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November 5, 2023
New York City, all five boroughs!
Average: 45-58 degrees Fahrenheit
Last Year: 66-74 degrees Fahrenheit
As any Swifty (or non-Swifty) knows, New York is the place, especially if you’re in your fall marathon era. One of the six World Marathon Majors, the New York City Marathon is one of the hardest marathons in the world to get into, despite allowing 50,000+ runners to participate each year. But it’s for good reason– the marathon is a point-to-point race that winds through all five boroughs of the city, accompanied by wall-to-wall crowds that almost feels like a rock concert at times. It’s everything you could ever want in a race.
Of course, there’s a ton of work leading up to that moment. Early mornings, early nights, months of training, days of travel, and a whole bunch of money spent in the pursuit of a dream. You worked hard for it, and none of that effort should go to waste.
We want you to be fully prepared for everything that lies ahead, which is why we put together this insider’s guide to the New York City Marathon. We called on a handful of runners who are very familiar with the race, including former NYC residents and multiple-time finishers Jess Movold and Ashley Mateo, sports dietician Meghann Featherstun, and lifelong New York City resident and 2022 finisher Nick Calandra. Combined, they’ve finished the New York City Marathon 17 times over the last decade.
We promise you won’t find a better insider’s guide than this.
A lot of race apps suck– they’re clunky, hard to use, and not always up-to-date with their features. The TCS NYC Marathon App is not one of them, and it includes a ton of new features this year.
If you’re running the race, the most important feature is using it to access your confirmation page so you can streamline your bib pickup at the expo.
Obviously you’ll be able to track all your favorite runners (and friends you’ll be running with), but it goes even further than that. New to this year, the app offers a Course Camera feature that lets fans watch a live feed of their favorite runners at five key points along the course– the start, mile 8 in Brooklyn, mile 17 in the Upper East Side, mile 20 in the Bronx, and at the finish in Central Park.
The pro race livestream will also feature stats from all four pro races and live commentary from Olympians Des Linden and Galen Rupp, and Paralympian Amanda McGrory. Also included is a spectator guide so your friends and family can create an itinerary with the best directions for spotting you during the race.
As Drake would say: If you’re reading this, it’s too late. We’re only a couple weeks out from the New York City Marathon at this point, and you should already have your accommodations figured out. After all, the Big Apple is gonna be full of you and thousands of your closest runner friends, and everyone needs a bed — not to mention all of the friends and family traveling in for the race.
If you don’t have it figure out, well– godspeed and good luck.
For those running in the future, we’ll be sure to update this post next year for more specific travel and accommodation tips.
The last thing — and we mean the last thing — anyone should do is try to drive their car into New York City ahead of race day. As if driving in New York wasn’t bad enough, race day will bring road closures and extra crowds into the equation. With that in mind, it’s time to rejoice at the fact that NYC has some pretty solid public transit options.
We travel from Baltimore, so we’re huge fans of Amtrak, which drops us off at Penn Station, which is about as central of a location as you can get for Manhattan. If you’re traveling by plane, know that both JFK and LaGuardia may be a decent drive to your lodgings. Keep a separate budget for your Uber rides.
Of course, what’s great about NYC is the wide array of transportation options. Uber, Lyft, and old school taxis are all obvious options for above-ground travel. However, the easiest (and cheapest) way to get around is most certainly the subway. If you’ve never traveled on public transportation in NYC, it can be a little intimidating, but the system is honestly quite simple and Google Maps easily integrates it into your options.
Then there’s bike shares and e-bikes, but use at your own risk– it gets a little wild on those Midtown streets.
If you’ve never traveled to a major marathon (or any marathon), there’s a few key things you need to know. We covered this in our Boston Marathon Guide, but we’ll do it again here.
We’ve traveled a ton over the last few years, from London to Tokyo to Chicago (Berlin, we’re coming for you). We’ve made plenty of mistakes, but we’ve learned a lot.
The number one rule of destination races is this: DON’T LET YOUR RACE GEAR LEAVE YOUR SIDE. That means, you put your $275 race day shoes in your carry on, or around your neck, or down your pants (if that’s your thing). Whatever works, just keep them with you. (We recommend putting your shoes in either a waterproof bag or something like the Nike Shoe Box bag or the Mudroom Running Backpack, just to keep them separate.)
This goes for anything you need on race day– nutrition, hydration bottle, socks, singlet, etc. There is nothing worse than stressing out about your essentials the day before your big performance. It’s an unnecessary and it’s easily preventable.
