The New York City Marathon is the largest marathon in the world and it’s no wonder, considering the city’s impeccable backdrops are stunning enough to, quite literally, take your breath away.
The annual marathon sees over 50,000 participants and some two million supporters each year!
It began in 1970, and was initially run entirely in Central Park. Nowadays, the 26.2- mile course begins in Staten Island, passes through five boroughs, and ends in Manhattan. This incredible feat of endurance takes runners across the Brooklyn Bay Bridge, through Sunset Park, all along the gorgeous East River, past Randall’s Island, and much, much more.
While running a marathon is certainly a bucket list item for many, the city is teeming with gorgeous routes for everyone to enjoy, beginners and experts alike. Here are four of NYC’s top running spots.
1. West Side Highway and Hudson River Greenway
A run along the West Side Highway is a local favorite, promising killer views and an impeccable sunset. It’s a great place to avoid tourists and enjoy peaceful scenery all the way from lower Manhattan to the Bronx.
A full length run extends from Battery Park to the George Washington Bridge, totalling 12.3 miles (19.7k); but, there are plenty of options to cut your run shorter, if you wish.
For a 4 mile (6.4k) run, head north from Battery Park to Lincoln Tunnel. For a nice 10k (6 miles), start from Battery Park and end your run at West 59th Street. If you’d like to make it a little longer, continue on from West 59th to 125th Street. This will add another 6k (3.7 miles) for a total run of 9.7 miles (15.6k). To hit the full length, just continue on north, to the George Washington Bridge.
Some highlights of this route include the Statue of Liberty, Chelsea Piers, USS Intrepid, and as mentioned, the George Washington Bridge. You can almost always guarantee passing some pretty awesome art installations along the route, as well!
While you’ll avoid large crowds here, do be warned, there will be a lot of cyclists. Don’t let this deter you though, just be sure to stay alert and conscious of the fact that you’re sharing the road. Early morning hours are the least congested, especially on the weekends.
2. East River Greenway
An East River Run gives you epic views of Brooklyn’s waterfront and the South Street Seaport, as well as some of the city’s most iconic bridges, including the Manhattan, Williamsburg, and Brooklynn Bridges.
A great starting place for a southern East River run is from the tip of Manhattan’s Battery Park. After passing the Statue of Liberty, you’ll be well on your way to a scenic route. Run all the way to East 34th Street, and you’ll hit 4.4 miles (7k).
If you’d like to continue on, or, alternatively, begin your run from East 34th Street, take the path further north to East 125th Street. You’ll tack on another 5 miles (8k). If you run the entire length, starting at Battery Park, this will be give you a solid 9 ½ miles (15k). The latter half of this route offers spectacular views of the north end of Roosevelt Island and its lighthouse.
Yet another great East River run takes you on a 16-mile (25.7k) loop, starting at the top of Central Park, over the RFK Bridge, to Randall’s Island and Queens, and then back to where you started. Randall’s Island has bathrooms and water fountains, making it a nice break point. You’ll also get awesome views of Astoria and Hell’s Gate Bridge.
On any East River route, it’s super easy to take a detour into Brooklyn if you’d like; just follow the signs at one of the bridges.
3. Central Park Loop
The NYC marathon always ends in Central Park, mainly because the scenery is absolutely stunning. The numerous paths offer a wide range in difficulty level, perfect for all runners. The innermost recreation lane is always reserved for runners only, making it a peaceful, stress-free path.
A full loop through the park is 6.1 miles (10k). There’s also a shorter option, at the south end of the park near the Tavern on the Green, that’s 1.7 miles (just short of 3k).
If you prefer a dirt path, there are two Bridle Path loops that make excellent options. The full loop is 2.5 miles (4k) and the shorter is 1.6 miles (2.5k).
If you’re looking for a flat path with great reservoir views, try the Jacqueline Kennedy Oasis Reservoir loop. One loop is about 1.6 miles (2.5k); it’s perfect for sunrise or sunset runs.
The ideal time to run at Central Park is when it’s closed to traffic, which is Monday through Friday from 10AM to 3PM and 7AM to 10PM, or on the weekends up until 6am Monday morning, when traffic is permitted to resume.
For a more slow-paced Central Park excursion, try a walking tour. You’ll soak in sights such as the Wollman Rink, the Bow Bridge, the Pond, Bethesda Fountain, the Boathouse Café, the Conservatory and the Bandshell. It’s a great way to get acquainted with the premises and chart out your own, unique running path that takes you in and around all your favorite spots in the park.
4. Brooklyn Bridge
These days, Brooklyn is being called NYC’s best kept secret. Well, now that the word is out, you have no excuse to neglect it!
The Brooklyn Bridge Park loop takes you along the East River, starting underneath the Manhattan Bridge. As you head south, you’ll pass numerous piers, all of which are worth the slight detour – also a great way to add some millage.
Evening runs or bike rides across the Brooklyn Bridge are some of the best. You’ll see stunning panoramic views of lower Manhattan and you can watch the sun set over the buildings in the Financial District. Whatever you do, do not run over the Brooklyn Bridge midday on the weekends! The chaos will not be worth it.
Another fantastic nearby running spot is Prospect Park, located right in the heart of Brooklyn. Here’s an awesome running map that includes the inner and outer perimeter loops. Or you can check out this amazing Brooklyn walking tour.
Now that you’re all pumped up – put your running shoes on, do a couple stretches and head out toward one of these amazing paths. For those of you who are feeling especially motivated by the marathon mania circulating the air, check out this site of upcoming NYC half marathons. It’s never too late to start training!
Know of a good route we forgot to mention? Share your favorite in the comments section below!