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Everything You Need To Know About Running the New York Marathon

nyc marathon mile 26

This guide includes everything you need to know about running the New York marathon, especially if you are traveling to New York to run this iconic race. Topics covered in this guide include:

  • Where to stay during the New York Marathon
  • The TCS NYC Marathon Expo: When and where to pick up your race number
  • Where to eat before the New York Marathon
  • Where to store luggage during the New York Marathon
  • What to bring to the marathon, including a checklist
  • What to put in your checked bag (post-race recovery)
  • How to get to the Start Village on Staten Island (bus vs. ferry)
  • Places to eat near the ferry terminal
  • Where your friends can cheer you on & tips for your out-of-town cheering squad
  • After the race: Checked bags pick-up and family reunion area
  • Where to eat after the New York Marathon
  • What day to book your flight back home for
  • Marathon Monday Information
  • How to connect with other runners

In 2013, I happened to be in New York for the weekend the New York marathon took place, which a friend of mine happened to run that year. Back then, not even in my wildest dreams was I picturing myself running the New York marathon, or any marathon, as a matter of fact. But I had picked up running again after a 10-year Break earlier that year – coincidentally also in New York, lured in by scenic running routes, I suppose – and decided that I wanted to watch my friend race through the finishing line in Central Park.

And that’s when I caught ‘marathon fever’. Seeing all the runners from all over the world on the final stretch of their 26.2, and thousands of people along the course cheering for them gave me chills and made me wonder if I could run 26 miles one day. At the time, I’d never run more than eight kilometers, but the plant was seeded in my head: one day I would run the New York marathon.nyc marathon finish line

After looking into how to sign up for the race and how much it would cost, I started entering the annual drawing which gives about 10,000 runners every year entry through a lottery-like drawing system. If you’re wondering how good your chances are to win the NYC marathon drawing: In 2019, 117,709 runners applied to the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon drawing, and 10,510 runners were accepted. The number of runners accepted via the drawing varies, however, depending on the number of guaranteed entries that are claimed in that year. In 2016, for example, 19,083 runners got into the marathon through the drawing, which is almost twice as many as in 2019.

It seemed like the easiest option, since the 9+1 program seemed quite tedious (and expensive, looking at the prices for the qualifying races), and I didn’t want to ask other people for money by going down the fundraiser route. But for anyone based in New York, the 9+1 program is a valid option to gain guaranteed entry for the marathon – all you need to do is complete nine qualifying races and volunteer at one NYRR race / event (all in the same calendar year to gain entry for the following year’s marathon). Of course there’s also the option to qualify if you meet a certain time, but let’s just say that I am not the fastest runner, so this wasn’t an option for me.

In 2018, I won the lottery, well – I was selected in the drawing, but it felt like winning the lottery! Five years after watching my friend racing towards the finish line, I’d run through Central Park myself, the last couple of miles of the marathon.

Instead of going into detail about how I trained for this race and got myself in shape for 26.2 miles, or break down the marathon mile by mile (there are enough articles on the internet covering these topics), I want to share some of logistical questions I saw pop up over and over again while I was preparing to run the New York marathon.

Now that I’ve moved to New York, I have a better understanding of which areas to stay in if you’re traveling to New York to run this iconic race, how to get to the start line in Staten Island, how to get around New York City (especially important for your cheering squad, if they want to support you along the course), where to store luggage in New York should you have to check out early out of an Airbnb, where to pick up your race number, and where to eat before and after the race.

running the new york marathon

So, without further ado, here’s everything you need to know about running the New York Marathon:

Where to stay during the New York marathon

My first piece of advice: book your hotel as soon as you know for sure that you will be running the New York Marathon. I’ve seen people struggle to find a place to stay because they waited too long to book their hotel – and hotels do fill up for marathon weekend, especially around Midtown Manhattan, which is the perfect place to base yourself.

The closer to Central Park, the better

The race ends on the west side of Central Park, so the closer to the park, the better, because that means you can walk back to your hotel after the race and you won’t have to deal with public transportation or the clogged streets when everyone is trying to get back to their place in an Uber or taxi.

This is the ideal area to look at hotels in – but don’t stress if there aren’t any places available there anymore, New York City is relatively small and you’ll be anywhere in Manhattan within 30 minutes (via subway) and can reach some places in Queens and Brooklyn in 45 minutes (see below for further away hotel recommendations).

Here is a list of the best-rated hotels in New York on Booking.com – I recommend Booking.com because of their great cancellation policy: most hotels can still be canceled for FREE until three days before your booking which means that should you have to drop out of the race for whatever reason, you won’t get charged for a hotel reservation. I recommend staying in a hotel that is rated at least 8 out of 10 on the site – there are some cheap hotels in areas like Chinatown, but they often have terrible reviews, so make sure to read some recent reviews before booking a place.