Also, if you fly more than once a year, just get TSA Pre-Check. It lasts for 5 years and it’s well worth the convenience factor, even it does feel like some sort of luxury tax scheme from the federal government.
In many ways, the New York City Marathon is just a celebration of your months of hard work. You’ve already put in the miles, and there’s plenty of fun to be had the day before the race itself — and by fun, we mean shakeout runs.
Granted, you’re running a marathon on Sunday, so as exciting as all these events may be, you really only want to pick one or two. Here’s where we pitch our shakeout run with New Balance on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. Let’s be real, it’s going to be the best event of the whole weekend, so just be there.
As for everything else, we’ll let Jess (former NYC resident and 9x finisher of the race) make sure you’re thinking of everything.
JESS (9x Finisher): If you haven’t realized this yet, you’re in for a real treat: Daylight Savings Time ends at 2 a.m. on the day of the marathon, meaning that yes– you get an extra hour of sleep. Or an extra hour of tossing and turning, depending on your pre-race nerve levels.
But before we even get to that point, here are some tips that I’ve learned after running the race nine times. I promise you, if you’ll do these things you’ll have a (relatively) stress-free weekend.
MAKE A PLAN/SCHEDULE FOR THE ENTIRE WEEKEND. All caps and all bold because I mean it.
Do not leave it until the last minute to figure out the following details:
➤ Where the expo is (Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, Halls 3B, 3D, and 3E, at 11th Avenue at West 36th Street) and when you should pick up your bib (see all the details here)
➤ How to get to your designated transportation on race morning. Will you take an Uber? Are you going to walk to the buses in Midtown? Are you going to take the subway to South Ferry/Whitehall for the Staten Island Ferry on race morning? Figure all of this out well in advance.
➤ Do you want a checked bag waiting for you at the finish? Figure this out and if you do, you must drop your bag at the bag drop in Central Park no later than Saturday afternoon. That means you probably don’t want to check your phone like I used to do back in the day. That means thinking about: Are you going to run the marathon with your phone? Are you going to leave it at home/the hotel and find a way to get home with no cell phone once you’re finished?
I know. It’s a lot to decide. But you have to figure it out now. I’m leaning towards running with no phone but I have my morning commute locked in. It might not be smart to travel alone with no phone. Do you have the gear you need to run with your phone? Keep in mind, hydration bladders or backpacks are not allowed in the starting area, so you’re looking at a running belt, pocket, or bra as your options for phone transportation.
➤ Where/what/when will you eat throughout the weekend? Have it planned in advance. Every meal. Decide where you’re going to eat the night before the race, as well as the afternoon/evening afterwards. Especially if you’re traveling with friends or family and looking to go somewhere special– get your reservations in now.
New York City is an exciting but exhausting place to visit. Carry water and snacks on you at all times so you can sip on hydration and avoid depleting yourself before race day. (Somewhere Meg Featherstun is reading this and clapping!)
DON’T OVERTHINK YOUR PLAN JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE ELSE HAS A DIFFERENT ONE. Yes, all caps again because I mean it.
In my opinion, this marathon in particular can be one of the most overwhelming and intimidating marathons, and I’m not even talking about the marathon itself. This is a major marathon in a major city that requires high level organization, planning, and logistics. There are many ways to plan. Just because someone has a different plan than you, do not assume their plan is better. Make your plan. Make sure it works for you. Then study it and stick to it.
NICK (NYC Resident): Firstly, have a plan beforehand and give yourself ample time to make your way over to the starting area in Staten Island. Just getting over to the start line can feel like a marathon all in itself, depending on where you’re staying the night before.
If you plan on taking the Ferry over to Staten Island, then be prepared for long queues for the buses at the ferry terminal. I’ve heard a few horror stories from last year of some runners having to wait almost 2 hours to get on a bus after getting off the ferry. So I would advise everyone to make your way over to the start as early as possible no matter what your start time is.
Lastly, save a little extra cash for those NYC souvenirs. Running brands will have (or already have) a unique selection of one-off gear just for the marathon. Whether that’s a marathon jacket or a custom NYC singlet, make sure you grab special to remember your accomplishment.
Of course, planning on getting to the start and away from the finish are major marathons all in themselves, so let’s dig into all that.
MEGHANN (Sports Dietician): With the later start times for the NYC marathon, we want to plan out our pre-run nutrition so we don’t get to the start line with a growling stomach that’s ready for a full meal of lunchtime food. Plan to eat twice before your race. You will be awake 5+ hours before your marathon start time with the commute into Staten Island.
