Our Guide To Running The Big 26.2 Race

If you’re lucky enough to have gotten into the big race for the first time, congratulations! You’re one of several thousand lucky entrants who made it through the lottery system, not an easy task. There’s a reason why this race is considered a bucket list race for many runners as the race day experience is one of the best in the world, mainly due to the spectator support from residents of all five New York City boroughs.

If you're lucky enough to have gotten into the big race for the first time, congratulations!  You're one of several thousand lucky entrants who made it through the lottery system, not an easy task.  There's a reason why this race is considered a bucket list race for many runners as the race day experience is one of the best in the world, mainly due to the spectator support from residents of all five New York City boroughs.  No matter your goal for the race, the experience is something you'll remember for many race seasons to come. Having said that, be sure to check out our race day tips to ensure your race day success. 

After months of preparation and hard training, the hay is in the barn as they say, and it's time to taper your training down to be fully rested on race day.  The miles of long runs, tempo work, interval workouts, and recovery days are now complete, and it's time to focus on running your best race possible on November 1st. 

Limit time spent on your legs:  

New York City is an amazing place with all sorts of sites to see, but we suggest keeping your inner tourist at bay until after you finish the race.  Times Square, Broadway shows and strolls around Central Park are not to be missed, but do that after your race.  Make sure to spend time at the expo as that alone is an experience worth taking in, but don't overdo it.  Get in, get your number, pick up some last minute gear, but don't spend more time there walking around than you need to.  The race course is pretty challenging, so you'll want to conserve your energy for the 26.2 mile task at hand.  Your goal should be to sit and rest as much as possible in the 48 hours leading up to the start. 

Race Day Morning:

The race begins at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Staten Island at 10:00 AM, although your wave start time may vary. Log onto your NYRR profile to confirm your transportation to the start. Official transportation options include the Staten Island Ferry and buses from midtown Manhattan and New Jersey. Once you're off the bus, you'll arrive at the starting area village where you can check a bag to collect at the finish line, use a porta potty, as well as drink a cup of coffee or eat a bagel.  You'll have plenty of time at the starting area prior to the starting gun going off, so tactically think this through carefully.  Typically it's pretty cold, and while there are tents set up for you to sit in, you'll want to wear warm clothing over your race day kit to try stay as warm as possible as shivering in the cold is not only unpleasant, it burns calories which you'll need a lot of to power you through the race.  We strongly suggest checking your gear bag as soon as you possibly can as the lines get very long to check gear the closer you wait until start time.  This means that the warm clothes you wear in the starting village will be discarded, so be sure to wear something you won't want to see ever again as all discarded clothing is donated to a local homeless shelter. 

First Half Tips:

The start of the race is an unforgettable experience with the traditional playing of Frank Sinatra's “New York New York”, cannons firing, and a sea of people as wide and as long as you can see.  What that means is the start is very congested over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and you'll likely be weaving and people dodging for the first mile over the bridge, and second mile leading off of the bridge into the second borough, Brooklyn.  Don't panic, and try and relax as much as you can.  Focus on your breathing and take it all in as the course will open up once you get into Brooklyn.  Take time to enjoy the spectacular views of the New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, and the sea of fellow runners embarking on the journey with you.  

Miles 3-15 lead out of Brooklyn and through Queens.  This 12 mile stretch has plenty of course support and is fairly flat, so be careful to over exert yourself and run a bit too quickly, which will set you up for a tough final miles into Manhattan and Central Park.  Once you get out of Brooklyn and into Queens near the 14 mile mark, there's a very tough stretch from roughly 14.5 leading to the Queensboro Bridge which will take you through the 15 and 16 mile park.  While it doesn't look particularly challenging, this gradual incline run in a dimly light tunnel is mentally and physically tough, so be sure to have conserved something for this point in the race.  The 25K mark is between mile 15 and 16 on the bridge, and as you crest the hill and finally make your way out, you'll take a sharp right hand turn onto 1st Ave.  This stretch of the race is flat, has few turns, and has some of the rowdiest crowd support in the entire race through the 30K mark before heading up into the Bronx.  It's impossible not to feel energized from the crowd as they are cheering as loudly for you as they would for the winner of the race, so make absolutely sure you don't lose your head and pick it up too much- you've still got a challenging and hilly 8 miles to go!  You'll cross another bridge into the Bronx between miles 19 and 20 with an aid station where you'll be able to snag a Coke from some friendly spectators.  If you're stomach can handle it, Coca Cola is an incredible pick me up, but try it during training first!  

Second Half Tips:

The second half of any marathon begins at 20 miles when muscles begin to tighten up and you start to wonder what you signed yourself up for.  Don't lose hope, at this point you only have a 10K to go and then you're done!  If you've run a smart, conservative race and have anything left in the tank, feel free to pick up your temp and finish strong over the final 6.2 miles.  Miles 20-21 are run briefly in the Bronx with several twists and turns to keep you on your feet that take you out of the Bronx, and back into the west side of Manhattan through Harlem on 5th Avenue. After a quick turn between 35K and mile 22, you'll run into a patch of rolling hills on 5th Avenue through mile 23 while entering Central Park, where once again, you're treated to some of the best spectator support in the sport.  This where the hills you've heard about really come into play, as you'll climb several stretches of rolling hills before turning east toward Columbus Circle and the 26 mile mark.  

The Finish:

The end is finally in sight!  After crossing the 26 mile mark, you're merely a quarter mile away from the finish.  The finish is slightly uphill just to give you one final challenge before it's all over.  Be prepared for feelings of relief and joy as you accomplish something very few people get to do, and relief that your tired legs are finally able to stop!  Once you've crossed the finish line and received your space blanket, water bottle, and medal, you'll walk (slowly) toward the UPS trucks where you can retrieve your checked gear.  Be sure to put on your warm clothes as soon as you can to try and warm up while you wait to find your friends and family.  The finish area can be very congested with supporters, friends, and family of athletes so try and pick a near by intersection or hot spot to be reunited (and yes, it will feel so good) with your support crew.  At this point you'll want to do nothing but head back to your hotel and take a hot shower but before you can do that you'll need to find a way to transport yourself back.  Cabs are very tough to come by as literally everyone is trying to hail one, so you may need to find the nearest subway stop to get back to your hotel.  

Post Race:

Our only tip is to relax and enjoy the rest of the day!  One of our favorite things to do is find a great bite to eat, catch some Sunday afternoon football, and maybe even take a post race nap if you want to- you've earned it!