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45 Big, Huge, Surprising Facts About the NYC Marathon

Published On 10/28/2015 Published On 10/28/2015

From impromptu weddings and sweaty celebrities to runners who actually thought they could get away with taking the subway to the finish line, the New York City Marathon is a tried and true city staple. So in honor of the marathon’s 45th birthday, we compiled a list of the coolest 45 facts and figures about one of the world’s largest races. And even though the New York City Marathon would have to sign up for the race in the 45-49 age group, it’s not slowing down any time soon.

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1. The first marathon took place in 1970 and did not encompass the five boroughs -- athletes just ran several laps around the Park Drive of Central Park. 

2. For one of the biggest marathons in the world, the first one was pretty measly in size. There were only 127 entrants with a meager 55 people crossing the finish line.

3. It cost $1 to register for the first race in 1970. Last year, the entrance fee was a whopping $227. 

4. A couple was married on the 8th mile of the race in 1993 -- talk about one of the biggest figurative milestones of your life taking place in front of a literal milestone. 

5. Last year Dennis Marsella, likely the country's longest-lasting trick athlete, ran his 29th NYC Marathon in a corduroy coat and tie while carrying a drink-topped serving tray. Known as the "Coatman,” he has finished over 134 marathons.

Getty Images/Mario Tama 

6. A former British firefighter finished the race in a 130lb diving suit to raise money and awareness for leukemia in 2002; it took him 121 hours to cross the finish line. Guess a firefighting uniform wasn't hardcore enough.

7. The race raised the most money for charity in the year 2011, raising $34 million for 190 different non-profits.

8. The 2005 race’s margin of victory was a scant 0.03 seconds between the first two finishers. There was a not a moist eye in New York City that day, because everyone was too afraid to blink and miss it.

9. In 2009, Meb Keflezighi became the first American to win the race in 27 years.

10. Taking her own advice about New York, that "concrete jungle where dreams are made of," Alicia Keys will be running this year's upcoming marathon.

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11. Fred Lebow, the founder of the marathon, ran the race to celebrate his 60th birthday shortly after being diagnosed with brain cancer.

12. Every year Lebow’s commemorative statue is moved from its permanent location on the East Side to within full view of the finish line.

13. A 40-year-old mother of two from Brooklyn was the race’s one millionth finisher last year, and didn’t know about it until the New York Daily News reached out to her for comment.

14. Legend has it that the first winner of the Marathon, Gary Muhrcke, was given a recycled bowling trophy as his prize.

15. Diddy raised two million dollars for charity while running the race in 2003, and maintains that he abstained from sex in the two weeks before the race as part of his training. That’s a pretty big sacrifice for Diddy, we presume.

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16. In the year 2000, the race was given a wheelchair and handcycle division.

17. A group of Seattle-based runners called 5 Boroughs, 5 Beers, drink a cold one in each borough as they pass through during the marathon. Talk about hydration priorities.

18. About 40% of the race’s participants are international athletes. Last year's biggest international presence was France, with a total of 3,279 runners, fueled by the carb-packed power of the baguette probably.

19. Last year, there was one participant in the 90-99 age group and you better believe she finished the race.

20. A veritable army of portable toilets is shipped in for the marathon, with 1,800 restrooms set up at the start of the race and 2,374 scattered through the course at 35 different locations. The race has the second most porta-potties in the nation after the Rose Bowl -- which raises questions about the amount of beer had at the game versus the amount of water had while running 26 miles.

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21. The eerie quiet on the Queensboro bridge due to the lack of spectators allowed on the bridge, coupled with its steep incline, makes it one of the toughest stretches of the race.

22. According to ESPN, people are super nervous at the start of this particular race. Their median max heart rate clocked in at 172, instead of a normal race average of 165.

23. Norwegian runner Grete Waitz was the first woman to run the marathon in under two and a half hours, and won a total of nine NYC Marathons -- the biggest winner in the marathon’s history.

24. Tiffany & Co. makes the silver Samuel Rudin Trophy for the elite male and female finishers, just the fancy thing you want to be touching while you're covered in 26 miles worth of sweat. 

25. Thirsty? There’s about 32,000 gallons of Gatorade and 62,000 gallons of Poland Spring water to keep runners hydrated throughout the race.

Getty Images/Manny Millan

26. Believe it or not, the course is big enough to get lost in. German Silva from Mexico took a wrong turn into Central Park but still managed to win the race in 1994, and then again the year after.

27. The 2014 NYC Marathon had the largest number of finishers than any other race in history with 50,564 runners crossing the finish line. That's almost as much people as Australia has in its whole army (56,922).

28. Almost 12,000 pounds of food from the marathon’s finish line is donated to City Harvest to feed New York City’s hungry.

29. To keep hydrated, the marathon’s runners use a whopping 2.3 million paper cups -- that's like, probably a whole tree.

30. This might be the most monitored race in the world, with organizers tracking runners’ data at every mile split and every 5km which equal to roughly 1.6 million pieces of unique data, according to reporting by The New York Times.
 

Getty Images/Ray Tamarra 

31. Dean Karnazes completed his goal of running 50 marathons in 50 consecutive days -- and finished with the NYC marathon. He also wrote book titled Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner, doesn't that sound like a character from X-Men?

32. The end of the marathon is a free-for-all scavenger hunt. One dude was able to collect a year’s supply of energy bars strewn along the course by runners to fuel his many hiking trips.

33. About 11 tons of trash will be collected after the race in total. 

34. The marching band of Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn plays the Rocky theme song -- “Gonna Fly Now” -- over and over again until the last runner has crossed. Getting strong now/won’t be long now!

35. For the first two miles of the race, runners rip off layers as they get too warm; all the strewn clothing on the ground totals 52,000 pounds that are later donated to charity.

Getty Images/TIMOTHY A. CLARY

36. Katie Holmes ran into the arms of then-husband Tom Cruise and daughter Suri after finishing the race in 2007 exclaiming “Here I am baby, signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours.” Cute or gross? Regardless, that’s some pretty big star power.

37. After Rosie Ruiz tried to pull a fast one during the Boston Marathon, NYC Marathon officials became suspicious of her 24th place finishing time, with good reason. Her time of 2 hours and 56 minutes was invalidated when it was discovered that she cheated in a big way -- by taking the subway. 

38. While runners are shedding layers, David Babcock is literally making them. Last year, he broke his record for the longest scarf knitted while running a marathon.

39. The New York Road Runners set up the Marathon Eve Dinner every year, carb-loading 15,000 runners with a total of almost 2,400 pounds of pasta for maximum energy boosts for the following day’s run.

40. Beth Bonner was the first female winner of the marathon with a time of 2:55:22.

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41. Over 2.5 million spectators line the course which goes through the city's five boroughs: Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan.

42. The marathon’s not just for big kids -- an eight year old finished the race in 1977 in about three hours.

43. After being trapped underground for over two months, it makes sense Chilean miner Eduard Pena would want to stretch his legs at the Marathon -- he finished in 5 hours and 40 minutes in 2010, hobbling along part of the way.

44. After Hurricane Sandy, the biggest storm to hit the East Coast since 1972, Mayor Bloomberg had to cancel the marathon -- but that didn’t stop runners from heading to Staten Island to help with clean-up.

45. In 1986, a Vietnam war veteran with no legs finished the race on his hands. It took him 98 hours.

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