Plan to eat your first breakfast as soon as you wake up. This breakfast should include 50-100 grams of carbohydrates, plus some protein and fat. This could be one large NYC bagel and a big scoop of peanut butter, washed down with a serving of your favorite sports drink. If you are in the two latest waves, you may want to think about something even more substantial like an egg and cheese on a bagel, and a banana.
You’ve eaten one breakfast and you are heading on the bus or ferry for Staten Island. Make sure to pack your second breakfast, which you will eat 2 hours before your start time. Eat what you normally eat pre-long run. This will be another 50-100 grams of carbohydrates with minimal added protein or fats. If you normally eat 6-7 graham crackers before a long run, pack your sleeve of graham crackers. Or, pack another bagel and banana. Don’t forget to pack a bottle of your favorite electrolyte drink to sip during your wait time in Staten Island.
Pro tip: Make sure you adhere to the prohibited item guidelines: No glass containers, coolers, bottles over 1 liter, or any bags that are not clear are allowed in the start area.
In Staten Island, there will be water, Gatorade Endurance, Science in Sport Protein Bars, coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and bagels– while supplies last. Don’t bank on this for your second breakfast and please don’t try anything new on race morning!
During the race, on course fluid stops start at mile 3 and are almost every mile until mile 25, with the exception of miles 5, 7, and 9 which do not have a fluid stop. In other words, runners have 20 opportunities to take water or lemon lime Gatorade Endurance on the course. The water on course is Flow Alkaline Spring Water. No matter what anyone says, this is just normal water and will not cause cramping or GI issues on course. This water will work just fine.
If you prefer to carry your own electrolyte drink, do it. But, the NYC marathon does not allow packs with a bladder inside. You can, however, carry a vest with flasks in the front. If you want to skip the crowded fluid stops, consider carrying your own handheld bottle filled with your favorite electrolyte drink and tossing it when it is gone. You’ve probably used it for a few training cycles and got your money out of it. The fluid stations get slightly less crowded after the second half.
Be sure to carry your own fuel with you! The marathon does not provide gels until miles 12 and 18. If you want to finish with a smile on your face, make sure you are fueling early and often with your favorite gel or chews. Start fueling at 20-30 minutes into the race and keep that fueling cadence up until the end.
Pro tip: Get creative with your fuel storage. Favorite places to carry fuel includes waist belts, shorts pockets, handheld or hydration vest pockets, tucked into arm sleeves, safety pinned to the waistband of shorts, in pockets of a sports bra, or between two sports bras.
Don’t be afraid to stuff an extra fuel or two in case you need more on race day or drop one in the shuffle. The gels available on course are Science in Sport. They have orange, lemon-lime, tutti frutti, and tropical. They also offer a caffeinated option, which contains 75 mg caffeine and is citrus flavored. Make sure you know which ones you’re grabbing. If you’re into real food out there on the course, there will be bananas available at miles 21 and 23. And of course, random food and/or alcoholic beverages from strangers (maybe not great for a PR).
To sum it up, in order to crush your NYC marathon, plan for two breakfasts: One as soon as you get up, and the other 2 hours pre-race. Make sure to pack all your race fuel and hydration in a clear bag and stash that away when it’s go time. Fuel early. Fuel often. And, most importantly– have a blast out there.
JESS (9x Finisher): Layers, layers, and more layers. If you’re planning now, you can go through your closet and find things you do not mind parting with and put them to the side. Layer on everything for your commute to the start and long wait time at the Athletes Village. If you’re traveling to NYC and don’t want to overload your suitcase, hit up Goodwill or TJ Maxx for some cheap throwaways that you can put in the donation bin just before the start.
There are donation bins in the corrals and along the way on the long walk from your corral to the start line.
Pro tip: Do not toss everything especially if it’s cold. You will have lots of chances to strip down to your race gear so don’t start tossing layers until you’re at least in your corral. Make sure to stay warm all the way up to the start.
ASHLEY (6x Finisher): Bring a portable charger/cord you don’t mind throwing away to Staten Island–you’ll be sitting there for hours, and this allows you to use your phone freely without stressing about draining the battery. Lots of layers so you don’t waste any energy shivering are key, too—I’ve even brought throwaway shoes so I don’t have to walk around in my race shoes (there’s a decent amount of walking between the buses/ferry and the corrals).
NICK (NYC Resident): This goes without saying, but the New York City weather is known for being very unpredictable. Be prepared to be waiting outside in the starting area for a long period of time. Check the weather and make sure to have throw away layers (pants, sweater, hat, gloves, etc) to keep on as you wait to start, maybe even a disposable poncho and old sneakers to wear in the starting area just in case of rain.
