Active Travel



Everything You Need to Know About Running the New York City Marathon

Nov 2, 2017 | Active Travel, Marathon Majors, Marathon Majors, Running | 5 comments

Ok, not everything but as much wisdom as I can pass on having run this race a couple of times. Here’s my race recap from 2013 and from 2016.

Firstly, watch my video from last year’s race…

Get to the expo EARLY – the queues are massive and you don’t want to be standing up for hours. It’s a great place to stock up on running kit, gels, and NYCM stash. If you’re coming from abroad just make sure to let your bank know you’re travelling, I’ve managed to block my card at the New York, Boston and Chicago marathon expos before!

Get your name printed on your top

you’ll get a lot more support from the crowd which is a real motivator in the later miles when you might be struggling…

New York City Marathon 2017 race day tips

Rest your legs

Don’t use the Saturday as a sightseeing day in New York unless it’s one that involves a lot of sitting down. Similarly, it’s not the time to eat anything too different from your usual pre-race meal. Probably best not to have a street vendor hot dog.

Leave plenty of time to get to the start

Book an earlyish ferry to the starting area on Staten Island. I’ve taken a bus and the ferry before and definitely prefer the ferry. I froze in the waiting area when taking a bus as you have to go so early before they close the Verrazano bridge. The ferry is free with a ticket, then you will have to queue for a bus at the ferry terminal to the race village (make sure you leave time for this). We used the loos in the ferry terminal which took a long time but was worth it not to use a portable loo! Might be an idea to pop some loo roll in your pocket too, just in case.

New York City Marathon 2017 race day tips

Layers are Key

Bring plenty of throwaway layers to the start area, and don’t chuck them until you’re just about to cross the start line (or even after that!) – it can be pretty windy on the bridge and the last thing you want to do is shiver your way through the first few miles.

The race doesn’t start until 10ish, so bring some food and hydration with you to the race village.      New York City Marathon 2017 Tips

Start Slow

Do not even look at your watch for the first two miles. You go straight up 170ft, then straight down 200ft, the bridge is crowded and you will be over excited. These miles will not be reflective of your pace for the day so ignore them and chill out. I seriously cannot emphasise this enough.

Have a plan for your spectators

Find out where your spectators will be roughly before you leave, but then have them text or call you with their exact spot. The more descriptive, the better. My Mum had a Union Jack helium balloon the first time I ran NYCM and it was so helpful to spot her in the crowds.

New York City Marathon 2017 race day tips

Miles 2-13 are through Brooklyn with plenty of local crowd support -it is like a massive street party and one of my fave parts of the race. Run this at a comfortable pace and ease into your race pace. With quite a few hills along the course, your miles/KMs might be a little off so try to manage based on effort rather than getting caught up with current pace. One of the best tips I heard was Bank = Bonk. New York is not the course to bank time in the beginning!

You head into Queens after the halfway point, then over the Queensboro Bridge, one of the toughest hills of the day. Once you get off though, the ‘wall of noise’ that greets you on 1st Avenue is insane. Try not to sprint the couple of miles through Manhattan where the crowds will fire you up – the ground feels springy beneath your feet and you feel like you could fly. Save some energy for the hills ahead!

Personally, I save my music until mile 18/19 when you pass the crowds of First Ave and might need to dig deep to continue running strong. Having my music to look forward to is a great motivational boost!

Mile 23 is a hill…a very gradual incline that catches you off guard if you’re not prepared for it. I cried as I ran up it in 2013, just wanting to be finished!

New York City Marathon 2017 race day tips

Train those Hills

Don’t underestimate the hills of Central Park either… they seem much bigger than they are because they’re so close to the end of the race. Push through, you’re sooo close! There’s a lot of support within the park, use it to propel you to the finish line!

Work out where you’re going to meet up with your family and friends in advance – it can take you a long time to collect your medal and either bag or poncho, and make your way to the meet & greet area. Similarly, there are areas where your family can’t congregate – it actually might be easier to pick a different spot altogether to find one another.

Don’t get so caught up with your time that you forget to take in the experience. For many people, the New York City Marathon is a one and done. It’s expensive, hard to get in to and a tough race. Enjoy the crowds, take in the sights of the city and revel in the fact that you’re part of the biggest marathon on the planet!

Read this: 5 things I learned running the New York City Marathon! 

Ever thought about running the New York City Marathon? Yes? No? Let me know in the comments below… 

New York City Marathon Race Day Tips 2017


  1. Lucy

    Aww this makes me SO nostalgic.

  2. Elisabeth Marnik

    I’m running the NYCM on Sunday. I am SO excited and nervous and excited! lol. It will be my second marathon but my first NYC! Eeek!

  3. Marty

    I cannot stress going slow at first too. Many first timers tend to make this mistakes, and I’m over here thinking, ‘guys… don’t exhaust yourself too early.’

  4. Fiona Tideswell

    Hi Charlie I am running my first New York marathon, delayed by 2 years cos of Covid. I have run London 10 times over the last 22 years, but soooo excited about New York- my first ever trip there and I am 48!

    Any time other than the hills?

    • Charlie Watson

      oh it’s soo good, you’ll have the best time! Just enjoy it and take lots of layers to the start as it can be very chilly and you can hang around for a long time! Good luck!


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