2015 TCS New York City Marathon Viewing Guide


by nycgo.com staff, 10/14/2015

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There's no question that the massive spectacle known as the TCS New York City Marathon is one of the most exhilarating events of NYC's fall season. This year's race, on November 1, will feature 50,000 elite marathoners, para-athletes, seasoned amateurs and determined first-timers from around the world, all of whom will test their mettle on a scenic 26.2-mile course that winds its way through the five boroughs. Along the route, runners will be cheered on by an estimated 2 million spectators, with some 130 live bands, DJs, innumerable portable stereos blasting and raucous house parties adding to the cacophony. 

For those keeping an eye on the front-runners, who are competing for a combined purse of more than $700,000, there's a deep field, led on the men's side by defending champion Wilson Kipsang, of Kenya. He'll be competing against crowd favorite Meb Keflezighi, an American who won the race in 2009; Gebre Gebremariam, of Ethiopia, the 2010 NYC winner; and Lelisa Desisa, also of Ethiopia, who was last year's runner-up and this year's Boston Marathon champ.

On the women's side, the field includes defending NYC champ Mary Keitany, of Kenya; the winner from the year before, Kenya's Priscah Jeptoo; two-time titleholder Jelena Prokopcuka, of Latvia; this year's Boston Marathon winner, Caroline Rotich, of Kenya; and Ethiopian Tigist Tufa, who took the London Marathon by storm some months back. Bronx resident Buzunesh Deba, who finished second in 2011 and 2013, is sure to have plenty of support from the locals. She's been living in the City since emigrating from Ethiopia in 2005 and could become the first New Yorker to win the marathon since Katherine Switzer, in 1974.

American para-athlete Tatyana McFadden and Australia's Kurt Fearnley will be back in 2015 to defend their crowns in the wheelchair division; both are champions multiple times over. They'll be fending off respective challenges from two former champs: course record holder Amanda McGrory, of the US, and Marcel Hug, of Switzerland. Other notable entrants include Ernst Van Dyk, a 10-time winner in the Boston race, and Manuela Schär, of Switzerland, who holds the world marathon record in her field.

There's a full week of events leading up to the marathon (and even a related event or two after it), including shorter races for adults and kids, a marathon-eve dinner, an after-party and a three-day expo at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center that's free and open to all, with hundreds of booths and presentations on running, wellness and nutrition. Another essential event is the Marathon Opening Ceremony in Central Park on Friday, October 30, featuring a parade of international competitors and a fireworks finale. During the race itself, many entertainment stations are set up along the course, providing music and encouragement to participants and spectators alike. Live coverage of the race will be broadcast locally on ABC and nationwide on ESPN and will stream online on WatchESPN. For more info about all of the events, visit tcsnycmarathon.org.

The course offers spectators and fans many ideal viewing options, starting at Bay Ridge in Brooklyn (just past the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge near the start of the race) and moving all along the course up to the historic finish line in Central Park. The following is a guide to help make your race day run smoothly.

Race-Day Rendezvous
If friends or family members are running, they'll be counting on their own personal fan club to cheer them on to the finish. A prerace plan is essential to navigating the fan and crowds on race day:

• Agree on where you will be, including the specific side of the street. It's much easier for your runner to find you than for you to pick them out of the pack. In addition, a well-placed loved one can be just the pick-me-up a runner needs during a particularly tough stretch.

• Know your runner's number, starting wave and expected pace in order to best estimate his or her arrival window at your location. The race provides an app and online tracking system so that you can monitor your runner's real-time progress.

• Stand out from the crowd. Wear a distinctive outfit that is easy to spot, or make an eye-catching sign. (Sign-making supplies will be provided at special designated cheering zones.)

• Figure out a postrace game plan too. The official family reunion area, organized alphabetically, runs along Central Park West from West 60th to West 66th Streets. It is also best to plan a postrace meal beforehand, as the area will be quite crowded and finishers quite hungry.

Choosing Your Spot
For details on the course, check out the official spectator guide and download the invaluable official course map. There are all kinds of viewing options, each with its own flavor. If you like crowds and easy access, for instance, commercial corridors such as First Avenue on the Upper East Side and Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg are close to subway stops as well as markets and restaurants for refueling. These stretches are crowded, loud and exciting.

At several key locations, you can position yourself for a magnificent view of the long stream of runners. Drop anchor at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues in Brooklyn, near the landmark Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower (just short of mile 8), to catch runners making their way up Fourth Avenue. The location is right on top of a transit hub, and plenty of cafés and shops line the route nearby.

As the runners enter Queens just past the halfway mark, their descent on the Pulaski Bridge forms an impressive tableau. The course widens along 44th Drive, so it will be easier to spot your runner here.

At Fifth Avenue and 90th Street in Manhattan, as runners enter the park at Engineers' Gate, most of them will have already hit the dreaded wall. This is a beautiful spot (for spectators, at least), with a long vista up Fifth Avenue, but bring food—there are no nearby stores along the route.

For the most intense experience, head to Central Park South at Columbus Circle, where runners push through the closing mile. Some put on a final burst here, while others are doing their best to hobble to the finish. Expect an emotional roller coaster and big crowds. 

Packing the Essentials
Before leaving home, check the weather report so you know what to expect. Bring protection from the sun, or rain gear, as the forecast dictates. You will be outside and on your feet for hours, so wear comfortable shoes and bring an extra layer of clothing.

Essential gear for spectators also includes a subway map (the marathon plays havoc on surface transit, including cars and cabs), the course map, a cell phone, a camera, a water bottle and some food: energy bars, nuts and fruit make good snacks.

And They're Off
Once you've settled on a viewing location, double-check your mile position on the course map and be sure to get there in time to catch the elite runners or cheer on a friend. The marathon begins in phases: wheelchair competitors (8:30am) and handcyclists (8:55am) start first, followed by the professional women (9:20am) and men (9:50am). The rest of the field starts the race in four staggered waves, at 9:50am (right behind the professional men), 10:15am, 10:40am and 11am. 

Get into position before the time approaches for your runner to appear. Be visible, with camera in hand and sign held high. You will want to be ready and alert but also patient—even an accomplished runner may not be on his or her intended pace.

You might consider having a special treat handy for your intrepid marathoner. After running for miles, nothing hits the spot like a banana, a peeled orange or even a fruit smoothie. Check in advance, though—runners have different approaches to eating during the race. (Also, take care not to step out onto the course. As the miles mount, marathoners' lateral agility decreases drastically.)

A word of caution for spectators: you may find yourself inspired to get off the sidelines and run the marathon in 2016. For details on applying, check the official website the day after the race. We'll be out there rooting for you.

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