Are you new to the NYC Marathon? Are you new to NYC? Then this post is for you! As a seven-time race veteran and New York City local for 20 years, I have a bit of an insider's view of the NYC Marathon.
Here's what you need to know:
If you can get there on Thursday or early Friday, do it! It gets busy on Saturday and the last thing you want to do the day before a 26.2 race is to stand in line for hours!
The Expo is at the Javits Center and is about as far west as you can get (34th Street and 11th Ave.) and there is virtually nothing around it. The MTA just opened an extension to the 7 train which is less than a block from the Javits.
Photo courtesy of BrooklynActiveMama.com
If you time your Expo trip right, you'll get to meet some of the professionals who are running the race. Meb, William, Mary and Tatyana all do meet and greets. And then at the booths, folks like Matt Long and Bart Yasso are around pressing the flesh, if you're a running geek like me (and chances are, you are if you're reading this), it can be a pretty awe-inspiring place to be.
You've trained to run 26.2, but there are some things you may not have considered, like:
Put your name on your shirt!
Want to hear your name cheered for most of the 26.2 miles? Put your name on your shirt in BIG BLOCK letters! It may sound cheesy, but there's nothing that gets me up 5th Avenue (mile 23) faster or past that last stretch on Central Park South than some random person looking me in the eye and saying something like, "You've got this Eric, you're almost there." It can be a huge boost.
Don't have good handwriting or don't want to risk messing up that new tech shirt you bought? Go to any hobby store and buy transfer paper. You can print out your name, an image, a quote or anything you want and iron it right on your shirt.
Strategically Place Your Friends and Family on the Course
Make sure you know where your friends and family will be on the course. It'll be easier for you to find them and virtually impossible for them to find you. Don't rely on the race app. It's a great way to get a general feel for when a runner will be at a certain place, but it is far from perfect.
I always ask my friends and family to hang out on First Avenue above 100th Street but before The Bronx -- the crowds thin out a little there. And if your friends hang out on First Avenue, they can easily walk over to see you on your way down 5th Avenue.
What to wear
I've run the race for seven years and have usually worn shorts and short-sleeve tech shirt. I've been lucky that it has never rained (hopefully I didn't jinx this year).
I usually go to a discount store before the race and for $30 get sweat pants and a zipped/hooded sweatshirt. The hoodie offers extra warmth and the fact that it's zippered makes it easier to remove while I'm running. I take the sweatpants off just before the start but I won't chuck the jacket until I get warm enough on the course -- usually after the Verrazano Bridge. I also wear a cap and pair of throwaway gloves (more on that below), but hang on to them a bit longer.
While you're at the discount store, buy yourself a pack of long athletic/tube socks. Cut the toes off a pair and voilà! You have a pair of arm warmers that you won't worry about throwing away during the race. Make sure when you put them on that you pull the elasticized opening on first, with the elastic at the top of your arm they won't slide down.
On almost every major street corner in Manhattan you'll find vendors selling hats and gloves on cold days. Treat yourself to a street hat and a pair of street gloves. This is the best way for you to get super cheap throwaway gear that will keep you warm for the start of the race.
There is no waterfall of urine on the lower level.
If you're running the race and have gotten assigned a green corral (running on the bottom level of the Verrazano Bridge), you're probably worried about the waterfall of pee you've heard about.
I'm here to tell you from personal experience that the rumors are 100 percent false. First off, that would have to be one very powerful stream of pee to reach from the top level of the bridge -- I'm talking about at least 20 to 30 people in a synchronized urination. And it's virtually impossible for it to happen -- there's wind blowing in all directions, not to mention people on the top level can't just hang off the side of the bridge to pee. There are guardrails that keep you a good five feet off the edge.
Getting to Staten Island/Fort Wadsworth
You're either on the bus or taking the Staten Island Ferry to the start. I can't comment on the bus since I've never taken it. What I can tell you is that the Ferry is easy, it's fun and you get a great shot of Lady Liberty as you make your way across New York Harbor. Don't worry about your assigned ferry time. Guess what, the ferry is open to the public and perfectly free. This means the race organizers can't turn anyone away -- you could be just another person heading to Staten Island for the day. And once you're on Staten Island, no one checks before you get on a bus to get to the start village at Fort Wadsworth. It's impossible to try and check everyone who is getting on those busses. If you're wearing a bib, you're in!
You don't want to get to your start village too early, keep in mind it's November in New York. The weather can be anything from 60 and sunny to 40s with wind and rain. I like to get there about an hour before my start time, grab a quick bite or cup of tea and then head to my corral.
I save the heat sheets from previous races and use them as blankets at the start village near my assigned corral. I wear my throwaway clothes for warmth and seek out a Dunkin Donuts tea and bagel for some extra calories while I'm waiting for my corral to open. Bring a magazine or some other form of entertainment that you can easily toss. You may be there for a while.
At your assigned wave time, the cannon will fire and you'll start to make your way up and past the starting line to Frank Sinatra serenading you to "New York, New York"!
Good luck and see you on race day!