Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but if you ask me the New York City Marathon is the best marathon. Granted — as a New Yorker — I’m a tad biased. Add into the mix that I’ve run through all five boroughs of the city crossing that finish line in Central Park four times now, and well — you get the picture.
I affectionately recall the first day I ran NYC as the best day of my life. It was my second marathon at the time, and it was a bucket list accomplishment as it is for many runners. I encourage everyone — New Yorker or not; marathoner or not — to try it at least once in their lifetime.
If you’re planning on lacing up and tackling the Big Apple this year, here are my veteran tips for crushing the New York City Marathon.
General transportation to the starting line requires participants to get on the Staten Island Ferry and arrive at the village pretty early (Note: Registration for this closed on September 4). My first year, temperatures were in the 30s, and I was waiting to get going for at least two hours. That means layering is especially important to keep your muscles as warm as possible leading up to go-time.
Depending on the temperature come race day, you may want to arrive with an old winter jacket, extra sweat pants and a blanket in tow. Don’t worry — there are large donation bins leading up to the starting corrals. Bonus points if you bring comfy things to sit on (think pillows, pool floats, an old sleeping bag, etc.)
INCORPORATE HILL RUNNING INTO YOUR TRAINING
Every marathon has its share of challenges. In New York, those come in the form of hills. At Mile 15, you’ll face what many will tell you is the worst of them: The Queensborough Bridge. And then, before you can finish, you’ll tackle the hill at Mile 23 on Fifth Avenue that culminates with the rolling hills of Central Park.
WEAR YOUR NAME ON YOUR SHIRT
This is something people do for marathoning, but it’s especially popular in New York. Rock your name with pride, and spectators will be cheering for you from the moment you set foot off of the Verrazano. Make sure this name is ironed onto a shirt you know you like to run in, because the last thing you want to do is wear a new item when you head out on race day.
Although there is Gatorade energy gel throughout the course, it’s sporadic. Be smart, and bring your own nutrition that you have practiced with before. (Again: Nothing new on race day.) Another perk to bringing your own fuel is the course can be both dense and wide. When you’re carrying your own goods, you don’t have to worry about barreling over other runners to get to the sugary stuff.
MILE 16 IS MAGIC
After that hill on the Queensborough Bridge, you’ll come down a sweet descent which will land you right near 59th Street on the East Side of Manhattan. About halfway through that downhill, you’ll hear a legitimate roar from the crowds waiting to greet you. It’s really special, and it will give you a much-needed push after you’ve conquered that less-than-stellar hill at Mile 15.
SOAK IN THE SILENCE
There are very few places on the route that aren’t lined with excited fans cheering on the runners. This means it’s especially important to soak in the opportunities for quiet and reflection when you can get them — mostly bridges and parts of the Bronx.
HAVE A MEETING PLACE FOR WHEN YOU’RE DONE
New York Road Runners (NYRR) actually does a great job with the family reuniting situation, where there are big signs with letters that you can use to find your family by last name. However, with so many people in the area, cell phone service is spotty at best. Whether it’s by signs or a spot nearby (Columbus Circle or a personal favorite, Levain Bakery), having a plan saves you some frustration after you’re done with the real hard work.