New York City Marathon Guide: History, Course, Training and Tips For Race Day

The New York City Marathon is not just any marathon – it’s the largest marathon in the world and one that almost every runner dreams of participating in. One of the six World Marathon Majors, the challenging course winds through the streets of New York City over famous bridges and passes legendary landmarks on its 26.2-mile journey. 

Organized by the New York Road Runners (NYRR), the race is an annual event bringing hordes of runners from across the globe to the Big Apple on the first Sunday in November. Below, we’ll look at the history of the race, the course, and the qualifying criteria for those wanting to participate. We’ll also offer tips for training for the New York City Marathon and ways to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime event.

This is the New York City Marathon. 

History of the New York City Marathon

In 1970, the first New York City (NYC) Marathon was a vastly different race to the one we have come to enjoy in recent times. It consisted of four laps around Central Park, which back then didn’t possess the beloved reputation amongst New Yorkers it does today. 

The Park suffered from numerous issues, including vandalism, graffiti on the buildings’ sides, and widespread drug peddling. Nevertheless, race directors Fred Lebow and Vince Chiappetta supported the New York mayor’s efforts to restore Central Park, so they organized the first New York Marathon on September 13th, 1970.

A small group of runners assembled at the start: only 127, including one woman, Nina Kuscsik. The race was won by American Gary Muhrcke who finished in 2:31:38 and was watched by just 100 spectators. 

Only 55 runners finished the race that year, but a new marathon was born. It seemed to represent more than just a race; over time, it has grown to represent the revival and resilience of New York. With nearly 48,000 people finishing the event in 2022, it has become the world’s largest marathon.

The NYC Marathon is a momentous race with many record-breaking and unforgettable occurrences over the years. Here are some memorable moments from the NYC Marathon over the last 52 years, including the significant changes that have shaped it into the iconic race it is today:

  • 1970: The first New York City Marathon is run, costing a mere $1 to enter. The only woman in the race dropped out at the 15-mile mark due to illness.
  • 1971: Beth Bonner becomes the first woman to win the race, setting a new world record of 2:55:22. 
  • 1976: To celebrate the United States bicentennial, the marathon expands to include all five boroughs of New York City, with 2,090 entrants and 1,549 finishers. Bill Rodgers and Miki Gorman set event records. Rodgers goes on to win the race a further three times.
  • 1978: Grete Waitz from Norway smashed the world record in the women’s race by finishing in 2:32:30. 
  • 1979: Over 10,000 runners cross the finish line for the first time. Grete Waitz once again emerges as the champion. Notably, she achieves a remarkable feat by finishing the race in 2:27:33, becoming the first woman ever to break the 2:30 barrier.
  • 1980: With an impressive finishing time of 2:09:41, Alberto Salazar secured his first victory and set a new record for the fastest marathon debut by an American.
  • 1981: Alberto Salazar’s time of 2:08:13 is rescinded when it is later discovered that the course was approximately 160 yards short of the full marathon distance.
  • 1986: The New York Marathon is held for the first time in November.
  • 1987: Finishing in a time of 2:11:01, Ibrahim Hussein of Kenya becomes the first African man to win the NYC Marathon.
  • 1988: Grete Waitz won the race for a record ninth time. As a tribute to her influential contributions, the New York Road Runners organization sponsored a 10K race called “Grete’s Great Gallop.”
  • 1992: In the most poignant moment in NYC Marathon history, Grete Waitz, alongside race co-founder and friend, Fred Lebow, participated in her last New York Marathon. Despite Lebow’s battle with brain cancer, they crossed the finish line together, completing the race in 5:32:35. Tragically, Lebow passed away two years later in 1994. Grete Waitz, a true running icon, also faced her own battle with cancer and sadly passed away in 2011.
  • 1994: With not much separating Mexican runners Gérman Silva and Benjamín Paredes as they entered Central Park, Silva takes a wrong turn during the 26th mile. Undeterred, he quickly recovers from his mistake and mounts an impressive comeback, finishing just two seconds ahead of Paredes, earning the name “Wrong Way Silva.”
  • 2000: An official wheelchair and handcycle division for both men and women is added to the event. 
  • 2001: The 2001 NYC Marathon, on November 4, is a fiercely patriotic event taking place just 54 days after the tragic September 11 terrorist attacks. Ethiopia’s Tesfaye Jifar made history by setting a new course record with a remarkable time of 2:07:43, which would stand until 2011. In the women’s category, Margaret Okayo from Kenya emerged as the champion, setting a new course record by crossing the line in just 2:24:21. Okayo’s incredible achievement was followed by another course record two years later, which remains unbroken.
  • 2002: Kenya secures the top three men’s race positions in an unprecedented feat. Joyce Chepchumba continues Kenya’s success, clinching victory in the women’s race, marking the first time in history that Kenyan runners triumph in both the men’s and women’s marathon races.
  • 2005: In the closest finish ever recorded in the marathon’s history, Kenya’s Paul Tergat manages to outpace Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa by just one second.
  • 2010: The NYC Marathon sets a new world record for the highest number of official finishers in a marathon race. A staggering 44,829 participants successfully completed the race, with 28,757 men and 16,072 women crossing the finish line. 
  • 2011: Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya made history in the men’s event by winning the NYC Marathon and breaking the 10-year-old course record. Mutai had already won the Boston Marathon earlier in the year, becoming the first man to win both races in the same year. His record still stands.
  • 2012: The race was canceled due to the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy. Many runners chose to contribute to relief efforts in the city. The organizers offered two options to the registered runners: either receive a refund for their race entry or secure a guaranteed entry into one of the NYC Marathons in the following three years (2013, 2014, or 2015).
  • 2014: Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) became the New York City Marathon’s title sponsor, and the race became known as the TCS New York City Marathon.
  • 2015: Tatyana McFadden, representing the United States, set a women’s wheelchair division record of 1:43:04. She won the race five times.
  • 2016: Lauren Lubin ran as the first openly non-binary athlete. 
  • 2019: The race had a record-breaking number of finishers – a whopping 53,627 runners.
  • 2020: This would have marked the 50th race; however, the race was canceled with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. A virtual race was organized instead, taking place between October 17 and November 1. Almost sixteen thousand people participated from 108 countries around the world.
  • 2021: The 50th running of the TCS New York City Marathon took place with health and safety protocols for all participants, staff, and volunteers. Over 25,000 participants finished the race.
  • 2022: New records were set by both male and female wheelchair competitors – Marcel Hug from Switzerland in a time of 1:25:26 and USA’s Susannah Scaroni in 1:42:43.