Click here => Hotels with excellent reviews in New York City

Some great hotels in Midtown Manhattan are:

Budget hotels in New York City

If you’re on a tight budget, check out this list of cheaper hotels in New York City:

Click here => Budget hotels in New York City

The Jane Hotel in the West Village is constantly rated as one of the best budget hotels in New York City, rates start at $109 per night.

If you’re planning to use rewards points, all the hotels with reward programs have hotels around Times Square and Midtown Manhattan: Hilton, Hyatt, Choice, Starwood, Wyndham, Best Western, Accor, IHG. Don’t wait too long to book your hotel, these are the ones that usually fill up first.

Hostel

If you’re on a tight budget, consider staying at a hostel. The best hostel that’s close to the finish line is the HI Hostel on Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side. They only have dorm rooms, which means you’ll be sharing with other people (male / female dorms), and the smallest dorms are four people sharing. The hostel has a communal kitchen which is great if you want to prepare some of your meals (especially on race day).c

Airbnb vs Hotel

Many runners prefer an Airbnb over a hotel, because staying in an Airbnb usually means that you have access to a kitchen and can prepare meals for yourself, which is especially nice the night before the race and the morning of the marathon. Renting an entire apartment can be pricey, but if you’re traveling with your partner or the entire family, it often is a more convenient option. There are many Airbnb’s in Hells Kitchen, a neighborhood close to Midtown Manhattan, in walking distance from the finish line.

If you’re on a budget, look for Airbnb’s in Brooklyn, in Queens and the Bronx (the outer boroughs), but you’ll want to check how long it takes you to get from the Airbnb down to the ferry (or the Midtown buses) – which can easily take an hour from the neighborhoods further away from Manhattan. You don’t want to have to get up at 4am when you’re running the New York Marathon.

Another budget option is to look at renting only a room, instead of an entire Airbnb apartment. If you go for this (considerably cheaper!) option, make sure you have access to the kitchen.

Don’t have an Airbnb account yet? Sign up through my referral link to get up to $55 toward your first trip. 

Before the race

What to pack for New York

Monitor the weather the weeks leading up to the race to get an idea of the weather in New York City if you’re traveling from another state or another country, and keep in mind that the race takes place in November. On the East Coast, November means COLD.

Over the past five years, the temperatures on race day ranged from 43°Fahrenheit (6°Celsius) to 64°Fahrenheit (18°Celsius), which is quite a difference. To be on the safe side, pack for cool autumn weather and bring some rainproof gear (rain jacket or poncho, umbrella) – in 2018, it rained the day before and after the race, and there have been several rainy race days over the past few years.

See below what to pack for the race.

Sightseeing & Running in New York City

Most people arrive several days before the race to see New York City. And of course you should d some sightseeing – but don’t forget that you’ll still need to preserve some energy for the big day. Many New York visitors leave the city completely exhausted because there’s just so much to see – and they aren’t even running the New York Marathon! So when planning your sightseeing schedule, take it slow and plan realistically.

The day before the race would be great for a Broadway show – but you might want to see a matinee instead of an evening show so that you get enough sleep. Download the Today Tix app for cheap last-minute tickets – this app uses the same software that is used by TKTS, where people line up for hours for discount tickets. Save yourself the time to stand in line and use the app instead.

If you are planning to get in a few more training runs in New York City, the 10k loop around Central Park is a beautiful run in the fall, and I shared some of my favorite running routes in New York City here.

The Expo: Pick Up Your Bib & Race Pack

Three days before the marathon (Thursday, Friday and Saturday), the Health and Wellness Expo will be hosted at the Jacob K. Javits Center (655 W 34th St; closest subway station is 34th Street / Hudson Yards on the 7 line).

This is where you pick up your race number (with the attached B-Tag scoring chip that tracks you) and your race pack, which also includes your marathon shirt. If you’re not sure about what size to pick, don’t worry about that: you can try on the shirts right there at the Expo.

marathon expo

You will have to pick up your race pack in person and you will have to show your race confirmation as well as your ID.

The Expo is also a great way to meet other runners and there are around 100 vendors selling running-related products and energy snacks (don’t overdo it on the free samples!).

If you arrive a few days before running the New York Marathon, I recommend visiting the Expo on the first day, since it tends to get very busy on Saturday (the day before the race). Don’t forget to stop at the big wall with all the runners names and find your name 🙂

You can NOT pick up your race number the morning of the marathon, and the Expo closes on Saturday at 5pm – take this into consideration when you book your flight / bus / train to New York.

Saturday: Abbott Dash to the Finish Line 5K

If you want to get a quick 5k in the day before running the New York marathon and already do a practice run crossing the finish line, I recommend the popular Abbott Dash to the Finish Line 5K. This race also gives you a quick tour of Midtown Manhattan, starting near the UN Building, past Grand Central Terminal, the New York Public Library, Bryant Park and 6th Avenue up to Central Park. You don’t need to run the marathon to run this race, everyone can sign up, and this race usually sells out.

