Anyone who has ever ran the TCS New York City Marathon will tell you about how the marathon inspired, rewarded, and moved them! But they will also tell you about the course and how important it is to smartly navigate your way through the whole 26.2 miles.
The TCS New York City Marathon course runs through all five of New York City's boroughs: Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan, finishing in the iconic Central Park. Whether it’s starting on an incline at the Verrazzano Bridge, climbing the Queensboro Bridge to enter Manhattan, or giving it everything you have on Fifth Avenue before you enter the park, the marathon has many points along the way where caution and strategy are crucial to achieve your race day goals.
Our team of bloggers have ran 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.
Resist the Urge to Speed up Too Soon
The TCS New York City Marathon is a tough course, but you can be tougher. Study the course ahead of time to familiarize yourself with the tough parts starting with the Verrazzano Bridge where you’ll run uphill for a mile, then downhill for another mile as you enter Brooklyn. The crowds will compel you pick up the pace, but resist the urge to speed up as you run through Brooklyn and Queens.
The second biggest challenge will be the Queensboro Bridge at the 15 mile mark. You’ll be alone with your thoughts for a mile before exiting the bridge and running through the sound cannon on First Avenue in Manhattan. Start picking up the pace and prepare to get to work. It’s smooth sailing for the next eight miles.
The final three miles will be a bit bumpy, but you can rely on the energy you conserved at the first half to carry you up Fifth Avenue and through Central Park to the Finish!
Decide First What You Want From the Race!
The most important thing is to first decide what you want to get out of the race.
Are you looking to PR? Are you looking to take in the crowds? Are you looking to take photos along the course and really enjoy the sights and sounds?
Once you’ve decided that, you can create your race strategy. When I’m racing, I generally aim for a 10-10-10 strategy—I break up the race into the first 10miles, the second 10 miles, and then the last 10K.
The first 10miles I take about 1min and 30 seconds slower than my race pace. I do this because otherwise I’d have a tendency to fly out too fast and burn out later. Pro tip—your watch probably won’t work as well for the first few miles because of everyone around you on the bridge, all wearing watches and connecting to GPS at the same time.
Start your watch, but ignore it and take your time. The second 10 miles, I try to negative split and approach my marathon goal pace. And then for the last 10K, I give it everything I got.
That being said, I also respect the topography of the course. For example, the Queensboro Bridge will definitely slow me down and there will be cheer stations along the way that I will pause to take in. But figure out what is most important to you? Then create a strategy to make it happen!
Remember It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
It’s a breathtaking start to a race, as you listen to Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” On a clear day, to the left the Manhattan skyline sparkles, coupled with the New York Fire Department fire boat with water cannons blasting the water high in the air.
Then it’s a steady climb across the Verrazzano Bridge, the music starts to fade away, and you hear the sound of multiple footsteps. As you approach the end of the bridge you start to hear the distant roar of the crowd.
As you enter Brooklyn, the roar gets louder, the crowd reveals itself, and you start to understand that this is a vibrant block party all the way to the finish in Central Park. With so much energy from the crowd, remember to draw strength from it, but don’t let the adrenaline get the better of you in the early miles.
At the start, run slightly slower than your target pace or just settle into your target pace and hold it! It’s easy to get carried away, so don’t use all your energy and run too quickly, as you’ll need that strength later for the hills!
Focus on the Medal When Things Get Hard
Wear your name on your shirt! You’ll thank me at mile 22 when you are climbing Fifth Avenue. When you hit that incline, it can feel like you’re climbing Mount Everest. But when people see your name on a shirt, they will cheer your name like they are your best friends. It really pushes you.
Mile 23, when you enter the park, can feel like the end, but you need to remember that those three miles will feel harder than the first three miles of the race. Take a deep breath, remind yourself that you are running a marathon, it’s not meant to be easy, and focus on the finish line (and the medal)!
Save it for Later
The TCS New York City Marathon is a challenging course. With that in mind, it's important to pace yourself correctly. Don't go out too fast. Save your energy for later in the race.
Embrace the bridges and get ready for a hilly finish in Central Park. When you catch yourself running too fast, tell yourself "Save it, save it." This has helped me a lot last year. My number one tip though is to enjoy the race. The energy takes you through. There is just nothing like running the NYC Marathon. This race leaves you with a bang.
Let the Noise Carry You
I'm no Des Linden, and my running tagline is "positive splits for positive people," so do as I say, not as I do. I've run the TCS New York City Marathon three times and have run parts of the course hundreds of time, if not more, and my best advice is to let the crowds carry you as much as possible.
Even if you've done every single one of your training runs with music and think you "can't" run without music, now's the time to try. The first few miles up, over, and down the Verrazzano Bridge will be a breeze. Those fly by.
Through Brooklyn, the crowds are so thick and loud that you'll keep feeling great. I never realize I'm running the New York City Marathon until that climb at the halfway mark, which is admittedly not my favorite. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. For every uphill, there's a down, and you'll be supported the entire way.
Take Time to Enjoy the Experience
The most important thing for me is to enjoy the TCS NYC Marathon experience. This is New York City’s biggest block party and celebration of running, and it’s the most epic marathon experience to take in, so revel in it!
Let the crowds move you onward with their cheers and be sure to put your name or nickname on your shirt so they can cheer you on. Also, check out all the creative, funny, and inspiring signs, and give people high-fives along the course when you need an extra boost.
To me, what makes the NYC Marathon unique and so moving is it’s people, so let the city’s enthusiasm and energy keep pushing you onward.
Follow the Leader on the Bridge
OK, let me try to break this down, bit by bit.
Staten Island: Top tip—don't trip on any of the clothing discarded by runners as you make your way up to the start line.
Brooklyn: It can get cold and breezy on Fourth Avenue stay to the left side of the divider and in the sunlight. Pop over to the right for a huge burst of energy—that’s where the larger crowds are located.
Queens: The Queensboro Bridge is mile 15.5. Pick someone in front of you and try to stay on his or her tail. It’ll be over before you know it.
Manhattan: First Avenue is the hill that you’ll never feel, because of all the spectators and cheering. Remember to pace yourself here. The crowds will carry you from 59th Street all the way up to the Willis Avenue.
The Bronx: One of the most enthusiastic areas of the race, it’s almost like the residents know that we’re about to hit the wall. Look for yourself on the giant video screen.
Back to Manhattan: Fifth Avenue from 110th to 90th is a gradual one-mile hill. You’re climbing about 100 feet over the mile— average grade of 1.8%—easy peasy, right?
For a look at the TCS New York City Marathon course map, click here! Also, be sure to get expert course strategy tips from our coaches at the NYRR Running Lab, located within the TCS New York City Marathon Expo Presented by New Balance.