NYC Marathon Guide: Where to Watch the Runners in Manhattan

50,000 Runners Get Ready to Pound Pavement in NYC on November 2, 2014

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••• Photo credit: NYRR

It's that time of year again, when those mega-motivated marathoners lace up there sneakers and get ready to pound 26.2 miles of NYC pavement—leaving the rest of us underachievers to feel comparatively inadequate as we get ready to ponder our own lazy Sunday. Well there's no reason we can't at least be spectating pros! Held the first Sunday in November, the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon, now in its 44th year, will take place on November 2.

Attending the world's largest marathon is a goose bumps guarantee, with the dedicated runners' adrenaline and enthusiasm palpable in the air. Here's the lowdown on where to go in Manhattan to cheer on the some 50,000 runners participating in this year's marathon:

Where Can I Watch the Race in Manhattan?

Manhattan makes two appearances on the race's five-borough circuit of the city (which kicks off in Staten Island), with runners first entering the island at Mile 16—before making way to the Bronx—and returning for the final five-mile stretch at Mile 21. Here's the breakdown on where to observe the runners in Manhattan (you can also download the official course map here):

  • Miles 16–18: Runners pour over the Queensboro Bridge for their dramatic entry point to Manhattan at 59th Street. Spectators aren't allowed on the bridge, but can line a lively stretch of First Avenue, along with plenty of other onlookers and live bands.
  • Miles 18–20: Marathoners continue to make their way through East Harlem along First Avenue, en route to the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx.
  • Miles 21–23: After a quick dip into the Bronx, runners are back over the Madison Bridge into Harlem at Fifth Avenue.
  • Mile 23: Runners can ponder the fantastic collections of the many museums they pass along this Fifth Avenue "Museum Mile" stretch: the Guggenheim, the Museum of the City of New York, and more. Spectators, meanwhile, can pair their marathon cheering with a bit of an art marathon on the side.
  • Miles 24–25: Central Park's southeastern corner welcomes runners with some spectacular fall foliage.
  • Miles 25–26: The energy and excitement is pumping along Central Park South and Columbus Circle, as runners get ready to reenter the park to cross the finish line.
  • Mile 26.2: The homestretch of the race winds down to triumphal personal glory for the runners at the finish line: Central Park's West Drive at 67th Street. Note that you won't be able to get close to the race end unless you've purchased seating in the bleachers ($75; online sales are now closed—purchase in person at the TCS New York City Marathon Health and Fitness Expo, at the Javits Center).

 What Should I Bring/Wear/Do?

  • Bundle Up: Temps are forecasted to only reach a high of 50 degrees on Sunday, so be sure to wear plenty of layers to withstand cooler temps outdoors.  
  • Cheer Them by Name: Runners wear those shirts proudly bearing their names and nationalities for a reason—first-name-basis, personalized encouragement goes a long way in lending them some extra steam.
  • Hit Up a Cheering Zone: For high-energy viewing, hit up designated "cheering zones," where race partners like Airbnb keep the crowds and runners going with noisemakers, live music, video screens, giveaways, and more.
  • Live Bands: Music makes everything more fun and festive, so look out for some 130 live bands (that's about five acts for every mile!) spread out along the marathon route.

How Can I Cheer for Somebody Specific?

  • Plan Ahead: It'll be like finding a needle-in-running shoes—in a very large haystack—if you're looking for your marathoner friend or family member on the fly. Let them know, in advance, specifically where you'll be located to cheer them on (ex. "northeast corner of 76th Street and First Avenue"), so they can be on the lookout for you. And be sure to ask them for their anticipated arrival time at that point, so you can sharpen your eagle eyes during that window of time.
  • Make a Sign: You'll not only brighten your favorite runner's spirits, but your sign makes it more likely that you'll catch their eye en route.
  • Check Out the Runner's App: The 2014 TCS New York City Marathon Mobile App (powered by Tata Consultancy Services) allows users to easily track runners progress along the route, though note it won't be able to pinpoint their location precisely.

Getting Around

  • Use Mass Transit: Many streets are closed to traffic on marathon day, so it's best to keep to the subways. Also, be mindful that crossing streets along the marathon circuit will be nearly impossible—so plan your subway exit points and general route wisely.

For full NYC marathon details, visit tcsnycmarathon.org.