Where to eat before the New York Marathon

Obviously, there are hundreds of great food options in New York City, and I recommend consulting GoogleMaps for recommendations in the area you’re staying, but here are some great places to carb load the day before the race:

  • Carmine’s (well-known chain for Southern Italian family-style dining with giant portions) Times Square, 200 W 44th Street, near 7th Ave
  • Casa Barilla (pasta-focused Italian restaurant with generous portions) Midtown, 1290 6th Avenue (corner of W 52nd Street)
  • Tony’s Di Napoli (Italian comfort food, family-style menu as well as individual dishes) Times Square, 147 W 43rd Street (near Broadway)
  • Quality Italian (Italian-American dishes – they’re famous for their chicken parm – and steakhouse) Midtown, 57 W 57th Street (corner of 6th Ave)
  • Eataly (Italian marketplace with several restaurants. Famous for artisanal Italian food / pasta dishes) 200 Fifth Avenue (near the Flatiron Building, next to Madison Square Park) and 101 Liberty Street (inside the Westfield in the Financial District, World Trade Center Tower 4, 3rd Floor)
  • Celeste (Neapolitan brick-oven pizzas and pasta dishes. Cash only) Upper West Side, 502 Amsterdam Ave (between 84th and 85th Street)
  • John’s of 12th Street (Old-school Italian restaurant with great vegan options) East Village, 302 E 12th Street, near 2nd Ave
organic pasta langkawi

Where to store your luggage during the New York Marathon

You cannot bring any backpacks, Camelbaks, any kind of luggage or even just a tote bag to the start village – the only bags allowed are the official clear TCS Marathon bags that you receive at the Expo (the bag your race number and T-shirt are in).

Luckily, you have the option to check a ‘post-race recovery bag’ with your own stuff. If you opt to have a bag checked, you’ll receive the bag you can fill up with post-race essentials at the Expo along with your Race Pack. See below what to pack in your checked bag.

If you’re not staying in a hotel but have to catch a flight after the race, there are several options to store luggage in Manhattan while you’re running the New York Marathon. Be aware that it is a bit of a hassle to get your luggage stored before the race – since you’ll have to leave for the race early in the morning, it’ll pretty much impossible to put your luggage in storage on race day, so you’d have to do it the night before.

You can not check any luggage, duffel bags or larger backpacks, and you cannot enter the Start Village with any of the above items, only with the official see-through TCS NYC Marathon bags.

If you need to store luggage, here are some companies that offer storage throughout Manhattan – but check beforehand if storage is possible on a Sunday.

This article has a comprehensive list of all your luggage storage options in New York City.

What to bring for the race

The New York marathon takes place on the first weekend in November, and the weather can go two ways: glorious Fall weather, or absolutely miserable November weather. Either way, the race starts early in the morning and runners get to the Start Village as early as 7am, which means it is definitely going to be cold.

You will need to bring a hoodie or fleece or sweater that is warm, but that you won’t regret parting with. I was wearing TWO warm layers over my running tank top, and even though it was a sunny morning, there was a cool breeze on the ferry, and I was glad that I was wearing both a fleece and an extra-large hoodie.

I learned that most of the clothes that are left behind by runners are donated, and indeed, there were big donation boxes throughout the start village. Before I went into my coral to get lined up for my start wave, I took off my hoodie and put it in one of the donation bins. If you don’t have any spare clothes, definitely hit up a cheap second-hand or Red Cross store before you’re traveling to New York, or shop for a cheap fleece on Amazon.

Note that you’ll still be spending some time waiting around in your coral (from where you can’t access the donation bins anymore) before you make your way to the Verrazano Bridge and start running. I was happy that I still had another layer, which I planned to take off as soon as I’d warm up during the first couple of miles. The Verrazano Bridge is 228 feet (69 meters) high, so especially on the upper deck, it can get pretty cold and windy. You’ll be on that bridge for a quite a while – in fact, crossing it means you’ve already finished 1/10 of the 26.2 mile course, since the bridge is 2.6 miles long (4,176 meters). I eventually dropped my second layer towards the end of the bridge, and you will see piles of clothes left behind on both sides of the bridge by runners before you.

marathon runner with phone
You’ll definitely want to bring your phone!

Marathon Checklist

Here is a checklist with the few things you will definitely need when you’re running the New York Marathon – but remember, as I outlined in the Luggage Storage section above, you can only bring the official clear TCS New York Marathon bags into the start village area.

