After a long, marathon-less year, the New York City Marathon returns in triumphant fashion on Sunday, Nov. 7.
About 30,000 runners have signed up to sweat, ache and push their legs to the limit over the 26.2-mile course that winds through all five boroughs. The race begins in Staten Island and loops through Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx before ending in Manhattan’s Central Park.
Runners have been waiting for Sunday’s race for two years, since 2019, as last year’s race was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. The last time a New York marathon was canceled before that was in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy.
While this year’s race will be largely unchanged from previous years, runners and spectators will see some new precautions in place for Covid-19.
Conditions for Sunday look like perfect running weather, with a forecast for partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the high 40s in the morning.
Ted Metellus, the race director, compared the celebratory feeling of this year’s marathon to the 2001 race, which came shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. The field size that year was also smaller and had fewer international athletes, he said, but a huge number of New Yorkers came to the race to shout their support and cheer on the city as it returned to a sense of normalcy.
“It was a moment that the city did come out and show a tremendous amount of appreciation,” Metellus said. “So many thank you’s, so many welcome backs. I feel like there will be a similar feeling this year in 2021, seeing what we all went through last year.”
Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s race.
When does the race start?
8 a.m. Professional wheelchair division
8:22 a.m. Handcycle category and select athletes with disabilities
8:40 a.m. Professional women
9:05 a.m. Professional men
9:10 a.m. Wave 1
9:55 a.m. Wave 2
10:40 a.m. Wave 3
11:20 a.m. Wave 4
12 p.m. Wave 5
What’s the marathon route?
The 26.2-mile race begins in Staten Island and turns north through Brooklyn and Queens. Runners then head west across the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan, up north into the Bronx, and back to Manhattan to finish in Central Park.
If you’re looking for an easy transit option from across the city, go to the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, served by the B, D, N, Q, R, 2, 3, 4 and 5 trains.
If you’re looking to make a big impact on the runners, go to the Bronx. The race’s 20-mile mark, around 135th Street and Alexander Avenue, is a notoriously challenging part of the race where runners may hit the proverbial “wall.”
If you’re the kind of person who likes a crowd to cheer with, First Avenue from 59th Street to 96th Street in Manhattan is always lined with spectators, especially with all the bars and restaurants on this part of the course.
When are winners expected to finish?
9:30 a.m. Professional men’s wheelchair athletes
9:40 a.m. Professional women’s wheelchair athletes
11:05 a.m. Professional women
11:15 a.m. Professional men
Beginning at 11:55 a.m. Finishers throughout the day
What’s different about this year’s race?
The field of 30,000 participants is about 40 percent smaller than the 2019 event, which saw a little more than 53,000 runners.
Runners must provide proof of at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, or a negative coronavirus test taken within 48 hours of the race. Vaccination data for this year’s slate of runners is still being compiled, said Stuart Lieberman, a spokesman for New York Road Runners, which hosts the marathon each year.
Race organizers have also taken several steps to reduce crowd sizes in certain areas, and are requiring masks in the start and the post-finish areas. Runners will begin in five different waves, one wave more than previous years, allowing more time for people to spread out along the route. Runners will also now be allowed to wear hydration belts during the race to limit crowds at water stations.
At the finish line, marathon staff members and volunteers will hand participants their medals and ponchos rather than draping them directly over their necks.
How can I watch the race on TV?
The marathon is broadcast live on ESPN2 nationally (8:30-11:30 a.m. Eastern time) and WABC-TV, Channel 7 locally (8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Eastern).
The race is also broadcast on a variety of global networks, listed here.
Which celebrities are running the race?
The U.S. women’s national soccer team has several Olympic gold medal and World Cup-winning alumnae running, including Abby Wambach, Lauren Holiday, Leslie Osborne and Kate Markgraf.
The former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber is a veteran marathoner who will be running in his seventh in-person New York City Marathon. Christy Turlington, a model and activist, is also a seasoned marathoner and will be competing in this year’s event.
The Broadway actress and Tony Award winner Kelli O’Hara; the Grammy-winning musicians Marcus Mumford and Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons; as well as several stars from “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” franchises, including Tayshia Adams and Matt James, are also among the celebrities running.
Alexandra E. Petri contributed reporting.