The best places to watch the New York City Marathon

The New York Marathon, one of the biggest marathons in the world, is back. This year’s race will be smaller, with 33,000 runners instea...


The New York Marathon, one of the biggest marathons in the world, is back. This year’s race will be smaller, with 33,000 runners instead of the usual 55,000. But it should be a major and emotional step in New York’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Much of the Sunday marathon is the crowds. Spectators dot the 26.2 mile course and keep tired runners motivated.

The people lining the course and pulling for the participants move the runners forward, said Ted Metellus, running director of the New York Marathon.

“The greatest thing in the world is to navigate this city, and every person applauds your name, every person is thrilled to see you,” said Metellus, a 15-time marathoner. “They are part of the participant’s journey and part of their history.

Here’s a breakdown of the best places to watch the race in each borough:

Cheering on Staten Island is almost impossible, as marathoners spend most of their time there in the starting village of Fort Wadsworth before the cannon blasts over the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. But some New Yorkers have put encouraging signs in their classes, just in case a commuting bus comes by.

One of the best places to spot runners also happens to be the first. With no spectators at the start or along the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, the first two miles of the race are calm. The participants are therefore impatient to see the spectators Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, just after leaving the bridge. The closest subway stop is Bay Ridge-95th Street on the R Line, and you can hop on and off the R Train along Fourth Avenue to catch runners through Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, and Park Slope.

If you’re looking for an easy transit option through town, go to the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Flatbush Avenue, served by trains B, D, N, Q, R, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Walk from there to Avenue Lafayette between Fulton Street and Bedford Avenue, where you’ll be treated to one of the best parties along the route. Expect to hear “Gonna Fly Now,” the theme from the “Rocky” movie, on repeat.

You can catch runners at several locations in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, along Bedford Avenue from Flatbush to Nassau Avenue. Take the L train to Bedford Avenue, the M or J train to Marcy Avenue, or the G train to Nassau Avenue or Greenpoint Avenue.

About two miles of the race pass through Queens. Catch the runners as they exit the Pulaski Bridge on the Queens side, which is right around the halfway point of the race. This is where some runners realize they have only done halfway, so a little extra energy can go a long way. You can take the 7 train to Hunters Point Avenue, Vernon Boulevard or Jackson Avenue, or the G train to 21st Street.

While the Bronx is one of the shortest stretches of the race – from mile 19.5 to mile 21 – it’s also one of the best places to cheer. The 20 mile mark of the race, approximately 135th Street and Alexander Avenue, is a notoriously difficult part of the race where runners can hit the proverbial “wall”.

Many local running clubs have set up here to ring cowbells and cheer, so it’s guaranteed to be a loud place for spectators and runners. Take line 6 stopping at Brook Avenue or Third Avenue-138th Street, or lines 4 and 5 to 138th Street-Grand Concourse.

An advice ? Do not shout “Almost there” along this stretch under any circumstances. They are not, in fact, almost there.

The race crosses Manhattan twice – first out of Queens from East 59th Street to 125th Street (Mile 16 to 19.5), then again out of the Bronx before ending in Central Park (Mile 21 to 26, 2).

If you’re the type of person who likes to cheer a crowd, First Avenue from 59th Street to 96th Street in Manhattan is always crowded with spectators, especially with all the bars and restaurants on this part of the course.

In East Harlem, catch the runners just before they head to their 20th mile anywhere along First Avenue from 110th Street to 125th Street, served at several points by metro line 6. The further north you go, the fewer people there are and the more your encouragement will be needed for the marathon runners.

You can also catch the runners just before they arrive at Central Park at Fifth Avenue from East 105th to East 90th Street. This is a particularly iconic section of the race, dotted with museums to the east and bordered by Central Park to the west. Many train lines will take you there, including lines 4, 5, 6 and Q.

And if you want to scream and scream as the runners triumphantly cross the finish line, you can to buy tickets for the grandstand event at West 67th Street and West Drive.

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