Today the New York City Marathon is one of the six marathons that form the World Marathon Majors. The others are Tokyo, London, Chicago, Boston and Berlin.

Course Records and Wins

Thousands of athletes and spectators have participated in and watched this iconic marathon over the years.

Here are some of the most notable performances by men and women at the NYC Marathon. 

Men’s Division

YearWinnerNationalityCourse Record
1970Gary MuhrckeUSA2:31:38
1971Norman HigginsUSA2:22:54
1973Tom FlemingUSA2:21:51
1975Tom FlemingUSA2:19:27
1976Bill RodgersUSA2:10:10
1980Alberto SalazarUSA2:09:41
1989Juma IkangaaTanzania2:08:01
2001Tesfaye JifarEthiopia2:07:43
2011Geoffrey MutaiKenya2:05:06 (current record)

Women’s Division

YearWinnerNationalityCourse Record
1971Beth BonnerUSA2:55:22 (world record)
1975Kim MerrittUSA2:46:14
1976Miki GormanUSA2:39:11
1978Grete WaitzNorway2:32:30 (world record)
1979Grete WaitzNorway2:27:33 (world record)
1980Grete WaitzNorway2:25:42 (world record)
1992Lisa OndiekiAustralia2:24:40
2001Margaret OkayoKenya2:24:21
2003Margaret OkayoKenya2:22:31 (current record)

Entrants Statistics

From its humble beginnings in 1970 and its 127 entrants, the NYC Marathon has grown into the largest marathon worldwide. Here are the statistics, by decade, for the number of people who have entered the race:

2020No race due to the Covid-19 pandemic.


From the first race in 1970, spectators have grown from approximately 100 to several million people. People worldwide descend upon the Big Apple on the first Sunday in November to support the runners, whether they know them personally or not. 

Spectators are part of the fabric of the race. They create a vibrant and energetic atmosphere that spurs the runners on and picks them up when they feel they can’t continue. 