  • Extra layers (hoodie / fleece / long sweat pants / gloves / scarf – whatever is weather appropriate)
  • Pre-race snacks (Energy bars, banana, water, energy gels)
  • Pre-race breakfast (if needed)
  • Metro Card (if you’re planning to take the subway to the ferry or bus / subway back to your hotel after the race. You can also buy single tickets for $3 inside the subway stations)
  • Credit card
  • ID
  • Some cash
  • Phone (duh)
  • GPS Device (if you want to track the race)
  • Headphones (if you want to listen to music – some people say listening to music is a big NO during a marathon, and listening to the cheering crowds feels amazing, but if you have certain songs to push you through difficult parts of the race, for example the Queensboro Bridge where there are NO CROWDS and it is terrifyingly silent, you may want to bring your headphones)
  • Ziplock bag for your phone – if it rains
  • Sunglasses (if needed)
  • Sweatband / visor / hat (if needed)
  • Waist belt / waist pouch – running vests are NOT allowed

I used a small waist pouch (make sure it’s water resistant) to store my cards, phone and keys, but if you don’t bring much, a running belt also works. There are some fancier pouches that hold a water bottle on each side, but I thought the water stations along the course were sufficient.

dani nyc marathon 2018 running pouch waist belt
The small running pouch I wore during the race

If you want to track your run on your phone but your phone has terrible battery life (like mine!), bring a small portable charger that fits in your waist pouch. I recommend this kind of ultra-slim portable charger to make sure it fits in your pouch. I used a regular-length power cord, but during the race I wished I had a super short one (which would’ve been easier to fit in my pouch, too). 

Should I bring…?

I looked at a lot of marathon checklists before the race and noticed that there are usually many things on these lists that I found unnecessary. Here are some things that you might want to pack though:

Vaseline: If you’re prone to chafing, pack a small tube of Vaseline or anti-chafe balm. I personally didn’t need it.

Nipple tape: I didn’t think nipple chafing was really a thing – until I saw this poor guy. Male runners especially might want to invest in some nipple tape.

Energy gels: A lot of runners had one or two energy gels in their pouches / pockets, but I don’t think you need any snacks or energizers – there are plenty along the way (at every mile, starting at mile 3). I thought the hydration stations were plentiful, and there were a couple of nutrition stations in the second half of the course: an energy gel zone after mile 16, and bananas after mile 20.

And the spectators fed us well – there were cut-up banana slices, nuts, salt pretzels, cut-up granola bars, orange slices, chocolate, leftover Halloween candy, shots of Coca Cola, and much more.nyc marathon banana

Toilet Paper: The porta potties are well equipped with toilet paper, but to be safe, I’d pack some toilet paper, or a couple of tissues, because the porta potties often run out of toilet papers, especially in the start village.

What not to bring…

There are a number of items that aren’t allowed in the Start Village, including some things you may consider bringing to sit on / wrap yourself in to stay warm, so I want to point out a few things that are NOT allowed:

  • Glass containers
  • Any container that holds more than 1 liter
  • Blankets
  • Sleeping bags
  • Camelbaks
  • Backpacks
  • Vests with multiple pockets
  • Selfie sticks
  • Folding chairs

You can find the full list of prohibited items here.

Should I bring food to the Start Village?

I strongly recommend eating before running the New York Marathon, and NOT to rely on the food in the start village (unless you get there super early). Apparently, there is food in each of the different start areas – you will head to the color you’ve been assigned: green, orange or blue. Food and drinks available in the start village include: Bagels, tea, Dunkin’ coffee, water and Gatorade products.

However, even though I walked around quite a bit, I never found the food area (I would’ve really liked a coffee and regretted not getting one before I hopped on the ferry!), and was happy I brought my own food, plus I am a picky eater.

The greatest piece of advice I’d received prior to the race was to eat two small breakfasts before the race: one before I left for Staten Island, and one either on the way there or when I arrived.

Why?

Because I ate my first breakfast at around 6am, and I was in the 11am start wave. I would’ve been starving again by the time I started running, and wouldn’t have enough energy to last me for the entire race. I was happy I packed half a peanut butter banana bagel to munch on while I was on the bus to the Start Village – I would’ve definitely gotten hungry while running the New York Marathon! Since food and drinks can also run out in the Start Village, you may want to pack at least a RX Bar, Kind Breakfast Bar, or your preferred brand of energy bar.

Most people are used to early marathon starts (7am or 8am), but if you’re in a later start wave (10am or later), you’ll probably be hungry again by the time your start time rolls around.

What to put in your checked bag

If you opt to check your bag at the Start Village, think about all the things you’ll want after the race. UPS will transport the checked bags to the finish line in Central Park, so you’ll have the stuff you pack in the bag waiting there for you.

Remember that you can only use the official UPS Bag Check Bag. The bag doesn’t fit an awful lot, so be strategic with what you stuff in there.

