Spectators: A Perfect Day to Watch a Marathon

The TCS New York City Marathon is known for having the world’s most enthusiastic spectators. Whether they come from around the corner or across the globe, they cheer their hearts out from the sidelines across all five boroughs.

“This race is a part of our lives—it’s like having children,” said Kazia Blom as she watched and cheered on First Avenue at 66th Street. She’s a member of run2forty2, a running club in Haarlem, Netherlands, that fielded a team of 46 runners in this year’s race, along with a sizable cheering squad.

“This is our 11th time coming here to run,” she said. Those who don’t run invariably congregate on the same stretch of First Avenue to spur their teammates on.

Another international group, Dertour Sport Live Erleben, had a team of about 350 from all over Germany, with many of them viewing on First Avenue. “Watching this race, it’s special for us,” said group leader Anja Lorenzen. “It brings us close together, so happy for everyone. This year we really are lucky with the weather—we’ll be out here a long time today.”

Cheering at the TCS New York City Marathon is a time-honored tradition for many New Yorkers as well. Richard Rabkin, a longtime Upper East Sider, ran the race four times in the 1970s and 1980s, and has watched every year since. “It’s a beautiful pageant—just an amazing international parade,” he said, though he added that he doesn’t like to watch for too long. “It’s hard to see them struggle because I remember it all too well,” he said.

Some spectators have no formal connection to running—nor any particular interest in running except on this one day of the year. “We’re not runners—we just love being part of the camaraderie and the spirit of the day,” said Louise McNulty. She and her husband, Jack, live on the Upper West Side and watch on upper Fifth Avenue. “We feel like it’s important to honor what these people put into this event and what they accomplish.”

For some supporters, spectating is a way of passing running along to the next generation. Mike Landau of Washington Heights came out to watch this year after having run the race—his first marathon—last year. He brought his two-year-old daughter along. “She and my wife watched me run last year, so she’s already on her second one. I hope if we keep bringing her back, eventually she’ll get into running herself,” Landau said.

“Running last year was unbelievable, unforgettable,” he added. With a young family, he knows it may be a few years before he can run the marathon again, “but I know I’ll keep making time to come out and watch and cheer.”

By Gordon Bakoulis