As a New York City Marathon spectator, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. Over one million spectators will line up along the route and more than 50,000 runners will brave the 26.2-mile course through all five boroughs. It’s a truly massive event. And you’re just one person. How will you find the best spot to make sure your friend running will see you? How will you make it from the halfway point in Brooklyn to the finish in Central Park? Where will you grab food? Take it easy. We’ve composed an NYC Marathon spectator guide to help you find your way through the crowd.
Avoid choke points if you want your runner to see you
Seems obvious, but people tend to follow the crowds to the start, finish or some of the more popular midway spots like First Ave where the runners enter Manhattan. Set up in the calmer areas like Mott Haven in the Bronx or some of the more residential sections of Brooklyn (Sunset Park, Greenpoint, and Williamsburg are more manageable) if you want to make sure your runner sees you and hears you cheering.
Have a subway plan
If you’re looking to catch runners both on the route and at the finish line, make sure you know what route gets you from your mid-route position to the finish. The last thing you want is a desperate scramble to join the spectator race to the finish line so have your plan ready.
Distinct signs and face cutouts
Everyone has a sign. Focus on what will make yours stand out and catch your runner’s attention. One of the best ways to go is blowing up a headshot of your friend and attaching it to a broomstick so you can hold it up above the crowd. It’s pretty hard for someone not to notice their own face bobbing up and down above the crowd ahead.
Download the app
The NYC Marathon app offers course maps, results, and individual runner tracking. Of course, you don’t want to be glued to your phone at such an exciting outdoor event, but the app can be great in the slower moments and when you’re moving from your watching point to the finish.
Don’t forget about food
The marathon can be a long day and a lot of time on your feet. Fuel up with the best food along the route and turn it into a full sit down party if your friends are content with seeing the runners once and then hanging out at one of your favorite lunch spots.
Do the math
Your runner should have a good idea of their pace time. So do a little simple math and figure out roughly what time your friend will reach your designated cheering spot. Make sure you leave a little buffer time both for the positive and negative