Here are some things you might want after the race:

  • Warm clothes: a hoodie or a lightweight packable down jacket or even a full change of clothes
  • Shoes: You might want to get out of your shoes as soon as possible
  • Socks: You’ll definitely want to change into some fresh, clean socks!
  • First aid kit: You might need some band aids / bandage roll, Ibuprofen or the pain reliever of your choice
  • Food: If you’re picky when it comes to food, like me, you might want to pack some foods that you usually eat after a long race. I didn’t want anything that I got in my recovery bag – instead of an apple I wanted a banana, instead of Gatorade I wanted coconut water. Pack a few snacks to hold you over until dinner
  • Water (only if you think you need more water than the bottle provided in your official TCS Marathon Recovery Bag)
  • Wipes: I wanted to stay out after the race to celebrate with my friends, so no shower for me. I had some shower wipes in my bag which did the job.
  • Portable charger / Phone charger: If you don’t have a portable charger on you during the race, you might want to pack one in your recovery bag, or at least your charger cord, to charge your phone somewhere.

It’ll take about 20 – 30 mins after crossing the finish line until you are reunited with the bag you checked before the race.

Eat!

As I mentioned above, I wouldn’t rely on grabbing some food in the Start Village. Depending on what time you have to leave your hotel to get to the bus / ferry, and what food options you have around your hotel / Airbnb, you might have to plan ahead and grab some food the night before. In the area I was staying in the night before running the New York Marathon, nothing was open yet on a Sunday morning before 7am, and I had to leave at 6.30am to make the 7am ferry, so I had to buy my breakfast the day before the race.

I had a quick bite before I left, and the other half of my breakfast on Staten Island, closer to my start time. By now you should be further along in your training and are likely to have done a few long runs – so you know what works best for you when it comes to fueling yourself for a long run. Try not to experiment with anything new, obviously, and I recommend to look up places around your hotel the day before the race – if you have a fridge, you can store things like a juice, fruit or a bagel overnight, because as you can see below, there is not much food near the ferry terminal (if you’re taking the ferry), and there aren’t any places around the Start Village either, so come prepared.

How to get to the Start Village in Staten Island

There are three ways to get from Manhattan to Staten Island: by car, by bus, or by ferry.

ITP Runners: If you’re participating in the marathon via an ITP (International Travel Partner), you don’t have to worry about transportation to the Start Village Area, your ITP will arrange it for you.

If you decide to take a taxi / Uber or you’re driving to New York from Long Island, be aware that the Verrazano Bridge from Brooklyn to Staten Island (the bridge you’re crossing during the race) closes for traffic at 7am.

If you’re planning to drive, you will have to get there either before 7am (and have a long wait until the start of the race), or park your car in Manhattan and take the ferry.

There’s no parking near the Start Village, so you’ll have to plan in some time to look for parking – and also remember that you will finish in a completely different part of New York than you’re starting in. Getting to Fort Wadsworth, where the marathon starts, without the TCS Marathon shuttle buses would be quite an effort for me after running 26.2 miles (you’d have either take the subway from Central Park to the ferry, the ferry, and then a Lyft/ Uber, or an Uber from Central Park to Fort Wadsworth which would be between $75 and $100, depending on demand and weather).

If you have someone to drop you off in Staten Island, there is a dedicated drop-off area about half a mile from the Start Village Area.

Note that the Start Village and all arranged transportation to the Start Village is for registered marathon runners only – family / friends / spectators are NOT allowed in the Start Village Area.

Bus vs Ferry

First of all: A lot of runners seem to get frustrated about the transportation options to the Start Village, but remember that it is a huge logistical undertaking to get over 50,000 runners to an area on Staten Island that is large enough to set up Start Villages for thousands of runners – you can compare this to a huge music festivals. All I can say is: Be patient. It’s worth the wait 😊

There are buses from Midtown Manhattan and from New Jersey to the Start Village in Fort Wadsworth (the buses from Midtown Manhattan take about 90 minutes, the buses from New Jersey take about one hour), or you can take the Staten Island ferry from the southern tip of Manhattan (the Financial District), followed by free shuttle buses from the ferry terminal on Staten Island to the Start Village.

You’ll have to choose your transportation option before the race (registration opens in August and closes in early September – don’t forget to register!) and once you’ve selected a transportation option, you can’t change it anymore later on.

When deciding between bus and ferry, keep in mind that the buses go very early since the bridge closes hours before the race starts. That means you’ll arrive in the Start Village early and have a lot of time to kill. I believe the last bus leaves Midtown at 6.30am, which means you’ll arrive in Staten Island around 7.15am.

On the plus side, the bus option is easy if you’re staying in Midtown Manhattan because you can walk to the bus (they leave outside the New York Public Library on Fifth Ave) and you don’t have to change transportation. Just be aware that you’re likely to have a long wait time in the Start Village – bring something to entertain yourself with, or you may drain your phone’s battery before you even start running the New York Marathon.

