Meb Keflezighi Breaks Down the NYC Marathon’s 5-Borough Course

Meb Keflezighi has run the New York City Marathon nine times. Photo: PhotoRun.net

On Nov. 1, 50,000 runners from around the globe will participate in the world’s largest moving block party—the New York City Marathon. Here’s how the race will unfold through the city’s five boroughs on the way to the iconic finish line in Central Park, along with some expert advice from 2009 NYC Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi.

RELATED: Meb Keflezighi’s Ultimate NYC Marathon Advice

Staten Island

The Verrazano Narrows Bridge

The longest suspension bridge in the United States at 4,260 feet, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge has served as the start line for the New York City Marathon since the race first adopted its current five-borough format in 1976. Devoid of spectators, runners must take an early morning ferry or a bus to the start line village on Staten Island. As the race begins, runners eagerly charge up the apex of the bridge and are rewarded with breathtaking views of New York Harbor and the city’s famous skyline in the distance.

“I love the excitement of the people, the energy and the focus of the runners,” says 2009 New York City Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi, who will return to race in the Big Apple for the tenth time on Nov. 1. “I like the uphill start because time is not a concern and the first couple miles are kind of laid back.”

Brooklyn

Brooklyn Academy of Music

After exiting the bridge just before Mile 2, runners descend upon energetic Brooklyn, where they’ll run amongst large, cheering crowds for the next 12 miles. At Mile 8, runners pass the historic Brooklyn Academy of Music—one of the most popular spots for spectators, where things are guaranteed to get a little loud! Creative signs, local bands and costumed spectators combine for a festive buzz along the course.

“The diverse culture, different costumes, flags and languages make Brooklyn unique,” Keflezighi says. “If you’re feeling good, try and take it all in. It’s much more relaxed here and you can interact more with the fans.”

Queens and Manhattan

Queensboro Bridge onto First Avenue

At the halfway mark, runners enter Queens—one of the course’s quieter stretches. The silence reaches a diminuendo just past the 15-mile mark as runners make their way onto the eerily quiet Queensboro Bridge. The silence dissipates at the end of the bridge when runners curl down the ramp and enter Manhattan for the first time, where throngs of rowdy fans line First Avenue, giving runners a much needed jolt with 10 miles to go.

“You know the excitement is waiting for you,” Keflezighi says of crossing the Queensboro Bridge. “You always hear about it, but to experience it is wild.”

The Bronx

Willis Avenue Bridge

Following their first taste of Manhattan, runners cross the Willis Avenue Bridge just before the 20-mile mark and take a short tour of the Bronx, the unofficial home of the mythical marathon “wall” everyone hopes to avoid. It’s sparsely populated with fans so keeping your focus during this stretch is super important. A little more than a mile after setting foot in the Bronx, runners re-enter Manhattan via the Madison Avenue Bridge and head for home in Central Park.

“You know that you want to feel good here,” Keflezighi says of crossing the Willis Avenue Bridge. “You want to be passing people here—not the one being passed.”

Manhattan

Columbus Circle

The final 5K of the race relentlessly undulates and weaves its way through scenic Central Park. For a short stretch between miles 25 and 26, runners exit the south end of the park at 59th Street before re-entering at Columbus Circle, one of the most densely packed parts of the course. From there, it just over a quarter mile to the finish line!

“Whenever you see green stuff, you know you’re almost home,” explains Keflezighi. “It’s make it or break it that last 5K, so save something for Central Park. It’s a challenging course, but the finish is amazing!”

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