The Impact of the New York City Marathon on Communities

The New York City Marathon impacts the communities it encounters significantly. Attracting 50,000 participants from around the world, including their supporters, the mixing of such a range of diverse people from all walks of life is profound. It is one of the most famous marathons in America.

The race organizers promote inclusivity on every level. Everyone gathers with one purpose: to run the race. The camaraderie and sportsmanship are spoken about long after the race is over. 

Of course, for the elite runners, the prize money is important. Many of the best athletes prioritize this race on their calendars, which ensures that the race attracts the “big names,” maintaining the status and reputation of the race, as well as encouraging competitiveness.

Along with the prestige of winning the race overall, there are several prize divisions. However, to be eligible for prize money at the 2023 New York City Marathon, a runner must complete the course in 3:10:00 or less. Individual winners of the Open Division will earn a cool $100,000, while the first US citizen over the finish line will receive $25,000. Men and women receive equal pay. 

The first member of the NYRR to finish will receive $5,000, while the first member over 40 years of age will earn $500. Amounts are equal for men, women, and non-binary. In the Wheelchair Division, winners will earn $35,000. There are additional prizes for teams and bonuses for stipulated times.

Perhaps more important for the city is the economic impact. According to the Audience Research and Analysis report in 2021, the NYC Marathon generated an incredible $427 million in income for hotels, restaurants, and small businesses in the city. 

Several disadvantaged communities also benefit from the marathon as highlighted charities. The money raised gives their coffers a tremendous boost.

Gathering so many people together in one place is bound to impact the environment. The NYRR has an effective waste management and recycling policy, which has been used to great effect at the NYC Marathon annually. Working with the Department of Sanitation, volunteers collect waste from the start of the race to the finish, separate the materials and send them to recycling depots. 

Leftover pre-race, course, and post-finish food and beverages are donated to organizations helping the less fortunate in the city. Discarded clothing is also picked up and donated to less fortunate athletes. 

New Balance, one of the race’s sponsors, has also come to the party. Their footwear and apparel for the 2022 TCS New York City Marathon collection contain “at least 50 percent recycled polyester.” 

On the subject of running shoes, Mark Semlar, who ran the race in 2018, calculated that if 50,000 runners participate in the Marathon, 100,000 shoes will still be here in 500 years as some of the materials they are made from are non-biodegradable. To show what can be done, Semlar ran in 3D-printed compostable sandals. 

The New York City Course and its Features

New York City Marathon guide

Comprising the five boroughs and linked by five bridges, the 26.2-mile NYC Marathon is challenging. Starting in Staten Island, the route winds its way through the well-known neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan, spends a brief time in the Bronx, heads back through Manhattan, and finishes in the legendary Central Park. 

Here is a more detailed look at the route through the city’s five boroughs:

Beginning near the approach to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Staten Island, the first mile of the race is almost completely uphill, giving the runners’ legs a taste of what’s to come. Then, the course eases as runners head downhill toward Brooklyn.

The next 11 miles are spent running through Brooklyn’s neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bedford-Stuyvesant and are relatively flat. As runners head across the Pulaski Bridge to Queens, they know they have reached the halfway point. 

For the next two miles, the course takes runners through Long Island City in Queens. Soon the most difficult part of the race will be reached – the climb up Queensboro Bridge. Runners find this stage extremely challenging as there are no crowds to cheer them on. 

A 90-degree turn off the bridge and onto 1st Avenue in Manhattan ends this difficult patch as crowds cheer runners on. Frank Shorter, the 1972 Olympic Games Marathon gold medalist, once said, “When you run up First Avenue in New York, if you don’t get goosebumps, there’s something wrong with you.” 

Crossing the Willis Avenue Bridge brings runners to the Bronx and the 20-mile mark. A brief one-mile run through the Bronx leads runners to the final bridge, the Madison Avenue Bridge. Here, many athletes experience hitting “the wall,” the point in the race where the body seems to run out of energy. 

At about the twenty-third mile, runners will begin to run uphill on Fifth Avenue toward the northern edge of the iconic Central Park. Spectators will be out in their thousands, shouting and encouraging family members and strangers. 

The next mile is flat and a good place to prepare for the last tough section of the race. Mile 25 takes runners up the last hill of the Marathon. This hill is a bit tricky as it’s so near the end. Runners are tired, and if they are not prepared, it can be an unpleasant surprise.