If you decide to take the ferry, you’ll have to travel to the ferry terminal in southern Manhattan, make your way to the ferry, and take yet another transport on Staten Island (there are free buses from the ferry terminal to the Start Village). This may seem like too much of an effort for first-time marathoners / out-of-town runners, but I took the ferry and I loved it. The cheerful atmosphere and the excitement in the ferry terminal, the beautiful views over the Manhattan skyline in the warm light of the morning sun – if I run the marathon again, I’d go for that option again. If you don’t like crowds, this option is NOT for you! One ferry holds 4,400 people – lines are to be expected.

I’d probably opt for a bus if I was in an early start wave, but if your start time is 10:40am or 11am, a 5:30am bus would mean a lot of down time in the (cold!) Start Village.

nyc from the staten island ferry marathon morning 2018
View from the Staten Island Ferry on the morning of the marathon

Which ferry time to pick?

Go early.

Definitely plan in more time than you think – I opted for the 7am ferry to err on the safe side, and boy was I glad that I decided to leave early. I initially thought it might be a bit too early for an 11am start time, but it turned out to be just enough time.

Even though the ferry only takes 25 minutes, the wait for the shuttle buses was loooooong. I got on a bus around 8.25am (waiting outside – I was glad I was wearing several layers over my running gear) and arrived at the Start Village around 9am. There, you’ll have to go through another security screening. I didn’t get to my Start Village until around 9am and had about an hour to get ready, i.e. brave the long lines for the toilets, warm up and stretch, eat an energy bar, find my corral. If you check a bag, you’ll also have to add in some time to drop off your bag at the UPS trucks.

I’d rather plan in some extra time than cutting it close – you may miss your ferry, you may have to wait a long time to get on a shuttle bus like me, and you may wait half an hour in line for a porta potty.

I’ve now read several runners’ accounts of missing their start wave because they didn’t factor in enough time for the ferry & bus ride to the Start Village.

Places to eat that are open near the Ferry Terminal

  • Starbucks: Most of the Starbucks in the Financial District open late on Sunday (around 8am), but the one at 2 Broadway (7 mins from the ferry) opens at 5.30am. The Starbucks at One Battery Park Plaza (4 mins walk to the ferry) opens at 6.30am. The Starbucks at 110 Pearl Street (8 mins from the ferry) also opens at 6.30am.
    • Starbucks has oatmeal, bananas, bagels and other breakfast sandwiches.
  • Leo’s Bagels: 3 Hanover Square, 8 mins walk to the ferry. They only open at 7am – if you want to grab a bagel there before hopping on the ferry, you’ll have to get there at 7am sharp. If you get there when they open, you should be able to make the 7.30am ferry.

That’s about it when it comes to food near the ferry terminal on a Sunday morning – none of the juice bars open before 8am. The ferry terminal has a basic snacks / concessions stand, but sells mostly processed foods.

Staten Island Ferry NYC
The Staten Island Ferry

Start Times & Corrals

Start Villages / Corrals: You will be assigned a start village prior to the race: green, orange or blue. There are different corrals and start waves, all of which you can find in your confirmation form, as well as on your race number.

Make sure to get your Start Village at least 60 minutes before your start time. Factor in time for bag check (if needed), waiting in line for the toilet, a quick warm-up, and just enjoying the pre-race atmosphere in the Start Village.

nyc marathon start line
At the start line

Bag Check: If you check a bag, you will have to drop off your bag at the UPS trucks in your respective start village at least one hour before your start time.

During the race

Where your friends can cheer you on

If you plan it right, you can have your family and friends cheer you on at several points throughout the race. I recommend printing out this TCS NYC Marathon course map which has the closest subway stations marked near every mile.

You’ll have to instruct your cheering squad to text you where exactly they are – they will not be able to see you in the midst of the 50,000+ people who are running the New York Marathon. They will have to position themselves somewhere that stands out, for example a prominent shop sign or on a certain street corner. It has to be something that is easy for YOU to spot as you’re running along the course. And of course they’ll want to tell you what side of the street they are on.

If they have something to stand out of the crowds – even better! A helium balloon or a sign will make it much easier for you to spot your cheering squad.

NYC marathon signsYou will have to look out for them when you get close to them – I was only able to say Hi to friends who had told me precisely where they were, and didn’t see the ones who were cheering me on somewhere along the sidelines, but who failed to give me their exact location.

If you want to see your friends at least twice during the race, I’d recommend sending them to Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood first, which is just one stop from Manhattan on the L line between mile 11 and mile 12. Bedford Avenue, the street that you’ll run up in Williamsburg, is not very wide, which makes it easy to stop for runners for a quick hug or a snack. To get back to Manhattan, your cheering squad take the L line (which they probably take from Manhattan to Bedford Ave), which is only a 6-min ride from Union Square, where you can transfer to the Q or 4/5 trains (see below) to cheer you on again later in the race.

