2014 TCS New York City Marathon Viewing Guide


by nycgo.com staff, 10/15/2014

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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. Following its cancellation in 2012 in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the marathon made a record-setting return last year, with more than 50,000 runners competing. This year's race, on November 2, promises to be just as big, as elite marathoners, para-athletes, seasoned amateurs and determined first-timers from around the world test their mettle on a scenic 26.2-mile course that winds its way through all 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 Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya. He'll be competing against crowd favorite Meb Keflezighi, who won the race in 2009 and was the winner of this year’s emotionally charged Boston Marathon. Also in the mix are 2010 NYC winner Gebre Gebremariam and Lelisa Desisa, who won in Dubai and Boston in 2013, both of Ethiopia, and Kenyan Wilson Kipsang, this year’s London champ. A victory by Kipsang in New York City would give him first place in the 2013–14 World Marathon Majors series as well—and the men’s half of the $1 million purse.

On the women's side, the field includes former NYC champs Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia, Edna Kiplagat of Kenya and Firehiwot Dado of Ethiopia, as well as 2012 US Olympic teammates Kara Goucher and Desiree Linden. (Last year's NYC winner, Priscah Jeptoo, has pulled out of the race with a leg injury). 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 Marcel Hug, of Switzerland, will both be back in 2014 to defend their crowns in the wheelchair division. They'll both be fending off challenges from course record holders—former champs Amanda McGrory, of the US, and Kurt Fearnley, of Australia. Other notables in the men's lineup include Masazumi Soejima, the 2011 NYC winner, and Ernst Van Dyk, a 10-time winner in the Boston race.

The marathon hosts a full week of events, 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 31, featuring a "parade of nations," highlighting international competitors, with appearances by top athletes 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, from Bay Ridge in Brooklyn (just past the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at the start of the race) to the historic finish line in Central Park 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 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 their 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 gain 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 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. 

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 2015. 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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