Finally, runners cross the finish line beside the Tavern on the Green. The crowds will be incredibly loud, and athletes report feeling euphoric as they realize they have just finished the largest race in the world – the New York City Marathon.

Crowd Support and Cheering Sections

“TCS New York City Marathon is my favorite race, and the event feels like home,” said Geoffrey Kamworor, Kenyan winner of the 2017 NYC Marathon. “I say that because of the friendly nature of the event, the terrific organization, and the warmth I feel from the many thousands of supporters along the route.” 

Kamworor echoed the sentiments of many athletes who participated in the race. It makes no difference whether a runner is a pro or just a beginner; the support from the crowds is a great lifter of spirits when needed most.

While Staten Island may be the start of the race, and traditionally, crowds would gather around the area as best they can, there really isn’t a suitable spot to stand and cheer. Spectators aren’t allowed on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and there isn’t space near the runners’ village.

NYC Marathon crowd support
NYC Marathon crowd support, via Kofuzi’s run-through

The best places to watch and support the runners are:

Brooklyn: Fourth Avenue is a lively viewing point, and the runners should still feel fresh as they come past as they leave the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. There’s a two-mile stretch for you to choose from.

Queens: A good spot is just across the Pulaski Bridge when the runners reach halfway. There are a few good places to watch the race in the Queens area.

Manhattan: Crowds traditionally gather for 3 miles along First Avenue. This part of the race is where the runners start to feel tired and need crowd support. This part of the route is also what they all remember fondly, as they are cheered and spurred on. 

From here, spectators can head to Fifth Avenue to continue supporting the runners. Remember to wear something to stand out from the crowd and choose a specific spot to meet your runner – with so many people around, they may miss you. 

The second place to stand in Manhattan is on Fifth Street, where runners only have another 3 miles to go. They’ll be struggling and will need your energy and support.

Two Charity Cheer Zones are located at First Avenue and 120th Street to cheer on the athletes who are running to raise funds for charity.

Finally, watch the runners head for the finish in Central Park. Large crowds gather at the United Airlines Zone at Columbus Circle, an exciting place to watch your runner come in. 

A standing spectator area about 500 feet from the finish is organized by the NYRR. Grandstand seating is available, but you will need tickets for this. Tickets need to be purchased before the event.

The Bronx: A good place to stand is along 138th Street. Not many people gather here, and it’s where runners need a lot of support as it is a part of the race where they may hit “the wall.”

Qualifying for the New York City Marathon

Knowing the rules and regulations for entering and qualifying is important for those who want to run a Marathon, and the NYC Marathon is no different.

Here are the entrance requirements for the NYC Marathon:

The qualifying requirements for the NYC Marathon can vary depending on the entry method. Here are some of the main ways to qualify for the race.

Time Qualification

The most common way to qualify for the New York City Marathon is by meeting certain time standards in a certified marathon. These qualifying times are based on age and gender.

Categories and Cut-Off Times

Here are the current qualifying standards according to age category. Since the NYC Marathon is one of the few marathon majors that accepts half-marathon times as qualifiers, those have been included as well:


Age CategoryMarathonHalf-marathon
18 – 342:53:001:21:00
35 – 392:55:001:23:00
40 – 442:58:001:25:00
45 – 493:05:001:28:00
50 – 543:14:001:32:00
55 – 593:23:001:36:00
60 – 643:34:001:41:00
65 – 693:45:001:46:00
70 – 744:10:001:57:00
75 – 794:40:002:07:00
80 +4:55:002:15:00


Age CategoryMarathonHalf-marathon
18 – 343:13:001:32:00
35 – 393:15:001:34:00
40 – 443:26:001:37:00
45 – 493:38:001:42:00
50 – 543:51:001:49:00
55 – 594:10:001:54:00
60 – 644:27:002:02:00
65 – 694:50:002:12:00
70 – 745:30:002:27:00
75 – 796:00:002:40:00
80 +6:35:002:50:00


Age CategoryMarathonHalf-marathon
18 – 343:13:001:32:00
35 – 393:15:001:34:00
40 – 443:26:001:37:00
45 – 493:38:001:42:00
50 – 543:51:001:49:00
55 – 594:10:001:54:00
60 – 644:27:002:02:00
65 – 694:50:002:12:00
70 – 745:30:002:27:00
75 – 796:00:002:40:00
80 +6:35:002:50:00

These cut-off times are tough and are designed this way to try and reduce the massive number of entrants to the race.

