The 2015 New York City Marathon is about to begin. Over 50,000 runners will line up on Nov. 1 for a red carpet running tour of New York City's five boroughs. They'll begin their 26.2-mile journey on the windy shores of Staten Island and make their way across the magnificent Verrazano Narrows Bridge before entering the festive streets of Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and finishing in Manhattan's Central Park. However, race day begins hours before the gun goes off. Here's the 411 on the NYC Marathon start.
NYC Marathon Start: Getting There
Most runners opt for the Staten Island Ferry or the Bus. Plan your trip ahead of time using the official NYC Marathon Transportation guide. I've taken the bus twice. The first time I arrived at 6:30 a.m., the second time I arrived at 8:00 a.m. Both times, I was in Wave One which took off at 9:50 a.m. I was a lot happier the second time around. Spend as little time as possible in the corrals. It's no fun shivering in the wind and standing in line for the bathroom.
I've been told the ferry is the scenic option. For me, the bus made more sense since I was staying in mid-town Manhattan. Either way, be sure you know where you're going and when you need to be there. Race morning is stressful enough without travel concerns.
NYC Marathon Start: The Village
Runners arrive at Fort Wadsworth by the thousands on race morning. Only runners are allowed in the village, no spectators. Have your race number visible so that the police officers and race staffers can guide you to the proper location. The color of your race number indicates the color of your assigned village and race corral. (Start Map)
Security is tight. Fort Wadsworth is federal property; therefore all visitors are subject to bag search by NYRR-appointed security, as well as by National Park Service, NYPD, United States Coast Guard, and United States Army Reserve personnel. Use the official NYC Marathon bag given to you at registration.
You can expect tea, coffee, water, Gatorade, bagels, and PowerBars for breakfast. There are plenty of toilets -- over 1,700 of them. There is also an option to check a bag at the UPS vans for pick-up after the race when you reach Central Park. Bring your own vaseline, lip balm and energy gels.
I never checked a bag for two reasons:
- I want to keep my clothes on and stay warm for as long as possible.
- I wanted a race poncho when I finished.
Read here for my first-hand account of the race village in 2013.
NYC Marathon Start: The Corrals
There are four waves and three wave colors: green, blue and orange. Each wave starts in a different place, but they all run the same distance to the finish line. The green wave starts on the lower deck of the bridge, blue and orange both cross the upper deck.
I have been in the green wave twice. Many people told me to watch out for the "yellow rain" from above, but thankfully I never saw anything like that happening. The race officials are pretty severe with their warnings about urinating in the start area. But still, it would be nice to view the scenery from up above. Maybe next year...
Runners are corralled about one hour before their start time. Once a runner is in his or her corral, they can move about freely. I actually found the corrals to be less windy and the lines for the toilets were much shorter. When the ropes are lifted, the runners move forward towards the starting line. This is when the warm clothes come off and things get real.
Toss your warm clothes into the Goodwill bin! It's always cold and windy at the start. You don't want to spend the hours before your race shivering and uncomfortable. That's a great way to waste energy and spoil your race. Bring a winter coat, hat and gloves. You can take comfort knowing that someone less fortunate will stay warm this winter thanks to your generosity.
Remember, the Verrazano Narrows bridge is the biggest hill in the entire race. Take it easy and aim for 30-45 seconds over goal marathon pace. Extra seconds of speed here could cost you minutes at the end of the race. Here's the elevation profile of the NYC Marathon course. You want plenty left in the tank for Central Park. Good luck!
Don't forget to check out my 50 Last Minute Tips for the Marathon!