Best Places to Watch the 2017 New York City Marathon
On November 5, runners will lace up for the 46th running of the New York City Marathon. The race, which winds through all five of New York’s historic and unique boroughs, draws huge crowds along its 26.2-mile course. If you’re headed to the sidelines to support a friend or loved one, or if you’re a marathon-watching enthusiast, you might be wondering where the best spots are to watch the race and when you should plan to line up to watch.
Well, you’re in luck! Here we’re going to break down the places you’ll want to be to cheer on the runners and have a great time on race day.
Of course, there’s always the classics: the start, the middle, and the finish!
The Start: The race begins on Staten Island and quickly paces over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge into Brooklyn. Although spectators aren’t allowed to watch at the start or on the actual bridge, you can certainly plan to be there on the other side to watch the runners finish the course’s first major obstacle. You should easily be able to hop the R train or other nearby transit to make it back into Manhattan for the finish.
The Halfway Point: Runners hit the 13.1-mile mark in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint just before crossing the Pulaski bridge into Queens. Racers will likely still have some pep in their step at this point, but they’ve got a long way to go. At the midway point, you’ll be in one of Brooklyn’s beautiful, diverse neighborhoods with plenty of cute coffee shops and restaurants to keep you warm and energized for a long day of cheering.
The Finish: The 26.2-mile course ends at scenic Central Park in Manhattan. At the finish, you’ll see over 50,000 racers achieve one of the greatest running accomplishments out there. The downside: getting into the park is likely to be challenging as many other folks will have the same idea as you and you’ll need to pass through long bag check lines in order to get in, meaning you won’t be able to bring very much stuff with you.
But, 26.2 miles is a long way to go, and runners are going to need your cheers and motivation throughout the whole course.
The Toughest Parts
Consider hitting up some of the course’s toughest spots to give your favorite runners that extra boost of support:
The 59th Street Queensboro Bridge: Hitting near mile 15 in the race, the Queensboro bridge is the second biggest incline in the race behind the Verrazano bridge at the race’s start. Runners will climb close to 150 feet in elevation and then shoot back down, arriving in Manhattan on spectator packed First Avenue. While you can’t watch on the bridge, you can join the throngs of fans welcoming the bridge-conquering runners into Manhattan.
Fifth Ave at Mile 23: There’s a fairly significant incline around mile 23, and because it happens so late in the race, this otherwise manageable hill can really throw runners for a loop. If you set up here, you’ll be able to hop into the gorgeous northern part of Central Park away from all the finish-line madness.
The Least Crowded
You can also check out some of the less populated spots on the course. These are places where it’ll be easier to spot your favorite runners, where you can watch comfortably, and where racers will need your enthusiasm to make up for the thinner crowds.
Long Island City: Once runners conquer the Pulaski bridge around the midway point, they make their triumphant entrance into the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens. With a thriving arts scene, you can pair your marathon day with a dose of local culture. You’ll also be there to get runners ready to take on the steep climb up the Queensboro bridge.
East Harlem: With many spectators concentrated around the 59th street bridge and the blocks that follow, midtown Manhattan can be a fun but overwhelming place to watch. However, the crowds start to thin out as racers head up First Avenue, making East Harlem from 96th Street to 125th Street, roughly miles 18 and 19, a great place to spectate. Extra perks: You should have time to head over to Fifth Avenue and catch the runners a second time as they hit their last miles and head into Central Park. Plus, in the historic El Barrio district you’re sure to find satisfying food and drink and take in the local sites.
The Bronx: Many runners know the brief jaunt into the Bronx to be one of the race’s least populated areas, although it’s improved over the last several years. But, the Willis Avenue bridge into the Bronx and the Madison Avenue bridge back into Manhattan are some of the race’s toughest inclines as they happen right when runners tend to “hit the wall” around miles 20 and 21. Set up anywhere in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the course to help push your racer’s past the wall.
If you’re looking to have some fun on race day, you might want to hit up some of the course’s most entertaining spots. With 130 different bands and entertainment zones throughout the course, you’re likely to find fun wherever you go, but these spots are sure to really get the party going.
- Flatbush Ave at Barclay’s Center: A vibrant area in the heart of downtown Brooklyn, this is a spot you won’t want to miss. Spectators here will be treated to one of the marathon’s official cheering zones, with supplies available to make posters and music spinning throughout the day. Plus, it’s at the Atlantic Avenue subway station, one of the city’s most accessible transit hubs.
- Bishop Foley High School: This is one of course’s best-known destinations, infamous for the high school’s marching band which plays the theme song from Rocky on a loop. The band plays in Brooklyn’s quaint Clinton Hill neighborhood and treats runners and fans to their own motivational marathon moment.
- New Balance Block Party: This year’s race will feature a block party near mile 20 just after the Willis Bridge sends runners into the Bronx. Sponsored by New Balance, the block party will feature local DJs, a drumline, and an interactive digital screen. Catch the 6 train and get ready to have some fun!
Other Things to Consider
Now, that you’ve got your spot picked out, you’re also probably wondering when you should plan to be on the course for optimal viewing. Runners start the race in waves, beginning at 8:30am. The waves are as follows:
You’ll want to be sure to find out which waves your friends and loved ones start in and what their pace is likely to be so you can calculate the right times to set up. Alternatively, you can download the special marathon app that allows you to track your runners in real time. Be sure to let your runners know exactly where you plan to set up and what you’ll be wearing in advance so they can spot you too!
You’ll also need to be aware of when you’ll be able to get into the spot where you want to set up and whether you’ll want to head elsewhere as there may be some places where you won’t be able to cross in order to access spectating areas, public transit, and other amenities.
If you’re looking to watch the race’s most prestigious competitors, be sure to check out the NYC Marathon website for detailed information on when and where you can expect to see the leaders of the pack.
Happy race day, fans!
- Course Map, Online, Apr 20, 2019 ,
- Spectator Information, Online, Apr 20, 2019 ,
- Insider’s Guide to Spectating the New York City Marathon, Online, Apr 20, 2019 ,
- 2017 TCS NYC Marathon Viewing Guide, Online, Sep 27, 2017 ,