Race organizers expect more than 2.5 million spectators to line the 26.2-mile route for the ING New York City Marathon, which snakes through all five boroughs on Sunday.
Race organizers said crowds thin out through East Harlem as runners approach the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx.
Just before mile 21, racers loop back into Manhattan via the Madison Avenue Bridge and run down through Harlem on Fifth Avenue. This is where elite runners usually stage dramatic breakaways before turning into Central Park at East 86th Street.
“Harlem is the best stretch,” said Bettine Brown, who lives near Mount Morris Park at 120th Street.
“It’s supposed to be the hardest part [of the marathon], so we’ve got music out here, and lots of kids come out to celebrate. We party at the marathon uptown,” said Brown.
“There are so many emotions on show, even the people on the sidelines start to cry.”
From the starting point in Staten Island to the finish line in Manhattan, the entire route is lined with entertainment stations for spectators, with 130 bands organized to keep spectators busy as they wait to cheer on the thousands of racers.
The first New York City marathon route in 1970 had 127 runners, and simply looped through Central Park several times. Sunday’s marathon will have almost 43,000 runners, according to the New York Road Runners which stages the marathon, with spectators cheering along the entire 26.2-mile course.