New York City Marathon Inspiration

The New York City Marathon is pure magic — and it’s just two weeks away! That means it’s officially time to start stalking the weather and watching inspirational videos ’round the clock, right?

Everything about this race gives me happy chills, from the mile marker flags throughout the boroughs to the bleachers lining Central Park, leading up to the finish line. The marathon draws a palpable energy from runners and spectators alike and it is, to many in this city, the best day of the year.

New York City Marathon
OH HAPPY DAY! Running the race — at the tail end of a Crohn’s flare — in 2013.

If you’re a New Yorker, this is your hometown race. It starts with incredible views of Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn, and the Hudson River. It winds through roads you know and love, and finishes in Central Park — the world’s best backyard.

If you’re a visitor to New York, welcome! This is the absolute best way to see and experience a taste of the five boroughs, in my opinion.

Every year, whether I’m running, volunteering, or screaming from the sidelines, I look forward to the first Sunday in November. If you’ve been training for the past few months, you’re probably already pretty psyched and ready to get to Fort Wadsworth, where the race begins. But if you need some extra pep in your tapered step, here are a few things that may help…

New York City Marathon
Look at that picture-perfect foliage!

If you’re running the New York City Marathon for the first time and have questions about what it’s like at the start, this post will be helpful. (And reassuring — I’ve run the race twice and never felt like I was waiting around forever. It’s not bad, promise, and people are really nice!)

Want a super comprehensive guide to the course beyond the basics? Here you go

Wondering what the difference is between the Blue, Orange, and Green waves? This post has loads of helpful pre-race information. (No, you won’t get peed on if you’re on the lower level of the bridge. Urban race myth!)

New York City Marathon
The expo is massive, and is frankly a little much for me. I tend to pop in, get my bib, say hi to any friends who are there, and then get out. But do you.

This video, because what’s more New Yorky than gorgeous shots of New York and Alec Baldwin’s voice? “Today, the city that doesn’t stop for anything — stops for this. A marathon.” Watch it without getting chills. I dare you.

This video, which is funny and well done and makes me cry. Of course.

This video, which also makes me cry. I cry at everything. Ugh.

This video, which gives you a good look at what the start village is actually like (don’t stress about it!) and then brings you along as Casey Neistat runs the race.

This video of Alicia Keys running the marathon. When she hugs her family at the finish line? Ugh. Precious.

This video, which gives a good idea of what it’s like along the course. So many sights and sounds! So many bands! So many happy people!

This video, which was adorable and creative, and helped these two runners raise $9,000 for Fred’s Team.

This video, which shows some cool angles of the race starting on the Verrazano Bridge. I love that view.

This video, which always makes me LOL. It’s funny…cuz it’s true.

Meb Keflezighi winning the race in 2009. Who doesn’t love Meb?

This list of FREE events happening in the city leading up to the marathon. Run with Meb and Shalane Flanagan!

As for me? I ran the marathon for the first time in 2013, then ran it again in 2014. Last year, I volunteered at a water station with November Project, which was just as fun — and possibly just as tiring — as running the race. It’s too late to sign up to be an official volunteer now, but I highly recommend doing it at least once.

New York City Marathon
Volunteering is SO FUN! You get to be so helpful!!!

My personal tips for the race offer nothing you haven’t already heard a million times:

  • Bring warm clothes to wear while you’re waiting at the start village.
  • If you normally run with headphones, consider ditching them, at least for the first half of the race. The crowds in Brooklyn are better than any Rihanna remix you may have cued up.
  • Look around. Even if you’re going for a PR, there’s so much to see over the course of these 26.2 miles. Take it all in as best you can.
  • There are porta-potties every mile along the course. Yay!
  • Yes, the walk out of the park after you finish feels long, whether you checked a bag or not. But it’s kind of nice to keep the legs moving, so do that.

If you’re running it, enjoy every single step. Enjoy the views from the ferry and the camaraderie at the start village in Staten Island. Enjoy hearing “New York, New York” at the start line, then enjoy winding through Brooklyn (Brooklyn is my favorite part of the course!). Enjoy the official November Project water station at Mile 10! Enjoy the short-lived quiet as you climb — and then descend — the Queensboro Bridge, and then enjoy the madness that is Manhattan’s First Avenue (control the pace here, though!). Enjoy your quick jaunt through the Bronx, then enjoy the awesomely lively crowds in Harlem. Try to enjoy the slow, gradual climb down Fifth Avenue, and then make that right turn into Central Park.

New York City Marathon
Approaching Engineers’ Gate!

As you turn into the park at Engineers’ Gate, give a little wave to my friend Bernie (Bernie’s Bench!), and take in all that gorgeous foliage. Enjoy breezing down Cat Hill (I always give a little salute to the cat perched on the hill, which will be on your right), then exit the park for a bit, knowing the finish line is, actually, right around the corner. Enjoy the people screaming along Central Park South, then make that final right turn back into the park.

