2013 ING New York City Marathon Viewing Guide


by nycgo.com staff, 10/23/2013

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There's no question that the massive spectacle known as the ING New York City Marathon is regarded by many to be one of the most exhilarating events of NYC's fall season. After being canceled last year—a first in the marathon’s 40-year-plus history—due to Hurricane Sandy, this year's race, on November 3, promises to be bigger and better than ever. A record 48,000 runners from around the world—elite marathoners, para-athletes, seasoned amateurs and determined first-timers—will test their mettle on a scenic 26.2-mile course that winds through all five boroughs of the City. Throughout their journey, runners will be cheered on by an estimated 2 million lively spectators lining the courseway, as well as some 130 live bands, DJs, innumerable blasting portable stereos and raucous house parties, all of which will surely create a spirited cacophony and unforgettable experience for everyone involved. 

For those keeping an eye on the front-runners competing for a combined purse of more than $700,000 (not to mention the $1 million on the line for the winners of the World Marathon Majors series, which this will determine), there's an exciting field to watch, highlighted by defending champ Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya, current world title holder Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda and Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia, winner of this year’s London Marathon; the latter two are vying for the WMM men’s crown. They’ll compete against a strong US field—including 2012 US Olympian marathoners Meb Keflezighi and Ryan Hall, as well as Jason Hartmann, Ryan Vail and Jeff Eggleston. The favorites in the women's field include the reigning marathon champ, Firehiwot Dado of Ethiopia; New Zealander Kim Smith, who placed fifth in 2011's marathon; US Olympians Julie Culley, Janet Bawcom and Amy Hastings; and Kenyans Edna Kiplagat and Priscah Jeptoo, both of whom have a shot at a share of that $1 million. Para-athlete competitors include veteran favorites Masazumi Soejima, Amanda McGrory, Tatyana McFadden and Shirley Reilly. McGrory is not only the defending champion but the course-record holder as well, and Soejima won the men's division in 2011 after finishing second in 2010 and 2008.

The marathon hosts a full week of events, including fun runs, 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, November 1, featuring a parade of nations highlighting international competitors, appearances by top athletes and a fireworks show. During the race itself, many entertainment stations are set up along the course, providing music, entertainment and encouragement to participants and spectators alike. Live coverage of the race will also be on ABC and ESPN. For more info about all of the events, visit ingnycmarathon.org

The course offers spectators and fans many ideal viewing options, from Bay Ridge in Brooklyn (just over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at the start of the race) to the historic Central Park finish and all points in between. 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 are and crowds on race day:

• Agree on where you will be, including the specific side of the street. It is 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 their arrival window at your location. The race provides an athlete-tracking system so you can monitor your athlete's real-time splits.

• Stand out from the crowd. Wear a distinctive outfit that is easy to spot, or make an eye-catching sign. (Race organizers have set up special designated cheering zones where sign-making supplies are available.)

• Figure out a postrace game plan, too. The race organizes family-reunion areas by alphabet on Central Park West between West 60th Street and West 66th Street. 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 gain a magnificent view of the long stream of runners. Drop anchor at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues in Brooklyn (mile 8), near the landmark Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower, 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 and 25th Street, 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 a wall. This is a beautiful spot, with a long vista up Fifth Avenue, but bring food—there are no stores nearby along the route.

For the most intense experience, head to Central Park South at Columbus Circle, where runners push through the final 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 (9:10am) and men (9:40am). The rest of the field starts the race in four staggered waves, at 9:40am (right behind the professional men), 10:05am, 10:30am and 10:55am. 

As the time approaches for your runner to appear, get into position early. 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 2014. 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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