ROBBE: Depending how you feel about waste, consider buying an inflatable raft or inner tube from Five Below and bringing it to the Staten Island field. This will give you a comfortable spot to relax before the race, and a nice alternative to the cold, hard ground. We saw some people doing this last year and thought it was pretty genius. But then again, you will be buying a plastic raft for one-time use. So maybe ask someone in your neighborhood if they have any old pool floats they were going to get rid of. This will ease your environmental conscience.
JESS: Pay attention to when your corral closes. You really don’t want to miss that for obvious reasons. If for some reason you miss it or want to run in a later wave with a friend, you can go later. You cannot go earlier.
JESS: If it’s cold, keep on a layer, or a hat, or gloves for the first mile or so. The Verrazano Bridge is extremely windy, especially on the top.
Do not bob and weave on the Verrazano Bridge. Save your energy and just take it easy. Don’t stress or spend energy trying to get around other runners. Be patient.
ASHLEY: Don’t freak out about starting slow on the uphill of the Verrazano, you’ll make up all that time without expending any extra effort on the steep downhill in mile 2.
Runners are divided into three color groups at the start of the race: orange, blue, and green. The courses vary slightly in the first 5K, and the runners are still separated through mile 8. But at mile 8, when you turn onto Lafayette Avenue—a really beautiful tree-lined Brooklyn street—everyone finally converges, making for a super crowded section of the course (last year, I came to a full stop at that turn). There’s no real way around this, but don’t freak out, it doesn’t last long.
NICK: I know it’s easier said than done (especially with the crowds & energy in Brooklyn) but try your best to start off slow. As everyone probably already knows or has heard by now, NYC is not the flattest or fastest marathon course out there. There will be plenty of hills/inclines, especially in the later miles of the race. The first couple of miles tend to be very crowded so try not to use up excess energy by weaving around other runners.
JESS: Don’t overdo it in Brooklyn. Fort Greene (Mile 8) is a party and the vibes are high. The crowds are roaring and the DJs are turned up to eleven. Enjoy it. Soak it in. Just be mindful of how you’re spending your energy and the pace you are trying to hold. Brooklyn is full of energy from the minute you step off the Verrazano Bridge all the way until you head to Queens. Make sure you’re not overdoing it too early, you still have over half the race to go as the halfway point is just before you exit Brooklyn.
ASHLEY: Overall, Brooklyn is relatively flat and fast (especially considering the second half of this race). As Jess said, don’t get tricked into pushing the pace here. If you PR the first half, you will hate the final 10 miles, I learned this the hard way (multiple times).
NICK: Once you enter Brooklyn it’s pretty much a straight shot up 4th ave all the way to mile 8. This is the part of the race where you definitely want to conserve energy and get into a nice comfortable pace. Miles 8-10 tend to be some of the loudest miles of the race so definitely take in the energy of the crowds but still try to stay at that comfortable/conservative pace
Ironically, after passing mile 10 the atmosphere almost immediately changes and you enter into one of the quietest sections of the race, as you run through the very Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of South Williamsburg. This is a good time to regroup and prepare yourself for the next bridge as you make your way towards Queens.
ASHLEY: There are five bridges—the first one is the steepest but the third one is the grueling Queensborough Bridge at miles 15-16. It comes at a tougher part of the race, and there are no spectators. Take your time with it and maintain effort if not pace on the uphill, using the quiet as a chance to regroup and mentally set yourself up for success in the last 10 miles.
Pro tip: Don’t worry about pace on the Queensboro Bridge. Use gravity and the cheers of the crowd coming off the bridge (they call this “the wall of sound” because the crowds are like 10 people deep) to pick up the pace as you head down to First Avenue.
JESS: Do not let negative thoughts creep in on the Queensboro Bridge (Mile 15). There are no spectators allowed here. It can feel long and daunting. Slow down if you need to conserve energy, but try to keep moving forward. Focus on getting off the bridge!
First Avenue will be waiting for you with lots of cheering and strong crowd support. If you’re suffering on this bridge, encourage the other runners around you. Bring the morale up by cheering for others and soon you’ll be surrounded by high energy and good vibes.
ASHLEY: People may tell you the Bronx isn’t as crowded with spectators as other parts of the course, but that’s definitely changed in recent years—you’ve got several run clubs waiting to welcome you into the borough, and their energy (and dance music) is an awesome boost as you approach mile 20.
