Image courtesy of NYRR
It’s finally New York City Marathon week in NYC! I have started seeing visiting runners touring the city, events and group runs are being advertised on Facebook and social media channels and signs and flags are at every corner. Similar to the way Boston treats Marathon Monday as a holiday, the city comes alive this weekend with a contagious energy that runners and non-runners alike can feel and experience. Even though I am not personally running the NYC Marathon, I have more than ten friends who have put in countless hours of training. After running five marathons, I understand the commitment and time it takes to reach the starting line. This Sunday, by 10:45 AM I will be at mile 7 prepared for two straight hours of cheering. I will be equipped with a book bag full of Body Glide, Gatorade, water, extra fuel so I can provide my friends and strangers alike with anything they need.
Earlier today, a friend who is running the NYC Marathon for the first time, asked me for tips and tricks he could share with his parents who are flying in from Scotland to support him this weekend. As I put these tips together, I realized that many people can benefit from the years of experience Bo and I have since we’ve participated in the marathon seven different years, either spectating, volunteering or running. If you’re one of the 50,000 runners this year, share this post with friends and family who will be spectating. If you’re a NYC local and aren’t running, take these tips and consider heading out for even just a few minutes of cheering. It’s one of the most energetic days in New York City and whether you have a beer and one hand and a poster in another or you’re spectating your favorite elite distant runner, it’s a great way to spend your Sunday. Who knows, like many of us, the energy may just inspire you to sign up for your first marathon!
If you are running this year, I suggest you check out these posts:
- My New York City Marathon Race Recap Pinterest board which includes more than 50 recaps from fellow runners.
- My Tips and tricks for New York City Marathon runners
- Daily Burn’s Guide to Running and Spectating the NYC Marathon
- Kayla’s post which included some great things to keep in mind before you toe the start line on Sunday.
Now, let’s focus on all the things the spectators need to know this week.
- Realize that your runner will experience a range of emotions this week. You’ve most likely started to feel the building stress and emotions that can accompany the famous “marathon taper.” Whether it’s phantom pains, nervous energy or panic do your best to support your runner in any way possible.
- Understand that the best thing they can do between now and Sunday morning is rest, hydrate and rest more. If you are in NYC visiting and supporting a runner, realize they will not want to play tourist with you.
- Be conscious and sensitive to the fact that even though you will feel you’ve earned a beer and celebratory evening after cheering all day, they may crave nothing more than an ice bath, huge burger and bed. Often times we runners think we’ll want a huge celebratory dinner and toasting with friends but the marathon drains of us energy by the end. I have cancelled post-marathon plans four out of my five marathons.
Tips and Tricks for Spectating
Spectating is harder than it sounds. Many times friends say they’ll be at one spot but suddenly realize that public transportation is running slower than normal and end up missing their runner. If your runner is depending on you for back-up fuel, extra water or anything else this can be detrimental. These few tips as well as suggested spectating areas will help your day run smoother.
- Download the NYC Marathon app and upload your runners who you want to track. However, realize that like all things, this app is not flawless. There is a good chance that runner tracking may be delayed on race day.
- Ask your runner(s) their goal pace per mile so that if the app fails, you can manually do the math to figure out when they’ll reach each mile marker. Don’t expect that you’ll be able to remember all these numbers. Write them down or enter them in your phone.
- Bring a spare battery as you will drain energy on marathon day between pictures, texting, Google maps and the marathon app.
- Wear bright, obnoxious clothing. While those huge heads and fun signs are great, if you’re going to move locations during they day, they can prove difficult when hopping on the subway or getting in an Uber. Instead, choose the most obnoxious color clothing to wear so your runner can easily spot you. One year Bo wore a bright red jacket which when paired with his red hair, stood out quite well in the crowd. Another year, my dad wore neon green t-shirt and a neon hat. He looked hilarious but I saw him for blocks away. If you there are a group of you spectating, try to all wear the same obnoxious color. If you don’t have anything, head to Target or order something on Amazon. You still have time!
- As you map either your own personal route or the routes below, keep in mind that traffic will be horrible on Sunday as many main streets are closed in most boroughs. I highly recommend using the subway or Citibike as much as possible.
- If you’re not a local, see if you can cheer with one of your runner’s local friends or family members. This will make your day far less stressful since they will know the city better.
- It is better to be realistic than optimistic. Do not expect to see your runner five and six times. In most cases, a single spectator sees their runner 3-4 times MAXIMUM and many people only end up catching their runner two times. Trust me, two times is far better than none and they will love the support.
- Certain areas such as First Avenue and Central Park have spectators five and six people deep. There will be plenty of energy in these areas. Consider cheering for your runner in the more desolate areas. Okay, based on all this – here is what I’d suggest. This is what Bo did for me 2 years and it was AWESOME
- Plan a meeting spot in advance. The years I ran the race I had horrible reception in Central Park after finishing and couldn’t get service until I exited the park, an hour later. Choose a meeting spot in advance and keep in mind that it often takes runners at least an hour to exit the park.
- Do not carry anything for your runner that they absolutely must have. My friend once had her boyfriend carry most of her fuel for her because she didn’t want to run with a waist pack. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find her and she had to ask fellow runners for fuel.
Okay, keeping these tips in mind, here is the spectating route that we have historically used.
Brooklyn/Long Island City/Fifth Avenue
- Start in Brooklyn at the Mile 7 marker which is easily reached via F/G/R subways. This area isn’t too crowded and easy to reach via three different subway routes. If you stand as close to the mile marker as possible it is easier for your runner to spot you.
- From this spot, you can easily hop back on the G and head to Court Square which is Mile 14.5. This typically takes around 35 minutes, so based on the speed of your runner you should have time to get from mile 7 to mile 14.5 in time. This area is typically pretty quiet and your runner can use all the energy boost before they head to the daunting bridge and into Manhattan.
- Give yourself a huge pat on the back. You’ve already seen your runner three times! Now, head back into the city towards mile 23. This is a great final spectating spot as the crowds aren’t TOO thick and the runners will have just exited a quieter portion of the course. This should take around 30 minutes as you can take the E to 53rd street then the 6 uptown to 125th street.
3B. If you really want to spectate closer to the finish line, head into Central Park towards mile 24.5. You will catch your runner with less than 2 miles to the finish and get to enjoy the beauty that is Central Park in the Fall. This option will also give you more time between cheering spots in case you need to grab a snack or take a break.
Good luck runners and spectators alike! Sunday is a magical day for the entire city and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Your turn – What would you add to the list?