nyc marathon 2017

Seth Harrison-USA TODAY Sports

These are the best places to view the New York City marathon

November 03, 2018 - 3:16 pm

By Mark G. McLaughlin

The New York City Marathon, like all marathon races, traces its origin to the 1896 Olympic Games – and from there, back to a famous battle fought 25 centuries ago. As the Greeks were defeating the army of the Persian invaders at the battle of Marathon in 490 B.C., they saw the Persian fleet set sail for Athens. A famed runner, Pheidippides, ran the 26.2 miles to Athens to both report the victory and to warn the city to prepare its defenses. Exhausted not just from this run but also from several other (even longer) trips he had made that week, Pheidippides collapsed and died. His sacrifice, however, saved the city. It was thus only fitting that the first of the modern Olympics was not only held in Greece, home of the ancient games of the same name, but that it would also include a race honoring the famous runner Pheidippides.

The New York City Marathon does not have just one runner, but tens of thousands of them, more than 50,000 of whom are expected to cross the finish line on Nov. 4, 2018. At least an equal number will run or walk part of the 26.2 mile course through the five boroughs from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on Staten Island to Columbus Circle in Manhattan.

Date and Times

The New York City Marathon kicks off at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4. The number of participants is so great that it is impossible to send all the runners onto the course at once. It takes two and a half hours to get every participant across the starting line. These are organized into four main waves, but these are preceded by four special groups:

  • 8:30 a.m.: Professional Wheelchair Division racers set off
  • 8:52 a.m.: Achilles Handcycle Category and Select Athletes with Disabilities hit the course
  • 8:55 a.m.: Runners who signed up for the Foot Locker Five-Borough Challenge begin
  • 9:20 a.m.: Professional Women contestants start the race
  • 9:50 a.m.: First Wave of runners (including those in the Professional Men's Division) start
  • 10:15 a.m.: Second Wave sets off
  • 10:40 a.m.: Third Wave starts
  • 11 a.m.: Fourth (and final) Wave starts their run

The Route

Each group of participants has to report to the Starting Corrals, or to the Staging Areas at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island. The starting line is at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. From there, participants will run/walk north up Fourth Avenue through Brooklyn, onto Lafayette Avenue, then west on 59th Street to First Avenue. They then go north up First Avenue through Queens and into the Bronx, then along Williams and Ryder Avenues to Fifth Avenue, and south down Fifth Avenue through Manhattan until they reach the finish line at 67th Street on West Drive.

Key Viewing Spots

Although most of the route is in clear view, the most dramatic and most sought-after spot is at Central Park and Columbus Circle, about 500 feet before the finish line. The best seats, of course, are in the grandstands there, but that area is not open to the general public. For those who cannot get to or do not want to face the crowds at the race's end, there are six recommended “cheer” zones along the route. These are located at:

  • Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn (where runners hit the two-mile through four-mile mark)
  • Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Brooklyn (from the 10-mile to 13-mile marker)
  • Pulaski Bridge (the exact midpoint or 13.1-mile marker)
  • Fifth Avenue, Manhattan (from the 16-mile to 18-mile marker)
  • East Harlem (the next two miles after Fifth Avenue)
  • Fifth Avenue from East 90th Street East to 105th Streets (the 23rd and 24th miles)

Arrival Times and Security Measures

Fans need to arrive early to find a good spot to stand to see the race. As many roads will be closed to cars, taxis and buses, and subways and trains will be crowded, bystanders should arrive one to two or more hours early. Be advised that New York City police as well as private security personnel will be inspecting bags. For further information on security measures and items which bystanders are prohibited from bringing to the route, see the NYC Marathon website’s security measures page.