We are totally biased – the New York Marathon is, in our opinion, one of the running highlights of the year and we would return every year if it was possible.

So much has already been written about New York City and the Marathon – it’s difficult to know what we can add. We decided not to attempt a blow-by-blow account of the marathon or our trip, but instead to pick out our own personal highlights – those stand-out moments that make you think “just wow!”.  And to add a few tips along the way.

Even that is difficult. Few places have such a continuous wow-factor as New York and Manhattan in particular. More photos than usual in this post – they probably say it better than words. Here we go.

Arriving in New York – first sightings of the Manhattan skyline

Each time we have come to New York, the first sighting of the Manhattan skyline has had the same effect – just wow.

If you arrive at JFK it’s not the easiest journey into the centre. Either a train journey with at least one change, airport bus which gets stuck in traffic and goes round the houses between hotels, or an expensive cab ride which also gets stuck in traffic but at least you don’t have to make any effort. This time we plumped for the cab – a mistake time-wise (it was the early evening rush hour) but the views were phenomenal.

Tip : We like to book a hotel between Times Square and Central Park because then you can walk the short distance back after the marathon. The only year we didn’t, we got caught out by subway and road closures and our hopeless attempts at navigation. We ended up walking half the length of Manhattan lost, cold and tired. There are plenty of hotels in this area at all price ranges. This year we stayed at The Crowne Plaza Times Square. The rooms have two double beds so you can save money sharing.

Bond 45 and eating out

On our first evening we had arranged to meet Bob and Julie, two of our parkrun friends, for dinner. Bob booked a restaurant more or less at random between our hotels.  Bond 45 was a really good find and we returned there later in the trip for lunch. Though the name does not suggest it, it had very old-style New York decor complete with singer and piano. Not exactly cheap but good quality food and an interesting menu with huge portions – good for sharing. What a great start to the weekend.

Having said that, all the places we ate at during the trip we would recommend – from Gallagher’s Steak house, our choice for some special celebrations on marathon day; Beyond Sushi, a tiny vegetarian sushi bar (some of the best sushi ever); to Tony’s, a busy authentic Italian for pre-race pasta. We found the choice and quality of food in general to be excellent, and that goes for virtually any deli or diner we popped into.

Tip: Although Manhattan is awash with eating places, as in many other cities we recommend you book your pre-marathon and post-marathon meals. Even Friday was busy and many restaurants were sold out at popular eating times. 50,000 + extra people are in the city for the marathon – it’s not surprising.

Central Park at sunrise

We arrived later in the week than usual this year, so our first morning was Saturday and we had a lot to fit in.

We try to take advantage of jet-lag and early waking to go out while Manhattan itself is waking up, and fit a run in Central Park as the sun is rising. More magical moments shared with runners from all nations. 

The shake-out fitted in well with supporting some of our party who were not running the marathon but were running the Dash to the Finish 5k – a brilliant option and chance to run through the streets of Manhattan for non-marathon runners. It’s a bit expensive for a 5k (nothing about this weekend is cheap) but you do get a warm and stylish bobble hat.

After the race we had an Irish bar to visit – Carragher’s, a Liverpool supporters’ bar on 39th Street, to watch LFC vs Aston Villa. As always there was a brilliant atmosphere, with other Liverpool fans and marathon runners from all over the world swapping stories and making friends. The place erupted when Liverpool scored the winning goal from a free kick in the 94th minute. Another story to tell.

After we’d calmed down from the celebrations we still had the expo to visit to pick up our numbers. Saturday afternoon was actually relatively quiet with no queues. If nothing grabs you at the expo, there is more merchandise on sale in Central Park on Monday morning – the US doesn’t miss a retail opportunity!  

Tip: There are t-shirts to try on for size before you pick up your race shirt. The race shirts are long sleeved and good quality, but a bit small in general so it’s well worth making sure you get the right size. 

Cam happy that New York was ready for her birthday!

Good omen – Mo Salah image visible from hotel window

At the finish line in Central Park

Martin and Julie after the 5k Dash to the Finish

Cam with pacer Gary Dixon at the expo

Staten Island Ferry / Statue of Liberty 

With your New York marathon entry you get a choice of how to get to the start. Buses can take you direct from the New York central library, but we recommend people to choose the ferry option if they can. If you stay near Times Square it is a quick and simple subway ride to the ferry terminus where you catch the Staten Island ferry for a short trip across the bay. On Staten Island you are ushered onto a bus to the race village at Fort Wadsworth. Again we are biased here – we love watching the sunrise over the Manhattan skyline, and like to pay homage to the Statue of Liberty as we pass by. We think it’s well worth the effort. There can’t be many more dramatic journeys to marathon start lines.

