The weather has started to change here in Dallas, and we are finally starting to get a glimmer of hope for the fall and winter running weather. With the air starting to crisp up in the mid-October timeframe, 30,000 runners are looking to the first Sunday in November for the 50th anniversary of the New York City Marathon to return. This year the field and the race logistics look significantly different, and more thought is needed on what to bring to the start line. Before you pack up your bag, read the rules on prohibited items and be sure to bring your NYRR supplied start line bag to avoid any trouble on race morning.

Put your name on your jersey to hear the crowds scream your name! Warning: you will end up sprinting and dying later in the race.

ID / Credit Card / Hotel Key / Metro Subway Card

Ideally your lodging would be a block from the finish line on 63rd street, however this is unlikely for 99% of runners. The rules have changed on Family Reunion at the finish line and the service is typically really bad due to the amount of people at the finish line. Do not plan to see your family members even if you have the best intentions and cell phone service. There are too many variables, that Plan A should always be self-reliance in getting back home. This includes mapping your subway ride home ahead of time as well. The finish line in 2019 was chaotic in the transportation sense. Every taxi was dark and filled with people, so I hopped in a petty cab and ended up spending $250 to get back to my hotel because I was not prepared mentally or physically on the subway route back to the hotel. Ouch. I (stupidly) gave my subway card to my husband to use for his transportation instead of thinking of myself getting back home afterwards.

Also plan for your phone to die at some point in the race. I have a phone wallet similar to this, where I can stash a credit card, ID, and subway pass all without taking any additional space. Think of your essentials and make it easy on yourself by memorizing your exit strategy ahead of time.

Snacks or Meal

If you’re a slow poke or medium poke like me, your wave will likely not start until 10am or 12pm on race day. Most folks will arrive at the start line hours before that and that is a substantial time to go without any food before the race. According to NYRR there will be food stations available, but why risk trying something new on race day? Stick to foods you know even if something simple like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Before long races, or really anything that will take more than 2 hours to complete, I pack a breakfast for myself on race day. Usually it includes several hard boiled eggs that you can buy at the grocery store as is, some Justin’s Peanut Butter and trail mix. These are all calorically dense and very normal for my diet. I don’t do the goos and sugar crap that many people do on race day because it makes me sick to my stomach. I did the egg and nut combo before my Half Ironman and the results were really good!

TLDR: bring food your stomach agrees with and plan to eat while waiting for your wave.

The glamorous Charity Village JDRF Team tent


In years past, Dunkin Donuts served as the headliner coffee provider at the start line. Just like the water tanks for runners, there were vats of hot dunkins coffee waiting for runners as they arrived. It was beautiful. I have not seen in researching the start line plans if Dunkin will be back and even if it is, I am worried it will all be gone by the time I even get to Staten Island! My mom and I are planning to bring our own nitro cold brew which doesn’t need to be hot nor will it run out when it is in our own personal stash. Alternatively you could bring individual instant coffee packets or caffeine tablets or caffeinated electrolytes. There is never enough coffee, amiright?

Portable Phone Charger

This was a circa 2019 NYC Marathon hack. I got a cheap $7 portable charger to use on Staten Island and tossed it in the donation bins in a little baggie on the way to the corral when it was time. Most folks use up their phone battery before the race even starts, so leaving at 100% is important if you plan to use it for any entertainment.

Second pro tip – have everything available for offline listening. Podcasts, music, YouTube, whatever it is. The service is terrible the entire marathon due to the fantastic crowds and you wouldn’t be able to stream anything as you run.

Early morning on Staten Island


If you didn’t go for the caffeinated electrolytes above, packing in some salt sticks or nuuns will go a long way before / during / after your race. So that you’re packing less during your run, opting to take a salt tab ahead of time is usually a good idea.

Towel or Small Tarp

The ground is wet and people are walking around spilling water and all the grassy areas end up as a muddy mess. When charity village existed in 2019, the charity JDRF that I was running for supplied us all with tarps, towels and blanked to sit on and snuggle up with in the tent. There are rules around bringing in large towels or blankets, so certainly get familiar with that first, but you could likely bring one extra layer or a small hand towel to sit on so you don’t get wet and to provide a bit of cushioning.

Trash Bags for Shoes

I was amazed when I saw runners walking around with bagged up feet. What did they know that I didn’t??? They knew their feet were going to be cold and wet. I spent the first 3mi of the marathon not feeling my feet because they were chilled to the bone from waiting on Staten Island so long. That and the muddy wetness factor is difficult to avoid. What a fantastic and easy way to get a little extra insulation and protection for the long morning ahead.

Frozen feet

Hand Warmers or Throw Away Mittens

This is a common pre-race item for winter marathons. You’ll see people running in rag tag mittens they intend to ditch after the first several miles. I can’t bear the thought of tossing gloves, even if cheap, so I’m planning to opt for hand warmers that I can hold onto for a few miles if absolutely necessary. I’ll likely wear leggings with pockets that can allow me to hold a few extra comfort items during the first few miles as I warm up.

Extra jacket and sweatpants

Thankfully NYRR partners with local clothing donation charities to take all the stripped away clothing on Staten Island leading to the gun going off. I funded the Dallas area Goodwill by purchasing my Barney outfit of a purple hoodie and purple sweatpants to wear to the holding area on top of my form fitting race clothing. It was STILL cold after sitting there for several hours, so I may even wear a few shirts this year in addition to a jacket on top. Whatever you do, plan to layer and go through the closet to find things you no longer want or need that could serve a future human being.


I was quite the newb in 2019 and showed up at 6am when my wave at the time was set for roughly 10am. Newbie to the max. I was on the tail end of a paperback book and was able to finish it before the race even started (and into the donation pile) however I saw many other runners with decks of cards, books, magazines, listening to music or watching movies on their phones, anything to tick away the pre race jitters before their wave. Not everyone is particularly cheerful in the early and cold hours of the morning, so bring something you can easily toss in the donation bin or can leave behind that will give you some entertainment in the morning.

New York City Marathon 2021 Race Recap

Why Running on a Marathon Charity Team is the Best Decision You Will Ever Make

30+ Ways to Raise Money as a Charity Runner

New York City Marathon Travel Budget to Actual Spending

New York City Marathon Long Weekend Trip Packing List

New York City Marathon Long Weekend Itinerary

How to Leverage Social Media for Fundraising

Any items you can’t live without on a marathon start line?

Posted by:Allie

10 replies on “What to Bring to the Start Line of the New York City Marathon

  1. I’m still so mad at myself for deferring NYC 2019 just because of the cool apple-shaped medal. However, I’m looking forward to NYC 2020, which is in a few day . . . EEK!

    I like to bring a “throwaway” book to read while I wait for my wave’s start. Your list is pretty top notch and I cannot think of anything else to bring to the starting village.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s