New York City Marathon Lottery

A lottery drawing option is available to maintain the inclusivity and diversity of the race. For those runners who don’t have a guaranteed entry, they have the opportunity to apply for the non-guaranteed general entry lottery. 

During the drawing, entries are randomly selected from the applicants’ pool to secure a marathon spot. This option is open for a limited time to a limited group of people: NYC Metro, National, and International applicants.

9 + 1 Program

The 9+1 program provides New York Road Runners a chance to secure their spot in the New York City Marathon. To complete the 9+1 program and secure guaranteed entry, runners must complete nine qualifying NYRR races, volunteer at one race, and be an active NYRR member in the calendar year before the race.

Charity Teams and the New York City Marathon

Runners can also gain entry by participating in an official charity program associated with the NYC Marathon. These programs require participants to raise money for their designated charity. 

There are three charity levels: silver, bronze, and community. Each category carries different perks for the runner, but the benefits for those less fortunate are the ultimate goal. Each charity can set its own fundraising minimum as long as it is at least $3,000 per runner. For the community level, the minimum amount is $2,500 per runner.

These are some of the charities that benefit from the money raised:

  • Autism Speaks
  • JDRF International
  • Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
  • Organization for Autism Research
  • Epilepsy Foundation of Metropolitan New York
  • PAWS Chicago
  • Girls on the Run

The race organizers limit athletes that can run for charities.

International Tour Operators

International runners can secure entry through official travel operators associated with the NYC Marathon, such as Marathon Tours & Travel, who coordinate logistics and guarantee your entry to each race as part of a travel package.

Training for the New York City Marathon

We’ve looked at the course and the entrance requirements for the race. Now it’s time to get down to the training. About 2% of participants drop out of the NYC Marathon, and you don’t want to be part of that statistic! 

The Principles of Training for New York City Marathon

The main principles to keep in mind when training for the NYC Marathon are:

Plan your Schedule

Work out a training schedule that suits your experience level and needs. No two runners are the same, so adapt the suggestions you read, but it’s essential to have a plan. 

If you aren’t comfortable with the plans you find online, you can consult a personal trainer or coach to create a custom plan. NYRR also has several training plan options specific to the New York City Marathon.

Build Up Mileage Slowly

Before you start training for any marathon, it’s important to be running at least 25 miles per week. Build your mileage gradually by running 4 or 5 times a week, and increase your weekly mileage by a maximum of 10% – this reduces the risk of injury.

Long Runs

Depending on the length of your training plan and your experience level, you’ll go on a long run every 7 to 10 days so your body can adjust to longer distances. Your long run should be 35% to 40% of your total weekly mileage and should be challenging but manageable – harder than easy runs yet easier than speed workouts.

Interval and Tempo Work

Include interval workouts and tempo runs once or twice a week to improve your running economy and aerobic capacity. Remember to include a warm-up and cool-down period of a few easy miles at the start and end of any speed workout to allow your body to prepare and recover properly.


This point can never be overemphasized. Schedule rest days (this means NO PHYSICAL ACTIVITY at all) and active recovery days (light activities like swimming, walking, cycling, and elliptical) into your training plan to allow your body to repair and adapt to the training stress.

Races and Training to Help Prepare for the New York City Marathon

NYC Marathon Route on Strava
The NYC Marathon route (2022) on Strava

Training for the NYC Marathon will differ according to a runner’s experience and ability. 

Newbies to the running fraternity should start their training 16 to 24 weeks before the race, while experienced runners need to start more specific training for this race 12 weeks ahead.

Those without any running experience will take about 12 weeks to work up to be able to run a half-marathon, and then they can begin a NYC Marathon-specific training plan.

Preparation for the NYC Marathon involves the following:

#1 Easy Runs

You should include two to three easy runs a week to build your weekly mileage. These should be done at a slow, conversational pace that could be maintained indefinitely.

#2 Long Runs

These are a vital part of your preparation. Regular long runs build endurance, and your body learns to become more efficient in its movement, and in doing so, reducing unnecessary use of energy.

