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Baggage and Transportation Options for the TCS NYC Marathon

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This morning, the NYRR opened up registration for baggage and transportation options for the TCS NYC Marathon. So which should you choose?


Transportation to the TCS NYC Marathon Start

Bus or Ferry? This one is a no brainer.


Hard stop.

Buses load up ridiculously early and need to clear the Verrazano Bridge before it closes to clear the course hours before the start. Weather in NY in November can range from cold and rainy, or snow (rare but it happens) to mild or downright hot (also rare, but it happens). Why would you want to risk having to sit out in a cold rain just so you can take a bus ride across a bridge?

Why the Ferry? Because it’s fun! It’s a boat ride across New York Harbor, past Lady Liberty with thousands of other runners. How could this not be fun?!?

As for what Ferry you should get on? Simple, don’t worry about it yet. The Ferry is open to the public and perfectly free. This means the race organizers can’t check passengers and turn them away – you could be just another person heading to Staten Island for the day.

And once you’re in Staten Island, no one checks before you get on a bus to get to the start village at Fort Wadsworth. It’s virtually impossible to try and check everyone runner getting on those busses. If you’re wearing a bib, you’re in!

So for now, just pick a time and when you get your wave assignment, you can figure out which Ferry to get on.

Staten Island Ferry Terminal at Whitehall Street in Manhattan
Staten Island Ferry Terminal at Whitehall Street in Manhattan

Keep in mind that getting 50,000 runners (and security, medical staff, NYRR staff and volunteers) to the start is a logistical nightmare for the NYRR, but they are masters at it. That said, expect wait times and long lines at most points that morning.

Do yourself a favor and allot extra time for everything. Your mantra the morning of the race should be “Hurry Up and Wait.” Below is some footage I shot at the terminal on my way to Staten Island before the 2014 race at 6AM that morning – getting into the terminal to boarding the ferry.

Baggage Options for the TCS NYC Marathon

Since I live about a mile from the finish line and prefer to get out of the park as soon as possible so I can get home, I’ve been choosing “No Baggage” and opting for the early exit and poncho. While the poncho they give out isn’t something you would wear around town, it’s the perfect piece of “throw away clothing” to wear to the start of a cold race. I’ve made it a habit to collect one at the marathon, hang it in the back of my closet and wear it to get to the start of the NYC Half in March.

But if you’re from out of town and need to travel to get back to your hotel or meet up with your family and friends, checking baggage and collecting it after the race are both pretty painless. And usually smart. Who wants to walk around the city in sweaty clothing for any length of time? And, if it’s cold out, you can pack a nice warm jacket (I just morphed into my mother for a second, apologies).

I can tell you that if you chose the No Baggage option, you’re in for a treat. Here’s an excerpt from my race review from 2013 which I think captures the essence of the treat we were subjected to as “no baggage” runners:

So, we’re all trudging along, limping out of the park and make it up to Central Park West where they are handing out the ponchos. I reach the area and go to grab one from one of the many volunteers handing them out but she ever so gently pushes my hand away. 

In a very soothing voice she says, “please, let me put this on your shoulders.” After she draped it on me and secured the velcro, she asked if I wanted the hood up. It was all I could do to nod my head. I was mesmerized by this angel who was taking care of me like I was her child. I half expected her to kiss my forehead as she sent me on my way. There were literally thousands that opted for the ponchos and I only hope they were as well taken care of as I was. Whoever you were, thank you from the bottom of my still-sore toes.

Look for an updated version of my Tips and Tricks for the NYC Marathon post in September which has a lot more info about pre-race tips, borough by borough course description and post-race dos and don’ts.

Oh, by the way, here’s what the famed “Poncho Walk” looks like:

1 Comment

  1. This was good. Last year, I opted to get a room close to the start line the night before to get a couple extra hours of sleep. I regret not getting the full experience!

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