The New York Marathon is held every year on the first Sunday of November.
Each year, around 50,000 participants from all over the world take part in this 42.195 km race through one of the world's largest cities.
If you want to come to New York and take part in or simply watch the New York Marathon, follow the guide! I will explain everything you need to know about the New York City Marathon.
The history of the New York Marathon
The very first New York City Marathon was held in 1970, with only 127 competitors at the starting line. At the time, the race was held only in Central Park, and the course consisted of loops around Park Drive. In 1976, due to the event’s growing success, the course was completely redesigned to run through all five boroughs of New York. The following year, following the success of the film Marathon Man, registrations increased tenfold.
5 decades later, there is no doubt that the New York Marathon has now become the most popular and prestigious annual marathon in the world, alongside the Paris, London and Berlin marathons.
The New York Marathon route
The starting line is near the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in Staten Island.
Unlike other major marathons such as Berlin or Chicago, the New York Marathon course is not known for its simplicity. While the first half of the course is on relatively flat ground, the second half is more challenging, especially when crossing several bridges (there are 5 in total) and for the finish in Central Park.
If you're planning to break the marathon world record, you'd better give it a try in Berlin.
Paraticipate in the New York Marathon
If you want to run the New York City Marathon, you'll need to start preparing well in advance.
Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world want to run the marathon every year – but not all of them will be able to.
New York Road Runners, the running organisation that organises the marathon, uses a simple lottery principle. You can find the registration form on the official NYRR website.
As a general rule, registration opens on 15 January and closes on 15 February.
The draw is then revealed during the month of March.
In fact, 3 different draws are organised. The first is reserved for people living within a 90 km radius of New York, the second is for US residents, and the last one is for all other participants.
There are also some special cases where you can be almost certain to participate in the NYC Marathon.
Your participation will be validated if:
- Your reference time is good enough. For this, you must have already participated in a race organised by NYRR the previous year, and have done at least as well as the standard time for your age category.
- You have already run 15 or more New York Marathons in the past. In this case, you will only need to apply to be accepted.
- You had your entry the previous year, and then cancelled it under the cancellation conditions.
- You are participating in support of one of the Run for Charity charities.
In practice, most competitors validate their participation with one of these 4 scenarios. On average, just under a quarter of participants are drawn through the lottery. This represents more than 15,000 people each year, while nearly 100,000 people participate in the lottery.
NYRR also applies quotas for each category in the draws. Only about 25% of the contestants drawn are not New Yorkers or US residents, which amounts to between 4,000 and 5,000 participants each year.
The registration fee
Until 2016, an $11 application fee was required, which could not be recouped if qualification was not achieved. Following a lawsuit alleging violation of New York State law, registration for the draw is now free.
To obtain a bib, entry fees vary:
- $255 for NYRR members who reside in the United States,
- $295 for US residents who are not NYRR members,
- $356 for other participants.
This entry fee also includes official documentation and access to the shuttle bus to the start line. During the race, all participants will be taken care of by the medical teams if needed, and will be able to take advantage of the refreshment stations (drinks and food). The registration also entitles participants to an official T-shirt. The day before the event, it allows them to take part in a 30-minute run, before joining the traditional Pasta Party, where under a huge tent all participants are invited to come and fill up on slow sugars.
Attending the New York Marathon
If you don't know what to do in New York during your stay and it's early November, you'll probably want to watch the marathon as a spectator.
Every year, around 2.5 million people attend the race. For the occasion, traffic in the city is largely disrupted. Public transport does not run normally, and not all areas are accessible, even for pedestrians. To really see the finish in Central Park, you will have no choice but to buy a ticket to sit in a stand.
If you want to see the runners along the route and be able to cheer them on, there are several strategic locations that are very interesting:
- The beginning of the race, in the first few metres, will certainly not be the quietest place. This is where you will see a very impressive mass of participants, and truly appreciate the popularity of this marathon.
- After the Pulaski Bridge in Queens, the runners go up Vernon Boulevard and cross the Queensboro Bridge. In this more residential area, you can effectively cheer on the participants.
- In the Bronx, a big slope known as "the wall" awaits the runners. This is the most difficult part of the race – and where some participants start to falter.
- The final stretch in Central Park and the last 3 miles of the race will give you the opportunity to enjoy the great atmosphere and cheer on the athletes as they make their last effort.
If you don't have the opportunity to travel to New York during the marathon period, you can watch the entire race from your couch on the official New York Marathon website or on NBC television.
More about the New York Marathon
To finish, here are some figures and anecdotes about the world's biggest foot race:
- Since 2011, Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai has been the record holder with a time of 2 hours 5 minutes and 6 seconds. His compatriot Margaret Okayo has held the women's record since 2003, with a time of 2 hours, 22 minutes and 31 seconds.
- There is parity, with the men and women on the three steps of the podium earning $100,000, $60,000 and $40,000 respectively.
- The average time of the race is about 4 hours and 40 minutes.
- 68 streets are blocked off during the race.
- The New York Marathon is part of the World Marathon Majors, along with the Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London and Tokyo Marathons. An overall ranking is organised over these 6 events, and the winners in the men's and women's categories each receive $500,000 in prize money.
- France has the third highest number of participants, just behind the USA and Italy.
- More than 40% of the participants are women. This makes the marathon one of the most female-represented races in the world. In the Paris and London marathons, between 25% and 30% of the participants are women.
- If you manage to cross the finish line of this marathon, your name and time will appear in the New York Times the next morning.
- The cost of the event is estimated at $40 million.
- The New York Police Department deploys 35,000 officers to cover the event, and bills the organisers for over $2.5 million.
- More than 1,200 volunteers work on the organisation of the race for a whole week.
- Over 1.2 million participants have crossed the finish line since 1970.
- 400 mobile toilets are deployed along the route.
And this concludes my article on the New York City Marathon! How about it? Fancy a small run? 👀
Jokes aside, if you happen to have participated in this Marathon, I for one would love to hear about it! Don't hesitate to share your experience in the comments. Who knows, it may serve as a heads up for me if I ever am selected in the future! 😉