Long runs also play a crucial role in training your mind and body to handle the demands of longer durations on your feet. Running the NYC Marathon requires mental and physical toughness, and long runs provide an opportunity to simulate the experience. Use your long runs to test your nutrition and hydration plan to see how different options sit with your body. 

#3 Hill Training

The NYC Marathon is littered with hills, including a long hill climb near the end. You need to prepare for this. Plan your long runs to finish with hills, incorporate hill sprints and repeats at the end of workouts, and practice controlled downhill running. Practice controlling your pace and form during downhills to avoid excessive quad fatigue – it’s a REAL thing. 

#4 Time Trials

Schedule time trials every four weeks in your NYC Marathon training block. Use them to evaluate your progress and adjust your training program if necessary.

#5 Strength and Cross Training

Strength training is crucial for injury prevention and improving running performance. Include a combination of squats, lunges, deadlifts, planks, and step-ups to strengthen your muscles. 

Cross-training is a valuable addition to your training for the NYC Marathon. It increases your cardiovascular workload and strengthens your muscles without subjecting your body to high-impact activity. Swimming, cycling, elliptical training, rowing, and yoga are excellent cross-training options.

#6 Tapering

Tapering is a crucial aspect of your NYC Marathon training. It involves reducing your training volume as you approach the race day. Although it can be challenging for runners to cut back on training, tapering is important for recovery and optimal performance on race day.

#7 Good Nutrition and Rest

Maintaining a well-balanced diet during any marathon training block is critical. Daily nutrition should include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates. Take supplementary vitamins and minerals if you need to. Most runners have already established a healthy eating routine. Don’t change a winning formula – if it works, keep it going.

Rest days are just as important as training days. Your body adapts and grows stronger during the recovery period. Rest days also help prevent injuries, allowing you to maintain your training for the marathon. 

#8 Preparation Races 

For New York City residents or those who live nearby, a two-race series is designed to help runners gear up for the challenge of running 26.2 miles. The New York City Marathon Training Series includes a 12-mile race in August and an 18-mile event in September. Both occur in and around Central Park, so runners can prepare well and work on their race-day strategies.

New York City Marathon Race Day Strategies and Tips

Considering the course profile and conditions, the New York City Marathon presents unique challenges. The course features bridges and hills, including the infamous incline at the start of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. 

To tackle the course effectively, here are some tips:


The well-known detective, Sherlock Holmes, declared that “time is of the essence.” It certainly is important to many of the thousands of runners heading out on the streets of New York City on the first Sunday in November. Different runners have different goals, and the time it takes to complete the race can vary depending on these goals and the individual’s running experience and fitness level. 

The NYC Marathon is known for its challenging hills. Factor these in when you train and adjust your time goals accordingly. In the 2022 race, the average time to complete the Marathon was 4:21:26.

Elite runners aim for finish times under 2:20 for men and under 2:40 for women. Competitive runners not at the elite level may target finish times between 2:30 and 3:30 for men and between 2:50 and 4:00 for women. Recreational runners often aim to complete the marathon within 4 to 5 hours. This group includes a wide range of athletes who simply enjoy running and the experience of participating in this great race.

Weather on Race Day

Weather conditions in New York City in November vary. It’s usually cool, with an average temperature of 55 °F (13 °C). However, it’s essential to be prepared for variations, including colder (as low as 43 °F/6 °C) or warmer (up to 75 °F/24 °C) conditions. Wind can also be a factor, especially when crossing the bridges.

Check the weather forecast for race day, but if you are unsure, layer your clothing. It’s easy to discard an inexpensive tracksuit top or wrap it around your waist, but it’s hard to warm up if you’ve undressed.

Be prepared to change your race strategy if necessary. Unexpected humidity was an issue during the 2022 Marathon. After completing her 22nd NYC Marathon in 2022, Erica Agran commented, “Although this was my second slowest NYC Marathon, it was one of my smartest. I changed my plan to suit the conditions, and it paid off. I did ‘less worse’ than many people, and I was able to enjoy the second half.”

Pacing and Bridges

Start cautiously, especially during the uphill first mile. Adapting to the hills and maintaining a steady pace will help you conserve energy for the later stages.

Maintain an even pace as you approach the bridges, as they can be mentally and physically challenging. Bridges disrupt the rhythm of your running due to their inclines and declines. Control your pace up the bridge and use the downhill portions to recover and conserve energy for the sections ahead. 

