity places and once an an International runner. Find out more about why I run for Every Mother Counts. And also about my first marathon running for TeamEMC.
New York marathon tips
Running in the New York City Marathon is a wonderful experience. The fact you get to navigate through 5 boroughs ending up in iconic Central Park is pretty epic. So those New York marathon tips! A few of them coming from my dad Roger who’s run over 900 marathons. Read some of the questions I posed to him recently. But before that – those New York Marathon tips!
NB. All these tips come in good faith and are accurate as I could make them. Please add a comment or contact me if you think anything needs updating.
1. Register at the Expo
Don’t forget to register at the Javits Convention Center, 11th Avenue at West 35th Street when you arrive in New York. Try not to go when everybody else does!
Check out all the race-day information on the NYRR website.
Get yourself some pace bracelet information. A great way of correctly pacing you through the race. Or simply use your Garmin’s pace reading so you don’t go off to quick.
If you’re new to NYC resist the urge to do TOO much walking in the few days before.
One of my key New York marathon tips! November mornings in New York can be chilly! Buy some cheap clothes from the charity/thrift stores that you can wear on the day and discard at the start line. Tracksuit top, bottoms, gloves and a hat! Less is not more! It was so cold and windy in 2014 I was still wearing my tracksuit top at mile 2! They all get donated to charity afterwards.
If you have supporters watching you tell them EXACTLY where they should stand! That means what side of the road and on which exact curbstone! You’ll find it much easier to see them, than them see you, what with your spectators watching 50,000+ heads bobbing up and down! Better still get them to stand on a footstool/stepladder.
7. iPhone app
Get friends to download the iPhone App leading up to race day so they can see where you are.
8. Garbage bag
Bring a garbage/bin bag to sit on at the start as the ground could be damp. Buy a cheap $1 dollar poncho to keep any rain off too.
9. Your name
Write your name in big bold letters on the front of your shirt/vest. If it’s on the back it’s too late for spectators to shout out your name. It’s amazing how much a “shout out” from a random stranger can lift you up.
10. Exit strategy
Work out your exit strategy. If you’re staying on the east side of Manhattan the marathon is coming down 5th Ave and you won’t be able to cross the road very easily. Maybe time to think about where you’re going to stay too? Anywhere around Central Park would be good for the finish.
New info. for 2019: You can now cross to the East side using the 65th street and 79th street Transverse. In both cases you need to use the roads, not the walk ways. NB. you need to exit the park to CPW (Central Park West) first. THEN access the transverse from CPW!
You have to get up very EARLY. Organise your breakfast the night before. For me that was porridge, bananas and some energy bars.
12. Getting there
Did I mention that you have to leave very EARLY? The Verrazzano-Narrows bridge to Staten Island closes at 6:45am. Our team bus from Greenwich Village left at 05:30. Make your plans way in advance to whether you are getting an organised bus or catching the ferry. There are some great New York marathon tips about that by Runningandthecity.
13. The wind direction
Pray for a south wind rather than a northerly one as most of the course goes in that direction. In 2014 the side wind was so strong I saw a few people almost fall over as one leg was blown into the other.
14. Free hat
Grab a free orange and pink Dunkin Donuts hat at the start! It keeps you warm but is thin enough to wear for the first mile or two.
15. Bridge positioning
Get lucky and have one of the corrals on the top of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge rather than the lower level as supposedly runners underneath can get peed on! I didn’t see that happen myself though. Look out for the hovering helicopters filming proceedings.
16. Mile 1
Don’t worry about your mile 1 split time! You climb 150 feet in that first mile! So don’t go off to quick! Remember all the bridges are actually mini hills.
17. Funny signs
Read the funny neon banners held up on the side of the road. My favourites were “If it was meant to be easy it would be called your mom”, “Toenails are for losers!”, “Don’t poop your pants!” along with various power-up button signs for you to tap as you run past.
18. High Fives
High-five some of the 2 million spectators lining the streets when you get the urge. It will raise your energy levels!
19. Quiet mile 11
Don’t worry if it goes VERY quiet here as you pass through the Hasidic Jewish enclave of Williamsburg where the residents seem most disinterested in proceedings. A time to get into your rhythm.
20. Mile 16
You run the hilly Queensboro Bridge in silence (no spectators are allowed on the bridge) but the crowd erupts as you hit First Ave and the hairs go up on the back of your neck. But don’t get too carried away! It’s only just over halfway! The elite runners say “You can’t win the NYC Marathon on First Avenue but you sure can lose it.”
21. First Ave
First Ave is a LONG road. I was looking forward to seeing friends at 125th Street but you join at 59th! That’s a 66 street, 3.5 mile countdown and it took ages!
22. Mile 23
Don’t let mile 23 get you down. There’s a 50 foot climb to come – you haven’t hit the wall – probably.
23. Mile 24 – Central Park
… but don’t get too gung-ho when you finally enter Central Park – there’s still 2.2 miles to go and it’s deceptively undulating in there! But you can afford to start smiling at this point.
24. Say cheese!
As well as looking out for the photographers out on the course make sure you position yourself and smile at the finish line. They also have photographers 25m after too so make sure you get one to take a photo of you with your medal.
25. After the finish
If you decided not to have a bag transported to the finish, start looking forward to having a snug fur-lined poncho wrapped around you.
26. Have a post marathon beer
After 4 months of very little alcohol that beer will probably go straight to your head! Mine was right next to the hotel in Times Square’s Planet Hollywood.
…and 2 bonus New York marathon tips:
26.1. NY Times newspaper
If you beat 4.5 hours make sure you buy the New York Times the next day as you’ll have your name published in the results.
26.2. Central Park
Finally – go back to Central Park on the Monday, visit the shop, find the finishers’ rostrum, sit with Fred Lebow and take a picture of you and the finish line. Enjoy all the comments from strangers congratulating you. You’ve earned it! NB. make sure you wear your medal 🙂
Sometimes you just have to watch a video
Check out this amazing video by ‘TheGingerRunner’ 🙂