The Best Places to Watch the New York City Marathon


The New York City Marathon, one of the world’s largest marathons, is back. This year’s race will be smaller, with 33,000 runners instead of the usual 55,000. But it is expected to be a major, and emotional, milestone in New York’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

A big part of marathon Sunday is the crowd. Spectators dot the 26.2-mile course and keep tired runners motivated.

People who line the course and pull for the participants power the runners forward, Ted Metellus, the New York City Marathon race director, said.


“The single greatest thing in the world is navigating through this city, and every single person is cheering your name, every single person is excited to see you,” Metellus, a 15-time marathoner, said. “They are part of the participant’s journey and their story.”

Here’s a breakdown of the best places to watch the race in each borough:

It is nearly impossible to cheer in Staten Island, as marathoners spend most of their time there in the Fort Wadsworth start village before the cannon goes off on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. But some New Yorkers put encouraging signs in their yards, just in case a bus shuttling runners passes by.

One of the best places to spot runners also happens to be the first. Without any spectators at the start or along the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, the first two miles of the race are quiet. So participants are eager to see spectators along Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, right after they exit the bridge. The closest subway stop is Bay Ridge-95th Street on the R line, and you can hop on and off the R train along Fourth Avenue to catch runners through Bay Ridge, Sunset Park and Park Slope.

If you’re looking for an easy transit option from across the city, go to the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Flatbush Avenue, served by the B, D, N, Q, R, 2, 3, 4 and 5 trains. Walk from there to Lafayette Avenue between Fulton Street and Bedford Avenue, where you’ll be treated to one of the best parties along the course. Expect to hear “Gonna Fly Now,” the theme from the movie “Rocky,” on loop.

You can catch runners at multiple points in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, along Bedford Avenue from Flatbush to Nassau Avenue. Take the L train to Bedford Avenue, the M or J train to Marcy Avenue or the G train to Nassau Avenue or Greenpoint Avenue.


About two miles of the race go through Queens. Catch runners as they exit the Pulaski Bridge on the Queens side, which is right around the race’s halfway mark. This is where some runners realize they are only halfway done, so a little extra energy can go a long way. You can take the 7 train to Hunters Point Avenue, Vernon Boulevard or Jackson Avenue, or the G train to 21st Street.

Though the Bronx is one of the shortest stretches of the race — from Mile 19.5 to Mile 21 — it is also one of the best places to cheer. 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.”

Many local running clubs set up there to ring cowbells and cheer, so it is guaranteed to be a boisterous spot for spectators and runners. Take the 6 line stopping at Brook Avenue or Third Avenue-138th Street, or the 4 and 5 lines to 138th Street-Grand Concourse.


One tip? Do not, under any circumstances, scream, “You’re almost there,” along this stretch. They are not, in fact, almost there.

The race moves through Manhattan twice — first coming out of Queens from East 59th Street to 125th Street (Mile 16 to 19.5), and then again heading out of the Bronx before ending in Central Park (Mile 21 to 26.2).

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.

In East Harlem, catch the runners just before they head into their 20th mile anywhere along First Avenue from 110th Street to 125th Street, served at multiple points by the 6 subway line. The further north you go, the less crowded it is and the more needed your encouragement will be for the marathoners.

You can also catch runners just before they finish in Central Park at Fifth Avenue from East 105th to East 90th Street. This is a particularly iconic section of the race, dotted by museums on the east and bordered by Central Park on the west. Many train lines will take you here, including the 4, 5, 6 and Q lines.


And if you want to scream and shout as runners triumphantly cross the finish line, you can purchase tickets for the grandstand event at West 67th Street and West Drive.

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