NICK: Be prepared for inclines during the second half of the race. I know everyone mentions the bridges but I personally think the most challenging incline/hill of the race is the long stretch on 5th Avenue from mile 22 until you enter Central Park (for the first time) at mile 24. This part of the race can feel grueling, especially if you went out too fast. Just keep in mind that 5th Avenue is a long gradual incline, even if you don’t notice it at first. The good news is that the crowds are absolutely insane, so at least you’ll feel that energy as you get closer to the finish.
ASHLEY: I agree with Nick: I think First and Fifth Avenues are some of the hardest parts of the race. You’re in the final 10K of a marathon and you’re basically on a steady grind of a climb for the rest of the race. First Avenue isn’t so bad, but Fifth Avenue is rough. If you have friends/family spectating, have them go to First and Fifth Avenues—if they start on runner’s left on First, they’ll be able to run/walk/bike west just a few blocks to catch you before you enter Central Park around 90th St. The crowd is definitely a little thinner between 23 and 24, so this is a great spot for a boost from spectators.
ASHLEY: When you enter Central Park, you feel like an Olympian thanks to the crowds, and you’ve got a nice downhill to take advantage of for a bit. But– don’t forget that you have to leave Central Park with just about a mile to go before re-entering closer to the finish line. It feels longer than it is!
Don’t have people try to meet you at the finish line; cell phone service is terrible and there’s a ton of walking involved just to get out of Central Park. Like, seriously, you have to walk over a half mile to get out of the park at West 77th Street. Then you have to walk another half mile the whole way back down the West Side just to get to the Family Reunion area between West 63rd Street and West 66th (you can learn more about the area here). In any case, pick a location decently far from the finish line for them to wait, and you can meet them there.
If you’re meeting people after the race, stick to the West Side of Manhattan! It’s nearly impossible to find cabs, and few will attempt to cross over to the East Side due to marathon-related traffic. Staying put for celebrations is your best bet (otherwise, plan on taking the train—but know you’ll have to navigate lots of stairs).
NICK: Have a plan before race day on how you’re making it back to your hotel or meeting up with family/friends. I would suggest against taxi or Uber because a lot of the streets in Manhattan will still be closed and the ones that are open will most likely be gridlocked.
If you’re not staying in Midtown or somewhere within walking distance of the finish, then hands-down, your best bet will be the subway. However, as someone who has been dealing with the MTA/public transit since I was in high school, the best advice I can give is to expect the unexpected. The MTA loves to re-route trains and do track maintenance (especially on the weekends) so I would advise to go onto the MTA trip planner website the day before the race to see what trains are running and which ones you will need to take back to where you are staying.
Pro Tip: Buy a pre-valued Metrocard before race day so you don’t have to deal with long lines in the stations post race. The less standing the better.
JESS: Do not make a sign that says “YOU’RE ALMOST THERE” unless you plan on standing at Mile 26.
Do not cross the course. Especially in Central Park. Runners are tired, working hard, and don’t need the risk of falling due to spectators during the race. If you must: be direct, go fast, and be extremely mindful of the runners around you.
Pro tip: If you’re spectating, tell your runners which side of the road you will be on so they can have a better chance of finding you. Make sure to use Runner’s Left or Runner’s Right so it’s coming from their perspective and will know exactly what you mean.
ASHLEY: If you have friends spectating and you want to see them a couple of times, have them start in Williamsburg around mile 11; from there, they can easily get on the L train and switch to the NQR which goes up to the Upper East Side. Once they see you on First Avenue, they can also easily catch you on Fifth Avenue.
Here’s how to do this: If they start on runner’s left on First, they’ll be able to run/walk/bike west just a few blocks to catch you before you enter Central Park around 90th St. The crowd is definitely a little thinner between 23 and 24, so this is a great spot for a boost from spectators.
NICK: As for spectators, some of the most popular places for spectators are 1st and 5th ave in Manhattan. However those avenues tend to be very crowded so it might be hard to find family or friends in the crowd as you are racing. If your friends or family are familiar with getting around the city on the subway, some less crowded areas to spot them would be on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn (Bay Ridge & Sunset Park neighborhoods) or miles 13-15 in Queens.
The New York City Marathon will go down as one of the most exhilarating moments of your life. There’s just nothing that can compare to the absolute madness of the crowds and the collective energy of 60,000-plus runners as you run through all five boroughs in the most iconic city on planet Earth. The entire experience overwhelming, almost to the point that you’ll appreciate the solitude of the Queensboro Bridge. But you will never forget this day and all the work you did to get there. Have fun, work hard, finish strong, and make some memories along the way.