At 8:30 on Sunday morning, the base of the Pulaski Bridge was nearly empty. Two volunteers and a handful of police officers worked to set up orange traffic cones and wooden police barriers that blocked off streets surrounding the marathon course. A traffic sign flashed the message “NYC MARATHON SUNDAY EXPECT ROAD CLOSURES” to deserted traffic lanes while a few bikers made use of the road closings, sailing through the race route and the empty bridge.
By 11:30, the streets were no longer clear, runners streamed by in earnest. Surrounding crowds pumped signs declaring “Welcome to Queens” while a live band performed from the front steps of a nearby Jewish Community Center.
The Pulaski Bridge, connecting Brooklyn and Queens, marks the halfway point of the New York Marathon. As runners enter their third borough along the route, they’re greeted by signs, blaring speakers and the knowledge that they’ve completed the first 13.1 miles of the race. Spectators and family cheering squads gather at the base of the bridge to deliver a boost to runners, then grab the nearby subway and sprint to cheer friends and family on at other locations along the race’s route.
For some supporters, such as Patrice Young, the choice to meet runners at this point in the race is a decision informed by first-hand experience. A six-time marathon veteran, she described the halfway mark as a pivotal point in a marathon’s mental game.
“You make it halfway and you’re like ‘Okay I can do this,’” said Young.
Other New York Marathon supporters prefer the environment of the Queens destination to the five-person-deep crowds along the Upper East Side portion of the race.
“It’s community people who are cheering,” said retired teacher Florence. “I’ve been to the finish line many times and I’ve been to see the elite runners coming in, this section is just very New York at its finest.”
From a runner’s perspective, the halfway point can mark a crucial moment within the race. According to one marathoner, Kayla Fahle, this section of the marathon can be one of the most physically trying.
“I was feeling a little bit rough after mile 13, I was feeling a little bit tired,” said Fahle. “That was actually one of the lowest points in my race.”
In the eyes of spectators, cheering at the halfway mark is also a choice of convenience. For those looking to meet runners at multiple locations, the nearby seven train offers a quick ride into the city and easy transfers.
“The subway is right here so I can see her here and then in our neighborhood in the Upper West side.,” said Rich, walking through his route and the points at which he planned to meet his wife throughout the race. “I’ll see her in Harlem and then I’ll see her at the finish at 72nd. “
Another spectator wearily double-checked her plan with a friend.
“We have to run back to another mile post so we can cheer him on at that mile post -at 19- and then another –at 22,” said Lisa, the wife of a runner.