Ok, so admittedly we were totally blessed with the weather throughout our whole trip – with blue skies, sunshine, and crisp  autumn mornings.  A number of times during the day when we looked up it was definitely wow. But we have had it different, so don’t let this lead you into a false sense of security regarding weather and temperature. We were lucky but we still needed our layers of throw-aways for the journey to and at the race village. If it helps you to part with them, the clothes that are left raise huge amounts of money to help people in desperate need in the city. You can’t take too much.

Tip : Embrace the whole experience. We know some people complain about the start and talk about getting cold and waiting around. You don’t need to go to your own start-colour race village or corrals until near your start time if you want to hang out with friends.  We take plenty of throw-away clothes to make sure we are warm; we chat to other runners; we make the most of the facilities such as free hot drinks, bagels, fleecy Dunkin’ Donut hats; we have a party, and all within sight of the incredible Verrazzano Narrows bridge that you will soon be running over. You don’t find yourself in situations like this too often – enjoy it to the full.

Further tip – if you want to run with someone who is not in the same start-colour, wave or corral, you can do so as long as you both run in the correct start for the higher of your two numbers. That is the only limiting factor.

View of Manhattan from the ferry

Our favourite lady!

Early morning start at 49th street subway

Made it to Staten Island

Throw-aways make huge amounts of money for charity

Mark getting a bit more rest at the race village

Bob embracing the experience

The New York Marathon – Five Boroughs and Five Bridges

The New York marathon itself again is just amazing.  Every one knows it goes through all five New York boroughs – each with its own character and breathtaking support. Those who have run it also know that it goes over five bridges, each with their own challenge. 

The Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge comes first (one of the most iconic race starts), taking runners from Staten Island into Brooklyn where supporters are already lining the streets in wait. This is followed by The Pulaski Bridge connecting Greenpoint in Brooklyn to Queens at the half-way point in the marathon. Then the long, covered, Queensboro Bridge takes runners over the East river into Manhattan. With its steep climb, many find this a low point in the race – but just look left and see the view down Manhattan to re-energise yourself. The Willis Avenue Bridge over the Harlem river to the Bronx is at the dreaded 20 mile point, so is commonly referred to as The Wall; and then after a very short visit to the Bronx, the Madison Avenue Bridge returns runners to Manhattan for the final push.  All are hills in their other lives. 

Tip : Again with your race entry you get to make a choice – bag-drop or race poncho. Take the poncho option. Our only complaint about the race is that it takes so long after the finish before you can get to your warm things. The walk for the poncho can be 30 mins but for the bag drop twice as long. You do get a foil blanket and recovery bag earlier than this but its warmth you need. Try not to walk at the slow speed of the masses finishing. You can move forward more quickly if you are still alert at this point.

Cam and Mark (modeling last years ponchos) with the Verrazzano Bridge in background

Cam and Gladys (?) on the Pulaski Bridge – halfway!

Friends and celebrations 

As amazing as the actual New York City marathon is, as ever it is the social side of running that brings us the most pleasure. This year we met up with a variety of different friends at meals and other points along the way.

Among the highlights: Martin and Julie turning up a number of places on the route to support; pacer and fellow LFC supporter Gary Dixon joining us in Carragher’s and the expo; breakfast with Jain in a proper New York diner; Mark, Bob and Julie travelling to the start of the race with us; Sharon – a Twitter friend from Boston days – supporting at the 18 mile point; lunch (and lots of Comrades chat) with Sophie on Marathon Monday. We celebrated Cam’s birthday, Rhys and Angela’s wedding, a football result, a 5k and a marathon (including an amazing PB for Jain).  We drank Long Island iced tea, Manhattans and a special Gin Recovery cocktail. We consider ourselves to be very fortunate. 

Tip : Post-marathon and on Marathon Monday, wear your medal and accept the applause. Congratulate everyone else wearing theirs – share the joy of the achievement!

Left: Celebratory breakfast with Jain after her amazing marathon PB on this tough course.

Above: She even had time for a selfie on the Queensboro bridge!

Cam trying to blend in – with Rhys and Angela

Jain – Imagine at Strawberry Fields memorial to John Lennon

Central Park – recovery run

We’ve managed to find an excuse three out of the last five years to make it to New York. Next year is the 50th anniversary of the race. Just saying …