The NYC Marathon Makes Its Big (Really Big!) Return in 2021 | Sports Destination Management

The NYC Marathon Makes Its Big (Really Big!) Return in 2021

Jun 04, 2021 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Images from the 2018 New York City Marathon © Byelikova |

If you’re going to celebrate your 50th anniversary, you might as well do it right.

That was Manhattan’s theory, and as the New York City Marathon returns, it has even more to celebrate than the anniversary of its running. The triumphant return of the event on November 7 will see 33,000 runners, ranging from elites out to set records to average joes who are representing teams competing for charity.

The New York Road Runners (NYRR, the organization responsible for conducting the race) has noted a few changes – although, since the event is in November, it’s impossible to know exactly where the world will be, infection-wise.

New York recently relaxed its mask mandate for those who have been fully vaccinated; however, race organizers have noted that runners traveling to New York are expected to adhere to federal, state and local guidelines including pre-travel testing and quarantine requirements. NYRR's guidelines will include social distancing, elimination of touchpoints, enhanced health and safety protocols as well as testing and tracing. Runners should be prepared to provide a negative COVID-19 test result or proof of a complete vaccination series prior to running in the marathon.

To eliminate crowding at the start and finish, a controllable and scalable time-trial start format will be utilized instead of single mass gathering starts. To help keep people moving through, NYRR has elected to have an extended period of time, with the first wave starting an hour earlier, and later waves extending two hours later.

Even with the changes, the marathon is one of the biggest mass events – and one of the first major marathons – to return (although the biggie, the Boston Marathon, goes off on October 11).

"In 2019, the New York City marathon broke records to become the world's largest marathon ever," Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters at the local ABC affiliate. "While canceling the race was the right choice in 2020, we are excited to welcome runners back to our beautiful city. New Yorkers worked hard to flatten the curve after the COVID-19 outbreak and it is that work that allows us to be able to take this step in bringing normalcy back to our state."

Runners who registered for the 2020 marathon were provided the option to receive a full refund of their entry fee or a guaranteed complimentary entry for the 2021, 2022, or 2023 New York City Marathon. About 54 percent of all 2020 runners chose to participate in the 2021 event.

Others registered in the marathon will participate on behalf of various charities, as well as through international tours, as 9+1 program participants (meaning those who have completed nine NYRR marathon-qualifying races and volunteered at one event over the course of a calendar year) Virtual TCS New York City Marathon finishers and runners who have completed 15 or more New York City Marathons. Oh, and a sprinkling of elite racers as well.

Race week generally includes a variety of activities; expect these to be scaled back for 2021 (although much will depend upon local guidance and gathering restrictions which will be released as the event nears). Additionally, organizers note they are planning to host the TCS New York City Marathon Expo Presented by New Balance – although details are not yet available.

The marathon’s inaugural race was in 1970 and since then, it has become one of the most anticipated annual mass sporting events in New York City and the largest marathon in the world with 53,640 finishers in 2019.

In case you’re wondering, the honor of hosting the first marathon actually goes to the organizers of the London Marathon who made their event a reality in October 2020 – albeit with some extreme changes, including hosting elite runners only in a secure bubble and on a closed course.

And after more than six months of no, it was good to see something go – which spurred U.S. distance runner Molly Seidel to take all precautions necessary in order to participate.

“The restrictions, the fear of traveling — it might deter some people, but getting the chance to race the one major that’s happening this year, I said, ‘Yes, 100 percent, let’s do it,’” she told

It’s a good bet that’s going to be the reception for the NYC Marathon in November.

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