New York Marathon

The New York Marathon is one of the world's great races.  Running through the city's five boroughs, the New York marathon attracts an annual field of around 45,00 runners, making it one the biggest events run each year.   Organized by the New York Road Runners (NYRR), the New York Marathon has been run every year since 1970, and along with Boston, Chicago, London and Berlin, is also is one of the five World Marathon Majors.

The original race was a very different affair, however.   Only 127 competitors started, and by the time they had finished running several loops around the Park Drive of Central Park, only 55 runners crossed the finish line. The winner was Gary Muhrcke, in a time of 2:31:38.

However, the race quickly grew, and by 1976 co-founder Fred Lebow felt the need to change the course to accommodate the growing number of participants, making the decision to incorporate all five boroughs of New York City.

While it is best known as a mass participation event, elite runners have also helped to shape this race.  Perhaps the greatest of all, certainly in the early days, was the legendary Norwegian women's runner, Grete Waitz.  In 1978 she put New York on the map as an elite racing, running 2:32:30 to break the women's world record – Waitz went on to win the race an unprecedented nine times.

Other notable competitors include seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong who ran in the 2006 race to raise money for his Livestrong charity – he finished in 868th with a time of 2:59:36 despite having a stress fracture in his leg.  The women's course record is held by world marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe, who ran 2:23:09 in 2007, one of three New York wins for the British runner.

What defines this race, however, is the course.  It begins on Staten Island, near the approach to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, then heads into Brooklyn for the next eleven miles.

The half way point of the race is marked by the crossing of the Pulaski Bridge, the entrance to Long Island City, Queens, and from there runners continue on through Queens before crossing the East River into Manhattan.

From Manhattan the course crosses briefly into The Bronx before returning to Manhattan via the Madison Avenue Bridge, then south through Harlem down Fifth Avenue and finally into Central Park.

It's a deceptively hilly course, but the thousands of spectators cheering runners on during the last mile help weary competitors make it to the finish outside the Tavern on the Green.