On the first Sunday in November, November 5, in spite of a terrorist attack just a few days earlier, millions of locals and tourists of all ages and accents will line the city’s sidewalks to cheer the beautiful diversity that is the TCS New York City Marathon. (Out of respect to the eight victims of the attack and their families, some ceremonial events were postponed.)
It’s that enormous cheering crowd that makes the New York race different from other marathons; it’s bigger, louder and more dedicated. New Yorkers seem to identify with this contest of human endurance—perhaps because just living here demands a similar kind of mental toughness.
After all, on any given day, you’d be lucky to drive the marathon route, which winds through all five boroughs in two hours, seven minutes and fifty one seconds, Eritrean Ghirmay Ghebreslassie’s finish time in 2016 (making him, at 19, the youngest male to ever win the race).
New York has also been a groundbreaker for marathons around the world. In this day of extreme sports, many people may not remember that in 1970, when Fred Lebow and the New York Road Runners inaugurated the New York Marathon, a humble 26.2-mile-run that consisted of four laps of Central Park, there were only 55 finishers (no women). In 2016 the New York City Marathon, now the world’s biggest and most popular marathon had more than 51,000 finishers..
In 1976 the race moved to its tour of the city’s five boroughs and began to grow—and grow. It has been run every year since 1970, with the exception of 2012, when it was cancelled due to the landfall of Hurricane Sandy.
Dick Traum became the first person to complete a marathon with a prosthetic leg when he finished the 1976 New York City Marathon. Two years later, Norwegian Grete Waitz broke the women’s world record, finishing in 2:32:30. This great champion went on to win the race an unprecedented nine times, not only winning the hearts of New Yorkers, but also raised the profile of all women athletes.
An official wheelchair and handcycle division was introduced in 2000, and starting in 2002, the elite women are given a 35-minute head start before the elite men and rest of the field.
Today, the TCS New York City Marathon course, a 26.2-mile block party through the world’s most diverse city, embraces the ambitions of athletes of all levels from more than 120 countries and all 50 states. It will include thousands of women, many runners eligible for Medicare, and many wheelchair competitors, both men and women—with 98,247 applicants for this year’s race.
The list of this year’s runners includes a number of celebrities, including Kevin Hart (former Runner’s World cover star); American supermodel Karlie Kloss and Prince Royce, the American singer and songwriter. (Royce will run to raise funds for the National Kidney Foundation and Change for Kids, a NYC-based organization that provides school supplies to public elementary schools.)
As always, the race will begin on Staten Island. When the gun sounds, the mighty Verrazano-Narrows Bridge quakes as the runners stampede into Brooklyn (miles 2 to 12). The halfway point is on the Pulaski Bridge as runners enter Queens. This is a key point in the race, both physically and psychologically. Four-time-winner (1976-79) Bill Rodgers called this “a critical point in the course—uphill onto the bridge and down into the city. Hills are where marathons are won and lost.”
During the 15th mile, runners head up a ramp to get on the Queensboro Bridge, which takes them to First Avenue in Manhattan. “When you come down into Manhattan,” Rogers recalled, “the crowd is unbelievable.” Many Manhattanites gather along First Avenue for the first glimpses of the field as it heads north to the Bronx via the Willis Avenue Bridge, which takes runners briefly into the Bronx in the 20th mile.
Runners then reenter Manhattan and head down Fifth Avenue to enter Central Park in the 23rd mile. Runners exit the park just after the 25-mile mark to run along Central Park South, reenter the park at Columbus Circle, and finish approximately 600 meters later by Tavern on the Green.
Race Day Broadcasts (All times given are Eastern)
In the New York tri-state area: Watch the broadcast live on WABC-TV, Channel 7 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Pre-race features from Fort Wadsworth begin at 7:00 a.m. Live streaming will be available on ABC7NY.com and via the ABC app from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Across the United States: Watch live coverage from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on ESPN2 and via WatchESPN on computers, tablets, smartphones, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox 360, and Xbox One for those who have video subscriptions from affiliated providers. Pre-race and continuing coverage will also be carried live nationally on ESPN’s live multi-screen sports network ESPN3 (accessible on WatchESPN platforms) from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. And don’t miss the national highlight show on your local ABC affiliates from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. ET (check local listings for other time zones).
Around the world: International viewers can watch the broadcast live from 9:10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. via a variety of global broadcast partners. International viewers should check local listings.