It will move you. It will reward you. But it will also challenge you! Mastering the TCS New York City Marathon course is difficult, but certainly achievable.
Whether it’s starting on an incline at the Verrazano Bridge, climbing the Queensboro Bridge to enter Manhattan, or giving it everything you have on Fifth Avenue before you enter the park, there are many points along the way where caution and strategy are crucial to achieve your race day goals.
Our team of bloggers have run the course—some many times—and they’re here to give you some top tips, so you can better navigate the five-borough block party.
Relax. No, really. I know you're running a marathon, but take some deep breaths and relax. This applies to every single part of the race (including the minutes, hours, and days before you even reach the start line), but it's especially critical in those first few miles.
It's going to be tempting to sprint across the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, especially the second half, which is a glorious downhill. But relax. It's mile one, then it's mile two. You have 24 more to go. Let people pass you. Don't get competitive with yourself or anyone else.
Don't obsess over the numbers on your watch, should you choose to wear one. You don't want to be feeling gassed 20 minutes into the race. So just focus on breathing, on enjoying the scenery, on the sweeping views of downtown New York City to your left, and on all the cool boats in the water showing off for you.
And from start to finish, whether you have a time goal in mind or not, don't forget to take it all in. Look around. High five a few excited kids. Read the clever signs from the spectators. Check out the foliage once you get into Central Park. Don't focus so much on the run that you miss the rest of the magic happening all around you.
My top tip for people is to save your music until after First Avenue. When you enter First Avenue, you get a massive boost as it is it the noisiest part of the course—or sure feels like it.
You might need a boost to keep that speed going and avoid hitting the wall at mile 20, so if you do opt for music, pull out those headphones before you re-enter Central Park to enjoy those final few miles to the finish. Some New York themed songs are definitely an added bonus to get you focused and in the groove.
The course can be broken down into many parts. That way, it makes it digestible, but challenges you at the same time. Use the bridge inclines to get into your rhythm and use downhills as as a chance to pick up a little speed, stay controlled, focused, and present in that very mile.
An important tip is to look up and enjoy the crowds as they cheer for you. Brooklyn is electric and the First Avenue will give you goosebumps. As Charlie said above, leave the headphones off for this part!
As you head toward the last 10 miles, remember you have the chance to make or break your race, so save something in the tank for that long climb into Central Park.
The New York City Marathon is the best race in the world, but it's also one of the toughest. So my best piece of advice is to run your own race. When you're toeing the line in Staten Island, you'll be alongside more than 52,000 of your closest friends and the energy will be palpable. This is your time to breathe, take it all in, and have a moment of gratitude for how far you've come to get here.
Run smart, listen to your body, stay hydrated, and be on top of your nutrition during the race. Once you get over the Queensboro Bridge the hills are nonstop. This is where your weeks of training will come in. When attacking bridges and hills, pick up your knees, use your arms, and keep your eyes up. You knew this part was going to hurt.
Your legs will get you to Central Park, but your heart is what will get you to the finish line. Soak up every second.
A lot of this reiterates what the other authors in this piece said, but run the first half as if you have a handbrake on, reminding yourself that the last 10 miles are going to be harder than the first 16.
Most of all, enjoy First Avenue. It’s an amazing part of the course. Once you reach mile 20, there is no looking back, so give it your best. When you run up Fifth Ave, simply do a countdown of the streets from 110th to 90th, which will help you mentally. And in Central Park, empty the tanks and go all out.
The TCS New York City Marathon is a tactical course where preparation for key parts pays off. The start on the Verrazzano Bridge is the longest and steepest segment, so force yourself to control your pace, despite the excitement. Queensboro Bridge is the quietest and arguably toughest mile that will require you to maintain form and grind to the top before you meet the electric crowds on First Avenue.
Fifth Avenue at mile 22 is the final grueling climb. That is where fatigue sets in, but this is what you came for. After that you’re on the homestretch.
The TCS New York City Marathon course is full of rolling hills so it’s key to manage your pace accordingly. With the adrenaline flowing, take it easy in the first two miles. Mile one is uphill so don’t waste energy weaving through the crowds. Mile two is downhill so don’t be tempted to run too fast.
You’ll start to settle into your pace somewhere between miles three and eight in Brooklyn. For steeper parts of the course after this, I’d slow down your marathon pace slightly, and pick it up on the downhill parts.
Once you get past Mile 16 and come off the Queensboro Bridge, try to settle into a pace you feel you can hold until you cross the finish line. Good luck and have fun!
The course is tricky, and it is easy to start too enthusiastically and waste a lot of energy early on as others have mentioned.
My main advice is to be careful, don’t get caught up in the excitement and cheering. You need to watch your speed and manage the Queensboro Bridge. After that, if you reach First Avenue and you have enough energy, the real race starts. Although you will be focused on your pace and effort, don’t forget that the most important thing to do is enjoy the great atmosphere. Don’t get caught up with time too much and focus on enjoying the day.
Having run the TCS New York City marathon twice already, the best advice I can give is to be patient at the start and don’t allow the excitement of running the New York City Marathon force you to go out too fast. You will be feeling amazing at the start and may not realize you’re running uphill. Upon exiting the Verrazzano Bridge, you’ll be met by a raucous Brooklyn crowd who will trick you into running faster than you should. Resist the urge. Run steady until you cross the Queensboro Bridge at mile 16. Then show the world what you’ve got!