This Saturday, starting at an ungodly 7am, Brooklyn will be taken over by runners from around the world, runners who I can only imagine must not share my reservations about physical activity or waking up before noon. But with 27,000 participants, the Airbnb Brooklyn Half Marathon is the largest half marathon in the country.
The race starts at the Brooklyn Museum on Eastern Parkway and ends an unconscionable 13.1 miles later in Coney Island. For the participants, New York Road Runners has provided a list of race-day essentials and an overview of the route, including rest stops for bathrooms and water as well as medical aid for any runners having a panic attack after realizing they could have stayed home and slept in. Also, for shin splints.
Now, for those with friends running, there are several ways to show your support both during and after the race. I find that a nice text message is perfectly acceptable amount of congratulations before 8am. However, if you do choose to brave the morning, here’s a handy guide on how and where to support your runner friends — maybe even with a drink in your hand.
Cheer from the sidelines
There’s an interactive map for spectators who want to make sure they catch their friends in action from the sidelines, so you can Google where your friend is at before your schlep all the way out to the race. Sidelines are generally standing room only; there’s a lot available real estate on Prospect Park West and Ocean Parkway. But if you’d rather make a morning of it, head to Grand Army Plaza early to grab a seat under the arch (if it rains, the arch will be a great place to hide). You can multitask while you wait for the runners by heading across the street to grab some produce at the Green Market.
The first half of the race takes place along the west side of Prospect Park, so once you’re done watching the runners go by you can head into the park for an early picnic, or lend a hand at It’s My Park Day, a citywide volunteering opportunity to help clean up the park after the race. (My previous reservations about physical activity notwithstanding, I’ve participated in this before and it’s a good time).
If park time isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other places to check out once you’re done your cheering. The Pavilion Theater on 15th street starts showing movies at 10am, and not just the G-rated ones. You can catch Captain America: Civil War at 10am or Nice Guys at 11am. Further along the route, serial cuddlers can stop by the Sean Casey Animal Rescue center to hang out with the animals. Ttry your hardest not to adopt one of dogs or cats looking for forever homes. Lastly, if you’re feeling hella ambitious and rich on a Saturday morning, pop by the Kensington Stables on 8th and take a trail ride ($37).
Meet them at the finish line
If you’d rather meet your friends at the finish line, then head straight to MCU Park in Coney Island, where Airbnb is hosting an after party on the grounds. While you wait, you can enjoy concession stands of Coney Island’s own Nathan’s Hotdogs (strangely, not the same thing as Coney Island Dogs) and sip a beer as scores of strangers from the race collapse into sweaty mounds on the green around you.
If you’re rather not spend money, fear not the ennui of waiting: Jimmy Buffet tribute band Parrot Beach will be performing, as well as a few acts from the Coney Island Circus Sideshow. That, or you can take a scenic Brokelyn-approved tour of the Coney/Sheepshead area, according to roller disco queen Lola Star or neighborhood pizza don Salvatore Carlino.
Either way, get in the mood to party with runners and Coney Island freaks alike using this music video.
Start drinking (something) early
The race lasts from 7-11am, so if you’re the kind of friend who can only show early morning support with a bit more of buzz, you’ll need to think ahead. Qathra Café (1112 Cortelyou Rd.) opens at 7am and Coffee Mob (1514 Newkirk Ave.) at 8am on Saturday; both have great coffee and food, and both are open about a 10-15 minute walk from the race route.
As far as alcohol, it’s harder to get served early, but Farrell’s Bar & Grill (215 Prospect Park W.) along the route starts serving drinks at 10am. It’s near the park, so best for if you’ve got a slower friend. When the race is over, I would suggest hunkering down at one of the few nearby watering holes. The famous Ruby’s Bar & Grill (1213 Boardwalk W.) on the Coney Island boardwalk opens at 8am so you can camp out early but, in my experience, it becomes a madhouse by noon. Hamilton’s (2826 Fort Hamilton Pkwy.) is a sit-down spot in Windsor Terrace where a lot of runners end up after the half ends, so you can try to snag a reservation there.
Whatever you do, keep in mind that the half goes on no matter rain or shine, so keep an eye on the weather forecast and plan accordingly. I will be applauding everyone’s efforts from bed, sometime around noon.
Follow Katy from the sidelines at: @katyhartnett