The world’s premier marathon event is returning in full force to New York City on Sunday. On November 6, tens of thousands of runners from around the globe will flock to the city to partake in the 51st annual TCS New York City Marathon, a 26.2-mile race that takes participants through all five boroughs and finishes in Central Park. The marathon is returning at full capacity for the first time since 2019 with 50,000 fully-vaccinated runners racing in this year’s event.
Image courtesy of the New York City Marathon
History of the race
The marathon was first held in 1970 by New York Road Runners Club presidents Fred Lebow and Vincent Chiapetta. Lebow and Chiapetta led 127 participants on a few laps around the park. Entry to the race cost just $1, with the fastest runner winning $1,000.
The race grew significantly in 1976 when Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton expanded the route across all five boroughs in celebration of the marathon’s bicentennial. Intended as a one-time route expansion has turned into a permanent feature. The entry for that year’s race skyrocketed from its usual couple hundred to 2,096 runners.
The marathon’s popularity soared to new heights in 1978 when Norwegian Olympian Grete Waitz finished at 2:32:30, breaking the women’s world record. Waitz’s feat encouraged runners from all across the world to come and test their stamina, and soon marathon attendance ballooned to the tens of thousands of participants that now return to the city every year to compete.
Because of Covid, the New York Road Runners reduced the field size to 25,010 runners last year and in 2020, the group held a virtual event.
When it starts
The marathon will kick off on Sunday in different waves, with each group of contestants beginning at different times. The professional wheelchair division sets off at 8 a.m., followed by the handcycle category and select athletes with disabilities at 8:22 a.m.
Professional women start the race at 8:40 a.m., followed by professional men at 9:05 a.m. Then every 35 minutes a new wave of contestants set off, with the first wave of general participants starting at 9:10 a.m., followed by more waves at 9:45 a.m., 10:20 a.m., 10:55 a.m., and 11:30 a.m.
The entire run spans 26.2 miles and takes participants through all five boroughs. The race kicks off in Staten Island, leading runners across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and up through Brooklyn neighborhoods Bay Ridge, Sunset Park Slope, Fort Greene, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Williamsburg.
Runners then cross the Pulaski Bridge into Long Island City, Queens before traveling across the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan, running north up First Avenue into the Bronx over the Willis Avenue Bridge.
Race participants then circle back around and enter back into Manhattan over the Madison Avenue Bridge before traveling south, passing the east side of Central Park and finishing at its southern end.
There will be a number of street closures across the city in areas close to the marathon route. Street closures in all five boroughs will last from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. on the day of the race. A full list of street, bridge and highway closures can be found here.
Where to watch in person
Along the 26.2-mile course to watch runners, most of the route is jam-packed with spectators. Some of the most popular locations to cheer on runners are in Bay Ridge at mile three when most runners are still full of energy, in Fort Greene at mile eight where neighborhood residents pile onto their stoops to celebrate the passing runners and at the Pulaski Bridge at mile 13.
Other great locations to observe the race are on the Upper East Side along First Avenue as runners make the home stretch toward Central Park, and along Museum Mile on the park’s east side as runners approach the finish line.
Where to watch on TV
The marathon will be live on ESPN2 from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. EST, on WABC-TV, Channel 7 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST, and on ESPN’s Spanish streaming service ESPN3 from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. EST, according to the New York Times. It will be the first time a domestic Spanish-language broadcast of the TCS New York City Marathon will be produced and distributed by ESPN.
ESPN3 will also offer views of the finish line from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST to watch as runners finish the race. Other ways to watch the race can be found here.
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