‘Try Not to Eat All the Free Food’: Top Tips for the TCS NYC Marathon Start Village
The starting area of the TCS New York City Marathon is unlike any other as more than 50,000 runners make their way to Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island.
Once there, runners find a spot and wait patiently before making their way to the start line on the Verrazzano Bridge. For many, the time can fly by: some chat with friends, others read, runners have even be spotted taking pre-race naps. For others, the time can go by slowly as last-minute anxieties creep in.
Our team of bloggers are here to offer some expert advice so that you don’t fall into the latter category. That way, you can enjoy the experience and approach the start line fully ready to tackle 26.2 miles.
There’s a nervous energy in the start village. Everyone is a little tense, a little worked up, a little excited, a little over-eager to get running. Talk to each other. If you're there with friends, bring someone into your group who may be by themselves.
If you're alone, talk to someone. It'll take your mind off any pre-race anxiety, and will help pass the time. And try to stay off your phone. The last thing you want is to get to the finish and need to call your family and friends, only to be stranded because your phone died and you stopped memorizing phone numbers after 1996.
Don’t Go Crazy on Free Food
There’s a lot of things to focus on in the TCS NYC Marathon start village, but I’m going to talk about food.
I generally try to fuel up twice before the start of the marathon. First, I eat at least 2 hours before the start, which allows my food—consisting of carbohydrates—to digest. Typically oatmeal works best for me.
By now, you should have tested what works for you before your long runs. Don’t deviate too much come race day. Then, about 30 minutes before the race, I typically have an energy gel—a shot of caffeine—with a few sips of water.
Otherwise, the free breakfast on site, including a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and bagel does a similar job. But just because there’s free food, don’t go crazy. Don’t fill your boots. Keep portions light (around 30-50 grams of carbohydrates).
By the food tables, remember to grab the free hats from Dunkin’ Donuts for extra warmth. And so you don’t lose it, bring a safety pin and attach it to your running belt.
Learn to Relax
Waiting in the village can be a terrible, anxiety-provoking few hours or it can be an opportunity to reflect on how lucky you are to take part in such an incredible feat. I know this because I’ve had both experiences.
My first time running the NYC Marathon, I spent my time in the village counting down to the start of the race and driving myself crazy, wondering whether I had used the bathroom enough times. I didn’t talk to anyone because I wanted to “conserve my energy.”
I only learned to relax in 2016 when “things went wrong.” We had some travel issues getting to Fort Wadsworth, but thankfully I was with a group of friends from Harlem Run. We got to the village later than planned and while nerve-wracking, the experience made me realize that, no matter what happens, being able to participate in the NYC Marathon truly is a gift. Just remember that no matter what happens marathon morning, it’s your attitude that will determine its impact. Keep shining!
Go to Your Corral Early
On race day, the weather can be anything from 60 and sunny to in the 40s with wind and rain so I like to get to the start village about an hour before my start time. Dunkin’ Donuts has stations in the village, offering tea, coffee, hot cocoa, and bagels. I usually hit them up for some last minute carbs and hot tea to keep me warm while waiting.
I also try to get into the corral as soon as it opens, so I can find a spot to sit—it can get crowded. I save heat sheets from previous races and use them as blankets and wear my throwaway clothes for warmth. I also get into the bathroom line as soon as I get there as there are port-a-potties in all the corrals.
And once I “go,” I get back in line because I’m usually so hydrated that I need to go every five minutes. While people are making their way to the start line, you can also duck into one if you need to use one at the last minute. Just don’t take too long or you run the risk of getting blocked out of your start time.
You’ll arrive at the start village hours before the race begins, so be sure to dress warm and bring something to entertain you while you wait.
After you clear security, you’ll notice the start village is huge, so it’s important to plan ahead if you’re meeting a friend. Avoid walking around trying to locate people you know because you’ll be wiped out before the race even starts.
Thankfully, there are plenty of signs and audible instructions to ensure everything and everyone is organized. When I ran in 2016, I made my way to my corral and hung out in that area to avoid missing the start. There’s plenty of snacks, water, coffee, and of course, port-a-potties. One tip: Try to avoid overeating on the complimentary bagels and protein bars before the race or you may not make it to Central Park.
Finally, stay loose— both mentally and physically—while you wait so you’re ready to go when the gun goes off.
At the start, it’s all about staying focused. Try to meet up with friends who are running and get excited about what’s coming. Last year, I had access to a tent, which was for runners who purchased this option as part of the NYRR Virtual Training Program. It was warm, the bathrooms were not crowded, and you were surrounded by other athletes with the same goal: Crushing the NYC Marathon. It was well worth it.
Still have questions about the start village? Then check out the official TCS New York City Marathon page for all the information you need. And if you still have questions, feel free to ask members of our staff at the TCS New York City Marathon Expo Presented by New Balance.