The flat neighborhoods of Brooklyn provide an excellent opportunity to pick up the pace and gain momentum. Enjoy the crowd support and lively atmosphere, but don’t overdo it.

As you enter Manhattan, the crowds grow, creating an electric atmosphere. This section offers a chance to make up time, but be mindful not to get carried away. Seasoned athletes warn against going too fast too soon and recommend maintaining a sustainable pace.

The Queensboro Bridge marks a quieter part of the course. Preserve energy on this uphill stretch and use the descent on the other side to re-energize. In Central Park, stay focused and maintain a strong pace, utilizing the crowd support for an extra boost to carry you over the finish line.

Tips for NYC Marathon First Timers

A first NYC Marathon is a daunting prospect. The marathon training is done, but you may be feeling nervous at the thought of the day ahead. Here are some practical tips to help you make the most of your day. 

Before the Race

Experienced runners agree – the day before the race, you must rest as much as possible. Stay off your feet as much as you can, and don’t use this day to go sightseeing.

Use your time to study the course map, elevation profile, and key landmarks one last time. Mentally prepare for the challenges, such as the bridge crossings and hills, so you know what to expect during the race. Check that your running gear is laid out and that you have everything. Charge your fitness watch and cellphone. Do the last-minute preparations so you don’t even need to think on the morning of the race.

Arrange where to meet your supporters after the race. You don’t want to walk an extra couple of miles trying to find the friends who will take you home.

Read the Race Literature

There are different ways of getting to the start on Staten Island. You could catch a bus, take the ferry, or get someone to drive you to the athletes’ village. Either way, you must decide in advance which would be the best plan for you and where you are staying. 

Mirna Valerio, who has run the race twice, advises first-timers to “follow the arrival directions sent by NYRR. They are spot on and have your arrival time and corral times figured out. This prevents you from standing around too long at the start.” 

During The Race

The New York City Marathon is known for its incredible atmosphere and crowd support. Aim to enjoy every minute of the race, absorb the energy from the spectators, and let their energy carry you through to the end. 

Be prepared for any kind of weather. It will be chilly at the start, so layer up and be able to shed the extra clothes as you run. Remember to wear the comfortable running shoes you have trained in. Don’t change shoes on the day.

Getting caught up in the excitement initially is easy, but starting too fast can lead to burnout later. Begin at a comfortable pace and gradually build momentum as the race progresses. As you start to tire, around 20 miles into the race, you’ll need some reserved energy to get you through the last few miles.

The bridge crossings, such as the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and Queensboro Bridge, can be mentally and physically challenging. Conserve energy on the uphills and use the downhills to recover and maintain a steady pace.

Adequate hydration and nutrition are crucial during the marathon. Follow your planned hydration and fueling strategy, and take advantage of the aid stations along the course. Carry the gels you’re used to eating with you in case you miss a station, or they don’t have what you need. 

Enjoy the final stretch in Central Park. The last few miles in Central Park can be challenging, but they’re also unforgettable. Look around you and take in your surroundings. Ensure you savor the final moments of your first New York City Marathon.

Next Step: Run The NYC Marathon!

One of the most prestigious marathons in the world, the NYC Marathon attracts the cream of the running world crop, those who just want to be part of the experience, and those with disabilities who can participate in wheelchair events. The race has changed and improved over time to become the largest marathon of them all.

Effective preparation for tackling the challenging hills and bridges is crucial, as is following the tips and strategies given by those who have completed the race before. It takes months of training to become race-day-ready, but it’s all worth it for the unforgettable experience.

Fred Lebow, the New York City Marathon co-founder, sums the race up perfectly, “Why do people run the marathon? Most of us won’t perform on a stage. But whether a person is a world-class athlete or a four-hour runner, the marathon gives us a stage where we perform and be proud while millions of people applaud. In an unequal world, in this one endeavor, people of vastly different abilities share something in common: the act of going the distance.”

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Thalia Oosthuizen

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Thalia started running during the the pandemic as a way of getting out of the house. The running bug bit, and now much of her life revolves around everything to do with running - videos, podcasts, studies, books, articles, and interviews. She's also done several courses on running nutrition and mechanics to aid in her training and advising others.
Thalia Oosthuizen

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