New York City Marathon
Finishing the 2014 race with my good buddy Steve, who gave me a pep talk all the way from mile 20 to the finish line. He refused to leave my side, and I love him for it.

Enjoy the first glimpse of the finish line up ahead, the music blasting, and the final tiny climb toward the line.

Enjoy it all. It’s the best day ever.

New York City Marathon

WHO’S RUNNING IT?! Who’s watching? Who’s volunteering? And of course, share anything you have on hand to spread the excitement! It’s the most wonderful time of the year!



22 Responses

  1. I just watched most of these and they made me so jazzed and scared and almost cry all at the same time. Cannot wait to run my first New York! Thanks for sharing all of these.

  2. I have run 10 marathons, including my hometown Boston, and I LOVE NYC’s. I ran it in 2013 and will never forget the crowds, and the electicty in the city. Best marathon!

  3. I’m running NYC for the first time and I am so excited and eager to see what this race is all about! Thanks for this post- the tips are really appreciated, especially for us out of towners. Here’s to a great race for all who are running (including me! Haha!)

  4. INSPIRED! I’ve been getting back into running lately and feeling like I couldn’t do it…this inspired me to sign up for my first 10k in forever! Once I tackle that I’m hoping to have the courage to try for a half marathon. Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Running it for the 1st time. Reading yours and Eric @ blogs and starting to get excited about. It will be my 3rd Marathon (1st was SoMo in 2014, 2nd was 2016 Dopey). Worried about hills and not a lot of training but… let’s enjoy and leave my PR for the next one. Unfortunately. Thanks for all this videos!

  6. The video of people trying to walk after the marathon is my favorite thing ever.

    I will never forget the moment my grandparents dropped me off at my apartment after my first marathon weekend.

    I opened the door to my 5th floor walk up and was immediately like, SHIT, SHIT, I live in a 5th floor walk up!!!

    Going down the stairs backwards is a MUST post-marathon 🙂

  7. So I have never seriously entertained the idea of running a marathon (although have always felt the NYC Marathon is the only one I’d want to do being a Brooklyn-born New Yorker at heart), but watching that second video you posted – the Ginger Runner – made me want to sign up immediately… chills!!!

  8. After volunteering for the past 3 years. At the start and last 2 at the finish handing out medals, I finally will see it from the other side. Love the post and now more excited than ever since I’ll be running it for the first time with my son and making some awesome memories. Great read and inspiring. Thank you so much for the post.

  9. I ran NYC Marathon in 2014 and it was the best race experience I have ever had! It was a very cold and windy day that year but New Yorkers made me feel like a SUPERSTAR and melted my heart forever! I will run it again!

  10. Ok so this is my second Marathon, and I am scared to death about the hills. Hills are my arch nemesis, and everything I have read has me a little freaked out. Other than that it sounds like it is going to be a blast. Will definitely watch everything in your post here and share with my friends that are running with me.

    Thank you and wish me and the hills luck!! LOL

    1. Don’t be scared to death! There are some hills in the race, but NOTHING to panic about — I promise! For a little breakdown: The first hill is mile one, and that’s actually the steepest hill of the whole race! But great news: You won’t even feel it. You’re running up the Verrazano, and you’ll be so excited that you won’t even notice you’re going uphill. Plus, you want to take the first mile slow anyway. There are some little rollers in Brooklyn, but nothing noteworthy. The next bump in the road comes at the halfway point: You’ll run up the Pulaski Bridge to cross into Queens. This hill is over fast, and it’s not too steep. It’s only slightly challenging because, well, you’ve already run 13.1 miles! Next up is the Queensboro Bridge, which feels tough because it’s well into the race, and there are no spectators on the bridge, so it’s quiet. I use that as a time to really focus before the crowds pick up again. It’s kind of a nice break in excitement. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be at the top of the bridge — which means you get to run DOWN it and onto First Avenue, which is SO fun. The final incline worth mentioning is Fifth Avenue, which you’ll hit around mile 22. It doesn’t feel like a HILL, it’s just a steady incline for about a mile. You’ll be tired here, but I remind myself that the incline doesn’t matter — you’re going to be tired at mile 22 of a marathon no matter what! There are also good crowds here and some gorgeous foliage along Central Park, so enjoy that. And then you can cruise! YOU’VE GOT THIS!

  11. Love this post Ali! You have me super pumped to run. this will be my first NYC Marathon so all of your tips and links to blogs with tips are super helpful! Hope you have an excellent marathon and perhaps we’ll run into each other 🙂

  12. I ran a local half marathon last weekend and I’m visiting New York this weekend so this gave me lots of feelings. I love New York and I love running (sometimes). I haven’t run a marathon yet, but this post makes me really want to! Also, I have to say, while it’s not NY and not a marathon- the Broad Street 10 miler in Philadelphia is an amazing race with incredible support in a beautiful city. Highly recommend.

  13. I love this post and I love you!! I never ever have a desire to run another marathon, but I would be lying if I didn’t say, your post made me want to run the NYCM and maybe a tear ran down my face, maybe.

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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