Brooklyn has more miles of the ING New York City Marathon than Manhattan or Queens or Staten Island. In fact, the NYC Marathon is all Brooklyn, all the time, from Mile 2 to Mile 13. That's nearly half the race! So why not call it the Brooklyn Marathon? Really!
1. General Tips on Watching the ING New York MarathonAs a general tip, come prepared with food, Kleenex, warm clothes, donuts, whatever keeps you going. This is a huge race, and sometimes the weather is nippy. Bring appropriate gear for standing outside for a few hours, including a thermos and snack.
If you are bringing young kids, scope out a location near a diner or cafe where they can use the facilities, too.
Decide which side of the street you want to be on. Once the race begins, you cannot cross the streets dedicated to the Marathon. The same holds true of parking, whether a bike or a car. Be strategic.
The earlier in the course, the fresher the runners. In Bay Ridge, they all look great, and hopeful, and energetic. As the miles wear on, some runners begin to tug at one's heartstrings.
Some people may have windows overlooking the race course, and that'd be a beautiful, warm, comfortable vantage point. But as a Brooklyn spectator, half or more of the fun is being right there, watching the runner's style, their smiles and faces and their gait, cheering on the runners who participate despite of obvious age or disabilities, and generally reveling in the human diversity of this event. Here comes Sweden! Hooray for the 75 year old wearing a Granny t shirt! Hello, mother and daughter running team! So unless you have to be inside for some reason, come on out and join the crowd.
Finally, for the best position in the crowd, get there early.
2. If You're Just Watching for FunSpectators who are watching just for fun should pick the quietest places on the route, where you can get a good view of the runners. Get there early, and walk along 4th Avenue, for instance around Sackett Street. The crowd isn't thick, and you can see the runners coming down 4th Avenue.
3. If You Want to Make Sure You See Someone and Cheer Them On IndividuallyArrange beforehand with the Marathon participants to let you know about when they'll be starting, what their average speed is, and importantly, what side of the street they'll be on. Of course, a lot of runners wear something to identify them --a t-shirt with their name on it, a sign, a funny hat, and this helps too.
But don't leave it to chance. Unless your friend or colleague is either very fast, or very slow, he or she is likely to be, literally, in the thick of things. And, you don't want to miss them!
4. If You Want to Get PhotosIf you want to get a photo of the ING New York City Marathon, scope out a location beforehand where you can get above the crowd — or bring a friend who is six foot six. Even in Brooklyn's sparser environment, this is one public event that brings out the crowds. Or, you could bring a very small lift of some sort, like a plastic milk crate, to stand on, to get a good view.
5. If You Want to Follow A Runner(s), Map Out a Route In AdvanceIf you want to see someone at a few different locations, then get out your subway map — or ride your trusty bike. (But if you plan to go by bike, bring a good sturdy lock, too.) You might be able to catch someone at the beginning, say in Bay Ridge, and then hop the R train, and find them again in Manhattan.
Plan to watch the race from near a subway stop*, so you don't lose time walking to the train.
(* and make sure those trains are running, post-Hurricane Sandy!) Make sure you have enough money on your Metrocard so you don't waste time getting a card.
If this is your first New York Marathon, you'll love it. If you've been before — well, then, you know exactly how great it is.