If you want to see them earlier, another easy spot to get to from Manhattan is Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn – just before mile 8 – where the following subway lines stop: 2, 3, 4, 5, N, R, Q, D, B.

There, the runners will pass the Barclays Center basketball arena, Atlantic Terminal, and then turn east on Lafayette Ave. There are plenty of good spots to watch them, and these areas aren’t too crowded. From there, it’s also easy to get back to Manhattan or even to the Bronx to catch you again later in the race. If your cheering squad wants to see you again, they can hop straight on the subway and have the following options:

Q train

  • Lexington Ave / 63rd Street (Manhattan)
  • 72nd Street (Manhattan)
  • 86th Street (Manhattan)
  • 96th Street (Manhattan)

4 / 5 train

  • 59th Street (Manhattan)
  • 86th Street (Manhattan)
  • 138th Street / Grand Concourse (The Bronx)

2/ 3 train

  • 72nd Street (Manhattan) – to cheer you on near the finish line.

Watching the race in Manhattan

No matter if your friends come out to Brooklyn to see you run or not, they can cheer you on in Manhattan two times. The best way to do that is to take the 4/5 or the Q to 86 Street or 96 Street and walk over to 1st Ave where the runners run from 59th Street all the way up to 127th Street before they’re crossing over into the Bronx. The 4/5 runs along Lexington Ave, which is three blocks from 1st Ave, the Q runs along 2nd Ave, one block from 1st Ave.

From there, it’s easy to walk over to 5th Avenue to see the runners again before they turn into Central Park, and they’ll have enough time to walk over there. It’s a 15-min walk from 1st Ave over to 5th Ave (plan in some extra time though to score a good viewing spot, 5th Ave can get crowded in places.)

Tips for your out-of-town cheering squad:

If you have friends and family who are traveling with you and are from out of town and aren’t familiar with the subway system, here are some tips how they can keep track of you while you’re running the New York Marathon:

  • Make sure they download the TCS Marathon app so that they can live track you and see where you are.
  • Make them download or print the marathon course map, which has all the closest  subway stations marked.
  • Download the PDF version of the subway map onto their phone. It’ll help them get around.
  • GoogleMaps’ route mapper is usually the most accurate route planning tool – I find it more accurate than apps like Citymapper.
  • If they visit from abroad and don’t have data on their phone, they can access the WiFi via the LiNK NYC HD displays (there are 1,600 spread across the city) or in most subway stations (connect to the ‘Transit WiFi’ network).
  • If they/you want to buy a local SIM card to be connected while you’re in the U.S., your cheapest option is T-Mobile’s tourist SIM card, but I recommend looking at the best SIM card options for tourists in the U.S. and see which one works best for you.

Should your friends / family want to cheer you on in several spots, I’d suggest they familiarize themselves with the course map and the subway map the day before the race and plan out their own route for the day.IMG_7053

Biofreeze™ Relief Zone

If you tend to get heavy legs or experience pain in your joints during long runs, you’ll be happy to hear that there is a Biofreeze™ Relief Zone at mile 20 (double check the race course map – they might change the location) where you can apply Biofreeze spray or gel.

Toilets

There are portable toilets every mile along the entire course, starting at mile 3.

At the finish line

Have your photo taken

If you’re planning to buy the marathon photo package, don’t forget to smile for the cameras as you’re crossing the finish line, and stop for one of the official photographers who are waiting just behind the finish line to take everyone’s photo with their newly achieved medals. I wasn’t planning on buying the photos, which is why I blissfully ignored the photographers along the course, but I was gifted my official marathon photos after the race by someone and in hindsight I wish I would’ve gotten a good photo of me with my medal after crossing the line (or looked up when I crossed the line, like many others did.. see photo below).nyc marathon finish line 2018

Recovery Bag

At the finish line, you will receive your medal along with a recovery bag. This bag usually includes a bottle of water, a bottle of Gatorade, some pretzels, an apple, and Biofreeze gel.

Checked Bags Pick-up

Picking up a checked bag? You will retrieve it at the UPS trucks which are not far from the finish line (between West 81st and 85th Street), but quite a walk from the Family Reunion Area. If you are meeting your family / friends after the race, you might want to consider giving them your post-race bag, rather than checking a bag – not checking a bag will get you to your family / friends faster and save you a L O N G walk.

Exiting the park through the Checked Bags Area? You might want to agree on a different meeting point with your family / friends – further north. I had a difficult time walking down to the Family Reunion Area from the finish line – and I did NOT check a bag. To save you the extra walk, consult the map below to see what other meeting point would make sense for you and your family. (They could meet you at the Natural History Museum, for example).

