It is estimated that for the NY Marathon in 2016, over two million spectators will be scattered across the 26.2 mile long Marathon route that winds its way through New York’s five boroughs to support and cheer on the courageous runners. And in this article we’re going to share with you the top 5 New York marathon tips for spectators (because, probably just like me, you’re not too big of a runner and, to be honest, it’s best to leave the running tips to the Pros).

Seeing the marathon live far exceeds watching it on TV and always proves to be an extremely moving and inspirational experience. You can almost feel the runners’ pain and commitment as they run or hobble by — from first timers to those dedicating their immense personal effort in memory of someone special, to the elderly or disabled, and even the elite striving for a piece of the prize money.

This year promises to be another nail biter at the finish line among the elite runners. Just as the runners plan and prepare for the big day, so should spectators. And without further ado, here are five tips to get the most out of your NY Marathon experience:

1. Know the route and choose your spot wisely
Consult the Marathon course map to figure out your desired & best location. The marathon has staggered starts with wheelchair competitors and hand cyclists first at 8:30 and 8:55 respectively. They’re followed by the elites: women at 9:10 and men at 9:40am; remember these guys run crazy fast so if you want to see them come by your chosen location, clock it correctly — their pace is about 5 minutes a mile. The rest of the 45,000 runners take off in waves at 9:40, 10:10 and 10:40.

The biggest and loudest crowds are on First Avenue between miles 16 and 18, from 59th to 96th street. North of 96th things get a bit calmer if that’s your thing. One of the best spots in my opinion, although very crowded, is mile 16 on the Manhattan side of the Queensboro bridge. It’s cool to see the runners come across the bridge and into Manhattan for the first time as they head up famed First Avenue. But absolutely nothing beats the final mile. For the most intense experience find a spot on Central Park South. The home stretch is the most touching to witness so expect an emotional ride and bring tissues!

2. Plan ahead to meet friends and family who are running
With 45,000 runners, don’t leave it to chance to see your friend or brother on race day. Know what wave they’re in, what their minutes per mile pace is and agree to locations in advance. Wear something that stands out and let them know how to spot you: sometimes it’s easier for them to see you. You can also go high tech and track your friend on the course through text messaging, iPhone apps, or the marathon website.

new york marathon tips

3. Dress appropriately
Dress in layers for the varying temperatures throughout the day. Check the weather forecast in advance so you know if rain gear is needed. Standing is in your future so dress comfortably and most importantly be smart about your shoe choice. Other essentials include your phone, as well as food and beverages. Restaurants along the most crowded parts of the course are packed and once you stake your claim on a good location, you won’t want to give it up.

4. Host a party
If you live along the route, be a hero to your friends and host a Marathon party. New Yorkers love brunch so it’s a natural winner on Marathon day, especially when combined with the comfort of an apartment close to the action for mimosa and bloody refills, bathroom breaks or to warm up.

5. Volunteer
For the ultimate Marathon experience, don’t just spectate, participate! The marathon exists because of the generous help of volunteers and there are lots of different ways to get involved through the official ING Marathon organization or through your company. I volunteered handing out water to runners, which was both rewarding and memorable, so just get it done.

Get out and enjoy the marathon first hand, you’ll be glad you did. Most importantly, bring lots of energy and enthusiasm to shower on the runners. It means so much to them, it’s easy to give and their smiles will stay with you for a long time.

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