The New York City Marathon, first held in 1970 with 127 runners in Central Park, celebrates its 50th running this year — and an expected 30,000 people will be on the starting line. Ten New York Times photographers will be on site to cover the race, an increase from the one who shot the event in 1970.
Photo editors recently dug through The Times’s archives and collected images from the last five decades for a recent special section that.
The photos follow the race from the early-morning hours before the start through the last finishers well after dark, accompanied by narration from a longtime Times marathon reporter, Jeré Longman. You can also readwho have covered the race for The Times.
Jonathan Epstein, 53, is at the race as a member of the Veteran Corps of Artillery of the State of New York, a ceremonial historical military unit.
“I feel good. It’s a great atmosphere around the marathon. Very happy to be doing my part with these great guys.”
Not very long ago, there was a pretty strong case to be made that New York Road Runners, the organization that owns and stages the New York City Marathon, was the de facto leader of running in the United States.
The organization helped establish and fund a group of runners who led the revival of elite American long distance running. It hosted the Olympic Trials marathon ahead of the 2008 Olympics. It established a groundbreaking antidoping and testing policy. It expanded theto allow for more than 50,000 finishers, making it the world’s largest. Its annual revenues surpassed $110 million, roughly triple the amount that U.S.A. Track & Field, the national governing body for running, collects most years.
That primacy hit the wall during the last year and a half. The pandemic caused the cancellation of five of the organization’s most profitable events, leading to an 80 percent drop in racing revenue. Roughly half of the 260 staff members lost their jobs., a group of employees anonymously accused senior management of behaving insensitively on issues of racism and diversity, and of prioritizing profits over the needs of junior employees and the local community. The complaints were part of an internal investigation that led to sweeping changes, including the ouster of the club’s chief executive, .
Now the far smaller organization is preparing to hold a far smaller version of the marathon, conducting the race for the first time in two years as its board continues to search for a permanent chief executive. That person will have to continue the work that began in recent months to reestablish what originally enabled the organization to become a dominant force in its sport — the fervent support of its members, its small but loyal work force and the trust of runners of all backgrounds throughout the city.
Grace Ackerman, 23, is sitting on the floor of the Staten Island Ferry station in a pink puffy jacket, eating peanut butter on toast. This is her first marathon. She’s most nervous about doubting herself — getting to a point in the race where she’s physically fatigued and has to mentally push herself to the finish. “At the end of the day, I trained and I can make it,” she said. “I just need to remind myself of that.”
If you’re cheering for specific runners today, you can track them in real time on the, the official race app. All runners will be tracked via a chip in their marathon bibs, and will show up on the app’s marathon map as blue icons so you can follow their progress.
Thefor both Apple and Android devices and is free to download. Spectators can track runners by entering a runner’s bib numbers or first and last name into the “Tracking” field on the app’s menu. Runners can also download the app and use a “share tracking” function in their profiles to send a link to friends and family.
Once you start tracking a runner, you’ll receive automatic push notifications throughout the race, including when the runner crosses the start line, hits the halfway point and crosses the finish line. You can watch runners in real time on the course using the “Map” field in the app’s menu.
The app will also provide a spectator guide with tips for travel directions and the best viewing locations along the route, as well as a runner’s estimated finish time.
Runner tracking is also available online at.
route spans all five boroughs, carrying runners across five bridges and several hilly stretches.
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.
It’s a challenging route, particularly because of the hilly bridges. On the bridges, runners are fully exposed to the wind, and because there are no spectators, there can be an eerie silence.
Check out, from a runner’s perspective.
Sunrise over Coney Island from the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.
I’m on the Staten Island Ferry, heading to the starting line to run my very first marathon. On the subway ride to the ferry I met a man from Panama who is running his first New York race but has run more than 20 marathons. His advice to me? “Take it easy.”
Annamarie Nix, 45, is running her 12th New York City Marathon, and has run more than 50 marathons in total. She recently moved to Houston, though she is originally from Brooklyn.
“It’s a magical day. We’re back … couldn’t be more grateful for all the volunteers and this amazing race to be able to run in this city. It’s a magical day.”
Boris and Yelena Sobolev are volunteers in the start area. They’re a married couple from Staten Island and have been volunteering for six years.
“Every year to see people, help them, it helps us as well,” Boris said. “They have so much energy you literally feel it in the air.”
Yelena said she was very upset when the race was canceled last year. “You get energized for the whole year — it’s amazing. You have to feel it.”
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.
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.
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.
Here are the start times for each division:
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
There are few places without spectators along the 26.2-mile route. Here’s, borough by borough.
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.
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).
You can stream those broadcasts in the ESPN app nationally and WABC’s app locally.
The race is also broadcast on a variety of global networks, listed.
After a year’s hiatus, the New York City Marathon returns Sunday morning in plenty of its glory.
As dawn breaks, tens of thousands of participants will descend on Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island and wait for the sound of the cannons that will send the fast and the slow, those on two legs, or one, or none at all, or in wheelchairs, over the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge for the start of the 26.2-mile journey to Central Park.
Because of the pandemic, this 50th running of the marathon is a smaller affair than usual, with roughly 30,000 participants instead of the usual stampede of more than 50,000. But after a year when mass running events all but disappeared, that feels like a mere detail. A throng of humanity will once more venture through five boroughs, chasing a coveted finisher’s medal, in front of hundreds of thousands of family, friends and strangers, while trying to grasp something else as well — a New York that existed before that is slowly rising again.