Important: If you signed up to have a bag checked prior to the race and change your mind at the last minute and decide NOT to check a bag on race day, you’ll still have to exit the park through the Checked Bags Area.

No Checked Bags / Family Reunion Area

If you didn’t send a checked bag to the finish line, you will exit at West 77th Street, which is still a good half-hour walk from the finish line. This is where you will get your post-race poncho (insulated and waterproof). If you have family or friends waiting for you, get ready for more walking: the Family Reunion area is about ten blocks further south, at 66th Street. It took me about 50 minutes after crossing the finish line to be reunited with my friends.

This map gives you a good idea of how the finish area is set up (this might change in future marathons):

After the race

Post-race Meal

If you’re thinking about eating a proper meal right after running the New York Marathon, be aware that all the restaurants near Central Park West where the race ends will be PACKED – not just with marathon runners, but also with the regular Sunday brunch crowds. Unless you make a reservation, you won’t be very lucky finding food nearby.

I recommend packing a few snacks in your post-race bag to hold you over and look up places to eat near your hotel / the area you’re staying in. That way you can also take a shower and change into proper clothes before sitting down for a celebratory meal.

If you’re planning to eat near the finish line, here are some good options (they all require reservations except for the first one which is a take-out place):

  • Pasta by Hudson (casual inexpensive take-out for a quick carb-heavy meal) Turnstyle Underground Market at Columbus Circle, 1000 South 8th Ave
  • Parpadella (pasta-focused Italian restaurant) 316 Columbus Ave (on the corner of W 75th Street)
  • Noi Due Café (Italian restaurant with pasta dishes and wood-fired pizzas) 143 W 69th Street (on the corner of Broadway)
  • The Smith (bustling brunch restaurant with egg dishes, egg & steak, protein-loaded salads) 1900 Broadway, between 63rd and 64th Street                  
  • The Ribbon (popular brunch spot with plenty of egg dishes, burgers and fried chicken) 20 W 72nd Street
  • Lincoln Ristorante (upscale Italian restaurant in Lincoln Center) 142 W 65th Street, Lincoln Center Paza
  • Burger Joint (hidden burger place in Le Parker Meridien Hotel New York – cash only). Parker New York, 119 W 56th Street

What day to book your return flight for

If you haven’t booked your return flight yet, I recommend not leaving right the next day (or take an evening flight, if you have to go back to work on Tuesday) – especially long-haul flights aren’t great for your legs after running 26.2 miles and can cause blood clots. If you have to take a long flight back after the marathon, make sure to take some blood-thinning medicine like Aspiring and pack compression socks. Read more about how to prevent blood clots after a marathon in this article.

Marathon Monday

You should definitely stay in New York for Marathon Monday to take in all the post-marathon glory, but there are also a couple of other things that happen the day after the race:

  1. Medal Engraving

There is a ‘Finisher’s Pavilion’ right near the finish line which is open all day on Monday. It’s in Central Park at West 67th Street. The pavilion is open from 7am to 5pm. You can get your medal engraved ($25) and also pick up a commemorative edition of the New York Times. You can also purchase New Balance Finisher Gear there.

  1. Pick up a New York Times with your name in it!

The New York Times has a Marathon Special Section the day after the race, including a list of all runners that finish in under five hours.

  1. Wear your medal around town today.

You’ll get Congratulations and High Fives abound!

Monday is also the day when you can finally walk all around town without fearing you’re tiring yourself out. That is if you can still walk.new york marathon 2017 mile 8

Post-race Medal Engraving

As mentioned above, you can get your medal engraved for $25 at the Finisher’s Pavilion in Central Park (at 67th Street) the day after the marathon, but if you can’t make it on Monday for whatever reason or you encounter long lines and don’t want to waste time waiting – you can also get your medal engraved on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The medal engraving on Tuesday and Wednesday usually takes place at the NYRR RUNCENTER & NB Run Hub (320 West 57th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenue), Tuesday from 9am to 6pm and Wednesday from 9am to 3pm, but double-check the times, since they might change.

Connect with other runners

I’ve found it super helpful to join a couple of NYC marathon groups on Facebook. That way, you can easily connect with other people running the New York Marathon, even meet up for a communal dinner the night before the race or celebratory drinks after the race, and most importantly: ask about anything.

I tried to cover as much as possible in this article, but if you have other questions (a good massage therapist, a place where you can have your name printed onto your running shirt, NYC recommendations, and more..) – I’ve found the marathon groups on Facebook incredibly helpful and am still active in them.marathon runners manhattan

Click here => The Best NYC Marathon Help Group on Facebook

More Questions? Reach Out To Me!

Of course I’d be happy to answer any other questions you may have – message me or leave a comment on this post and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Ready to run New York City? I’ll be cheering you on from the sideline 😊

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