Watch Like A Pro: A Spectator’s Guide To The NYC Marathon

Photo: New York Road Runners
Click on image to enlarge map. Photo: New York Road Runners

How can you make the most of your NYC Marathon-watching experience?

Written by: Sarah Wassner Flynn

Runners aren’t the only ones with a story to tell about the ING New York City Marathon—most of the two million-plus spectators who hit the streets on race day have their own set of unforgettable experiences. After all, simply watching the race—and all of its 40,000-plus competitors—can be almost as exhilarating as actually running those 26.2 miles. But where to go to make the most of your marathon-watching experience on November 7? Consider these four top spectating spots.

Cheer Here: Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)

The eight-mile mark, this is where the entire field—divided into three groups at the start to avoid congestion in Brooklyn’s narrow streets—merges. (Incidentally, BAM is the site of another sort of merging, as many marathon mid-race marriages have taken place there). This placement guarantees a glimpse of the massive pack of runners while they are still fresh with energy.

Cheer Here: First Avenue from East 59th to East 96th street

This stretch of First Avenue is legendary among marathon courses. Spectators, standing shoulder-to-shoulder and dozens deep, clap wildly and scream at the top of their lungs for every runner who passes by.

Cheer Here: Marcus Garvey Park on Fifth Avenue at 122nd Street

Just past the 22-mile mark, this may be the most kid-friendly spot on the entire course.  Without having the fight the masses assembled on First Avenue, miles 18 to 23 are not only quieter, but these areas do not have barricades on the sidewalks. That way, children can get an unobstructed, curbside view of the runners plodding past.

Cheer Here: Fifth Avenue between 102nd and 103rd Streets

Offer some encouragement in the oft-dreaded final stretch to the finish line, exactly 5 kilometers away from the finish line.

Quick Tips For Seamless Spectating

  • Sign up for Athlete Alert. Receive real-time alerts via text when the runners cross certain parts of the course. That way, you’ll exactly when to expect your runner—and where. (
  • Plan ahead. Even if you’re not running the race, you should still know the course. Study the course map (see and come up with a way to get from points A to B to Z. And don’t forget to check on race day for any changes in subway or bus routes that may affect your plans.

  • Don’t over do it. It’s much less stressful to try to catch your runners at one or two spots as opposed to 26 Your best bet? First hit up First Avenue, and then walk 20 minutes west to Fifth Avenue, which borders Central Park, where you can catch the runners again along Fifth Avenue north of 90th Street.

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