We may be having an unseasonably warm autumn so far, but the most reliable sign of fall in NYC is right around the corner. On the first Sunday of November over 50,000 runners, from weekend warriors to international elites, will gather on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to set off on the 47th Annual New York City Marathon.
The race, the largest marathon in the world, runs through all five boroughs over its 26.2 miles. Competitors will speed (or trot) through neighborhoods like Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, Queens’ Long Island City, and Harlem in Manhattan on their way towards the ending point in Central Park. This whirlwind tour of NYC is one of the city’s most beloved traditions, so whether you’re running this year’s race or watching from your couch, warm up with these fun facts.
- The First NYC Marathon Didn’t Leave Manhattan
In fact, it didn’t even leave Central Park! The 1970 inaugural race’s 127 entrants ran a series of laps around the park’s main jogging path until the 26.2-mile mark was reached. Out of those competitors, only 55 runners made it to the finish. The marathon didn’t run through all five boroughs until 1976.
- All 50 States are Represented
In last year’s race, not only were there at least 12 finishers from every state in the union, but over 150 countries worldwide were represented, from the 2700+ member Italian contingent to a lone runner hailing from Afghanistan.
- First Prize Has Come a Long Way
That initial year’s winner received a repurposed bowling trophy as their prize. Prestigious, to be sure, but not quite coming close to this year’s grand prize of $100,000. Entry fees have also grown since that first race, multiplying from $1 to $255-350.
- There’s a Wheeled Contingent as Well
Alongside those running the race, a sizeable number of competitors in wheelchairs participates in the race. Since 2000, this group has set out before the main group and covers the exact same ground as able-bodied runners, with added difficulty over cracks and inclines in the pavement. 5-time Women’s winner Tatyana McFadden will be seeking her 6th gold medal in this year’s race.
- Clothing Comes and Goes
Each year, runners shed approximately 26 tons of clothing as they begin to sweat in the first few miles. Volunteers gather these clothes and donate them to Goodwill. At least one competitor, by contrast, has created apparel during the race. David Babcock AKA “The Knitting Runner” has gained notoriety for knitting scarves during various races to raise money for Alzheimer’s research, and did so during the 2014 and 2015 NYC Marathons.
- The Late Founder Still Watches Every Finish
NYC Marathon creator Fred Lebow succumbed to brain cancer in 1994, but his presence still looms large at the end of every running of the race. A statue erected in his honor normally stands on Central Park’s East Drive at 90th street but is moved down to the finish line every year to watch over the celebration, forever in his jogging suit.