It can get crowded here, where runners traverse 30 blocks down to Central Park South before hanging a tight right and returning to the park’s west drive for 800 yards to the finish. But if you can handle the crowds, the scenery of the park combined with watching runners realize they are about to accomplish something huge is unbeatable.
How to get there: The subway lines to get you here are the Q or the 4, 5, or 6; you want to enter the park below 90th Street and Fifth Avenue, which is where the marathon course sends runners into the park. Walk west from the subway, cross Fifth Avenue and enter the park. Keep moving west, and you’ll hit the drive (or just follow the sounds of your fellow spectators.)
10. For the Big Finish: Central Park South, Manhattan
Where to go: 59th Street and Fifth Avenue or Columbus Circle
This is the closest you will be able to get to the finish line without a ticket for the grandstands by the finish line. NGL, it’s a tight squeeze—lots of people want to glimpse runners as they head into their final mile. During the middle of the day, these blocks can get five or six people deep.
But if you are a pro running fan, it may be worth it to you to get here early to catch the top runners as they approach the finish. Moves have been made here, titles won and lost. This is also a great place to offer some support late in the day to flagging runners looking for the energy to make that final sprint to the finish line.
How to get there: The N or R train to Fifth Avenue, or A, B, C, D, or 1 trains to Columbus Circle are the fastest way to reach this spot.
Post-Race Meet-up Spots
You won’t be able to meet your runner at the finish line itself. Race admin will send runners on a mile-long zombie shuffle through Central Park and down Central Park West—with a courtesy warm poncho, medal, snacks, and drinks—until they exit at 72nd Street. If the runner checked a bag, that slog is going to take a little longer, as they have to go farther uptown to the bag-check trucks before exiting. (Pro tip: If you know you’re meeting a runner, save them the bag-check hassle and offer to meet them with their items.)
Instead, head to 72nd Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue, where you can catch your runner just out of the exit chute. They are going to be tired, maybe a little hangry, and definitely more than a little chilly when they see you. They will also be very happy to see you, particularly if you remember to bring them a nice toasty sweatshirt and maybe some soft, cushy shoes.
There are endless bars and restaurants on Manhattan’s Upper West Side along Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues. As you can probably guess, they are also all very crowded on Marathon Sunday. Some restaurants will take reservations, but others limit that privilege to big groups. So, if you don’t mind mingling with lots of other runners, here are two good spots: