The first Sunday in November is a yearly love letter to New York City.
It takes the form of the New York City Marathon, which has crisscrossed all five boroughs since 1976, when roughly 2,000 people started the race and just over 1,500 finished.
This year, that love letter is being penned by 50,000 runners, 12,000 volunteers and over 1 million spectators dotting the 26.2-mile course.
Like all good love letters, it begins with an over-the-top declaration: A cannon fires, and the speakers blast Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” as runners make their way across the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge from Staten Island to Brooklyn.
There are spectators — young and old, runners and nonrunners, locals and tourists alike, who show up to see people accomplish something and cheer them on their way. Signs in English, Spanish, Italian, Chinese and French provide encouragement, with inspirational messages and the occasional reminder: “DON’T POOP.” (Noted.)
The day is filled with joy in a city that always needs more of it. Early morning subway operators announce train stations with an addendum: “And good luck to all runners today!”
Runners pump each other up with the shared language of nervous laughs in Staten Island and pull each other along with compassion and guts in the Bronx. Spectators dance along the course and hand out water, tissues and the occasional beer. N.Y.P.D. officers ring cowbells and reach their hands out for high fives to whoever needs one.
The fastest humans are done around midday. Everyone else plods along for another eight hours or even longer, crossing the finish line at Tavern on the Green.
To experience marathon day in New York is to see what a big-city race is capable of generating — joy, pain, misery, triumph and nirvana. This is what it looks like.
Police officers were out on the race course in the Bronx before the start of the race.
Runners took the Staten Island Ferry to the marathon start on Staten Island.
Runners from Florida relaxed on pool rafts in Staten Island before the race began.
Manuela Schär of Switzerland raced through Brooklyn. Schär has won three major marathons this year. Andy von Salis cheered and waved the Swiss flag in Brooklyn.
Wheelchair racers in Brooklyn.
The elite women crossed the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.
Spectators lined the course in Brooklyn. A fan with a political message in Brooklyn.
Shura Kitata and the elite men ran through Brooklyn.
Daniel Romanchuk won the men’s wheelchair division.
Runners crossed the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.
Mary Keitany ran alone at the front of the women’s race for much of the course.
Sylvie Marie from France high-fived a spectator in Brooklyn.