New York City Marathon – the big one in the Big Apple

As we head into November, it is almost time for the sixth and final World Marathon Major of the year, New York. After our 2019 Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin and Chicago Marathon previews earlier in the year, it’s now time to look ahead to the event that arguably led to the rapid expansion of other big city marathons.

Taking place on Sunday 3rd November, the 2019 New York City Marathon will be the 49th edition of the race that can reasonably lay claim as being the inspiration for almost all other big city marathons.

Tokyo may have the most fervent fans, Boston is the oldest, London is spectacular, and Berlin and Chicago are the world record courses, but New York is a classic. It was the race that responded to the running boom of the 70s and 80s by expanding the entry field and taking over the city. In the process, it turned the marathon from a niche pursuit into a worldwide cultural phenomenon: the everyman’s Everest.

Without New York’s example, it is unlikely we would have the London Marathon today, nor many of the other big city marathons that take place around the world. It’s impact on the world of running cannot be underestimated.

The course

If you want to see New York, following the marathon route would be a good way of doing so. It takes in each of the five boroughs of the city, starting on Staten Island. Almost immediately, it crosses the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, the first significant climb of the race, before rolling down into Brooklyn.

The journey up through Queens is a gently undulating one, with the few hills not likely to cause too many problems. The Queensboro Bridge takes the runners into Manhattan for the long, straight drag into the Bronx.

The foray into the Bronx is only a short one, as the course turns back into Manhattan for the final 5 miles.

Just before the 23rd mile, the route enters Central Park, where a series of three hills has the potential to derail any PB-hunting missions. Once the finish line has been crossed, runners can celebrate with loved ones in the heart of Manhattan.

The elite races

The world’s fastest marathoners tend to only run a couple of marathons a year. With 6 World Marathon Majors, plus lots of other big city marathons, World Championships, and – in Kipchoge’s case – one-off showcase events available to choose from, it is understandable that the big races will compete to attract the big names.

It could be said that New York doesn’t have quite as many of the big names in its elite field as London, nor does it attract the record-chasers that go to Berlin or Chicago, but it still has very competitive runners vying for the win. The runners New York appeals to are the pure racers. That is, those that are less interested in running an even pace to hit a fast time, but more interested in going toe-to-toe and slugging it out with the runners around them. With a slightly hilly course and no elite pacemakers, it is the perfect event to challenge the world’s toughest competitors.

In the women’s race, all eyes will be on Mary Keitany, who is looking to win New York for the fifth time. Amongst the elite women’s field (with their nationality and personal bests) are:

  • Mary Keitany (Kenya, 2:17’01) – winner of New York in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018, plus London 2011, 2012 and 2017;
  • Ruti Aga (Ethiopia, 2:18’34) – winner of Tokyo 2019, and second in Berlin in 2017 and 2018.
  • Desiree Linden (USA, 2:22’28) – winner of the Boston Marathon in 2018;
  • Sinead Diver (Australia, 2:24’11) – Irish-born Australian, who took up running in 2010 at the age of 33 and finished 7th in London this year;
  • Sara Hall (USA, 2:26’16) – ran her PB in Berlin 2019, just a few weeks ago.

The defending men’s champion, Lelisa Desisa, won the World Championships marathon at the start of October. Despite the very quick turnaround, he will be lining up against a strong men’s elite field, that includes:

  • Lelisa Desisa (Ethiopia, 2:04’45) – Defending New York champion, marathon World Champion, and Boston winner in 2013 and 2015;
  • Geoffrey Kamworor (Kenya, 2:06’12) – winner of New York 2017, twice half marathon World Champion, half marathon world record holder, and former cross country World Champion;
  • Tamirat Tola (Ethiopia, 2:04’06) – has the fastest PB of any competitor in the race, winner of 2017 Dubai Marathon;
  • Brett Robinson (Australia, 2:10’55) – 13th at London 2019, spends part of the year training in West London;
  • Andy Vernon (Great Britain, debut) – Olympian and stalwart of the British domestic racing scene, making his marathon debut.

