The ING New York City Marathon has a very close relationship with Central Park.
The original Marathon, run in 1970, took place entirely in the park. Runners covered over four grueling loops of the park, including the daunting hills at the northern end, and out of the 127 that entered only 55 actually completed the course. Now, after wending its way through all five boroughs, the race enters the park at E. 90th Street. and Fifth Ave. and, after a brief sprint outside along Central Park South, finishes at Tavern on the Green. (For an in depth look at the course go to the ING New York City Marathon Site.)
For spectators Central Park also offers one of the best places for watching the race. While being cheered on by the over two million fans anywhere along the course is exhilarating and inspiring and few runners ever forget the thrill of running along First Avenue. in Manhattan and being urged on by the screaming throngs (especially the ones that have spent the afternoon in one of the many bars that line the avenue) it is along the last few miles inside the park that the encouragement is most appreciated.
As you might imagine the finish line is bit crowded and you actually have to purchase tickets watch the runners cross the finish line. However the east side of the park, from 90th Street. down, offers lots of great places to view the race and cheer on the runners. There are just a few simple suggestions that might be worth remembering.
1) Stay behind the barricades – they’re there for the runner’s protection as well as your own. There is nothing quite as heartbreaking as getting to mile 24 only to trip over a spectator stepping out onto the park drive.
2) Get an ETA if you’re waiting for a specific runner – you can usually predict with some degree of accuracy by taking the runner’s projected pace and multiply by the mile marker you’re nearest.
3) What to bring – individually wrapped hard candy is a favorite, sugar helps even near the end, and you can make yourself extremely useful just by bringing a roll of paper towels and passing them out to runners as they go by. After sweating and swilling water on the run for a few hours things can get pretty soggy.
4) The New York Road Runner’s Club and the thousands of volunteers do a brilliant job helping runners reunite with friends and family. Besides being proud and sore at the end of the race participants are HUNGRY. A pat on the back is appreciated – a bag of Fritos and you’re a hero.
5) If you can’t find the time to attend the race, or are not near enough, you can always follow your favorite runner’s progress over the internet. You can track up to ten different runners on the New York Road Runners Website. All you need is the number of the microchip that each runner wears on their shoe. With that information you can tell every time the runner you’re tracking crosses over one of the mats along the route.
In any case it’s important to get out and give any support that you can – marathon runners spend many months training and, in some cases, travel from all over the world to participate in the New York Marathon. You can miss brunch and NFL football one Sunday. Especially if you’re a Jets fan.