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The New York City Marathon is both a race and a journey through one of the world’s most diverse cities, the ultimate tour of this sprawling metropolis.
That’s 26.2 miles of bridges and hills and flat sidewalks requiring about 50,000 steps, depending on who you are, but those numbers are just too big and exhausting for any runner to conceptualize. Counting the miles or kilometers one by one isn’t much fun either.
Far better to break that down into a series of more digestible chunks, as most runners experience it, from the fastest East Africans leading the pack to people venturing out for their first two-mile attempt. figures. in the back.
This strategy has allowed me to cross the finish line in New York 10 times, and I hope it gets me there for an 11th Sunday, although some calf and hamstring strain after the marathon. from Boston last month could make that impossible.
But if you are a novice marathoner, a veteran, or someone who knows someone running and wants to understand the experience of inside the barricades, this is the 13-part marathon. (An official PDF course map is here.)
A long bridge, and then a great welcome to Brooklyn
Crossing the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge is the first challenge. Good news, this is actually the longest climb of the race. Luckily, there’s so much adrenaline from the get-go and the sparkling view of New York Harbor and the downtown skyline that runners barely feel the climb. The real challenge is not to blow too many reserves too soon, especially when there are all the temptations to fly to Brooklyn. A little patience goes a long way there.
Runners begin to hear Bay Ridge for about a quarter of a mile before they hit dry land. Take it easy. All that noise and more will be here soon, during the few bends through the neighborhood before the big right on the long straight of Fourth Avenue, where, like that, the first 5 km is almost over.
Straight on fourth avenue
It’s tall, wide, and flat. If the wind is blowing from the north this is a real drag, especially as the street calms down from the northern part of Bay Ridge for about four miles until the artery begins to divide Park Slope at the east and Red Hook, Carroll Gardens and Boerum Hill to the west.
This part of the trip is really just transportation. Fourth Avenue runs nearly six miles without a turn, the course stretching before your eyes with the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building in downtown Brooklyn looming in the distance for what seems like an eternity. Breathe, let a rhythm evolve and fall into it.
The downtown frenzy and partying of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Bed-Stuy
The calm of Fourth Avenue finally gives way to the heckling of downtown Brooklyn and then Lafayette Avenue. For three kilometers, it’s the joy of the streets lined with brownstone in the heart of the borough, where many children still offer orange slices and other refreshments. Be careful though: avenue Lafayette is uphill. Don’t let all the music coming out of the house party windows force a sprint. Soak up those two miles instead, especially as the party continues past the left turn into Bedford-Stuyvesant, and remember those cheers for what is to come.
Williamsburg takes then gives
Williamsburg offers what may be the least and funniest stretches of the marathon. It begins with a crossing of the Brooklyn-Queens freeway that ends in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood where the marathon is an afterthought. The result is a strange sort of silence and little support among the locals that can make Mile 11 seem like two or three.
But eventually that calm gives way to the Williamsburg of hipsters and art galleries and cafes and bars that flourished over the past two decades and celebrated this latter part of the first half of the race. . There is an overcrowded water station near McCarren Park and glimpses of the Queensboro Bridge that will eventually lead to Manhattan.
Cross the mark halfway, and a mile in Queens
The end of the start begins with a left at Greenpoint and a view of the Pulaski Bridge in Queens. At first glance, it looks like a tough incline. It’s sort of, because it’s longer than it initially looks. Now is the time to feel the satisfaction of putting the borough with so much real estate marathon in the rearview mirror.
The middle of the bridge is 13.1 miles. The background brings Queens and another burst of noise that didn’t exist 25 years ago in Long Island City, before the residential building boom. The Queensboro Bridge is so close, because it is. Brooklyn could have taken an hour or two. Queens is done in about 10 minutes.
Another big and long bridge
Take a deep breath: here’s the left turn on the Queensboro Bridge (known in song, of course, as the 59th Street Bridge). Manhattan is right there. Whoops. It’s not. First there is a 1.5 mile climb and descent over a quiet dark bridge, where the fatigue of the first 15 miles is impossible to ignore. There is a magnificent view of the horizon and the harbor stretch and a view of the distance already traveled, but there is also the overwhelming echo of labored breathing up to a few hundred yards past the bridge crest. Then comes the descent, which at this point imposes some punishment on tiring quads.
But right in front of you is the 16 mile mark and the sound barrier on First Avenue, and there’s only one thing to do: let gravity do its job, let the wheels spin, and pick up some speed. . This makes pounding quads easier and allows for fun. Time to smile for the big crowd.
Take it all on First Avenue
How many times until today have you run 10 miles? Probably a lot. That’s all that’s left. Think about it for a moment, then more, because the only mile that can be walked is the one you are in, so pick up that pace before you step off the bridge, then look around at the crowds six depths down the sidewalks, the people hanging from the fire escapes, the course stretching straight north for three miles, music coming from bars in the ups and downs of the Upper East Side, then the big loudspeakers by the avenue on East Harlem Apartments. There the crowds are a bit thinner there, making it the perfect place to say hello to a friend or mom, who can then head west to catch you in about half an hour on Fifth. Avenue.
Entering (and exiting) the Bronx
There is so much to love in the Bronx. The entry and exit bridges are low and short. Hip-hop and salsa fill your ears. The fast corners bring some variety after a long straight and the one to come. All the fourth arrondissement is done in a mile and a half. Try to get all of these positive thoughts flowing because the race passes the 20 mile mark in the Bronx and the pain cave door has officially opened.
Back to Manhattan
Welcome to Harlem, to the top of Fifth Avenue and the last three miles. To look for. That sky up there is over Central Park, where this thing ends. All bridges are finished. There are two parts to this next stretch of just under two miles: getting to Marcus Garvey Park and its scenic ride around the plaza, then the last 10 blocks to the top of Central Park. If you are lucky the gospel choir will sing on the steps of the church in front of Marcus Garvey Park, a sign that the Almighty is in your corner.
Fifth Avenue Hill
On a walk next to Central Park on a fall afternoon, the one mile incline would be virtually unnoticeable. But it’s 23 and 24 miles of a marathon, so it looks like Mount Everest with a top that never comes. The hill begins just after 110th Street. Rest assured that Mount Sinai Hospital is there if the going gets really tough, and that endless hill ends with the bend in 90th Street Park. When the Guggenheim Museum appears, the end is near.
Come closer now. Less than three miles to go. For the thousands of runners who trained in Central Park, being back in the loop is pure heaven. It’s time to pass the reservoir, then the Temple of Dendur at the back of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, then down the hill to the boathouse. On the side of the road, everyone is yelling how close you are – because they don’t have to go more than two miles after running 24. But then, on the brief climb past the boathouse, through the trees and through the Sheep Meadow, this is it: the finish line.
Out of the park again, on Central Park South
Another kilometer. One last wall of sound. One last long incline, albeit only a low one that depending on the energy level looks like Denali or nothing at all. Focus your eyes on the farthest traffic light and see the statue of Christopher Columbus growing larger with every step. This marks the last turn to Central Park. This thing is almost done.
Somehow, the mind thinks that right after the body is in Central Park again, it’s all over, but there’s one last bit of road left, and it’s a little longer than it shouldn’t be. There’s a small bend that keeps the finish line out of sight at first, then, in one last shot of cruelty from the marathon gods, the last 50 yards are uphill. It’s like a bad joke. Or a good one, because the hill is not a problem and it’s time to raise your arms and look up to the photo bridge for a triumphant close-up.