The wheelchair racers are able to race more often than their non-disabled counterparts, due to the different physiological demands, so many of the athletes who lined up in Chicago are back racing against each other in New York. The men’s field includes:

  • David Weir (Great Britain & NI, 1:26’17) – 2012 Paralympic Champion, 8 times London Marathon winner, and New York 2010 winner;
  • Ernst van Dyk (South Africa, 1:18’23) – multiple marathon winner;
  • Daniel Romanchuk (USA, 1:21’36) – aged just 21, he has won Chicago 2018, New York 2018, Boston 2019 and London 2019;
  • Simon Lawson (Great Britain & NI, 1:25’06) – Bronze medallist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and fastest ever Brit;
  • Aaron Pike (USA, 1:20’59) – represented the USA in both the summer and winter Paralympics in different sports.

The women’s field features:

  • Manuela Schar (Switzerland, 1:28’17) – winner of all 6 World Marathon Majors;
  • Amanda McGrory (USA, 1:33’13) – winner of 7 Paralympic medals, twice winner of New York
  • Susannah Scaroni (USA, 1:30’24) – two time Paralympian and frequent World Marathon Major podium placer;
  • Tatyana McFadden (USA, 1:31’30) – the winner of 17 Paralympic medals and 22 World Marathon Majors, including 6 New York wins;
  • Shelly Woods (Great Britain, 1:37’44) – one of Britain’s best, returning to competition this season after a break to start a family.

Whoever comes out on top, you can expect tactical surging, uneven splits, a few surprises, and the top runners pushing their limits to take the win. If I had to pick winners, I would say Keitany (one of the greatest), Kamworor (capable of pushing the others very hard), Romanchuk and McGrory (two Americans winning on home turf) – but anything could happen in New York!

Regardless of who wins, everyone who takes part in the New York City Marathon, no matter what level they are competing at – Olympians or first-timers – can be immensely proud of their achievement.

Running New York

If this has gotten you excited and you feel like running New York in 2020, how can you get in? As might be expected, it’s very popular and therefore very hard to get in.

As with all the top marathons, being quick will help. New York guarantees entry to runners who have hit particular time targets that correspond to their age. For example, a man aged 18-34 needs to have run under 2:53 in another marathon, whereas a man aged 80 and over needs to have broken 4:55. For women, the standards start at 3:13 for women aged 18-34, and step down to a time quicker than 6:35 for women aged 80 and over.

You can also get guaranteed entry if you have finished Chicago 15 times or more.

If you live in New York, you might be able to get in via the 9+1 programme, where you have to complete 9 other New York Road Runner-organised events, and volunteer at one of them.

Charities that are part of the official New York City Marathon Charity Program [sic] have a limited number of places available to people who pledge to raise money for them. There is also a ‘philanthropic membership’ whereby you can get entry in exchange for financially supporting the not-for-profit New York Road Runners organising club.

There is a ‘Virtual 26.2M’ running challenge that gives marathon entry as prizes.

Official tour operators have places available to international runners, but you will usually have to sign up to that operator’s hotel or travel package, too.

Finally, you can chance your luck in the ballot, referred to as the ‘drawing’. Like all the top marathons, this is always over-subscribed, so your chances are slim, but if all else fails, it’s worth a go.

Check out the official website for news of any changes, plus details of the entry criteria for disabled athletes.

Goats in New York

If you’ve run New York in previous years, are running it this year, or will be there to cheer on the runners, be sure to let us know in the Lonely Goat Running Club Facebook Chat Group, or by using the #lonelygoatrc and #lonelygoatrunningclub hashtags on Instagram. We’d love to know how you get on and wish every NYC-bound Goat the best of luck.

Enjoy yourself and have a great day!

Support the club so we can do bigger and better things and get access to additional benefits.
£25 per year