The iconic TCS New York City Marathon is coming up Sunday and nonprofit New York Road Runners is busy with preparations. New York Road Runners is an organization of passionate runners that started as a local running club and has grown into a larger community for runners in New York with the mission to help and inspire people through running. New York Road Runner’s CEO Rob Simmelkjaer expressed excitement on spearheading the prestigious marathon this year.
“I’ve run this marathon twice myself in 1997 and then in 2013. I’m a native New Yorker so this event always had a special place in my heart. I’ve been a lifelong runner so it’s just an incredible privilege to be able to bring this event back to the city of New York” he told New York Nonprofit Media.
The preparations have involved coordination from thousands of people in order to ensure smooth running for the marathon. “There’s a huge team effort that really starts the day after last year’s marathon in terms of getting ready. We have almost 250 full time staff and thousands of volunteers who all are at work to make sure every element of the events from the starting line in Staten Island to the finish line in Central Park and everything in between goes very smoothly. So there’s just a tremendous amount of coordination on everything” said Simmelkjaer.
There is also a lot of coordination involved regarding the various charity organizations involved. “We raised over $50 million for charities each year through the marathon,” he said. “We have over 500 charities signed up to raise money through the marathon and last year we raised a record over $65 million.” One of the largest charity organizations involved is their team for kids; Rising New York Road Runners. This organization is New York Road Runners’ own brand that raises money for youth and community programs that take place year round. “We do a lot more than put on a marathon, we have Rising New York Road Runners programs going on for over 60,000 kids in New York City public schools all year long” said Simmelkjaer. Rising New York Road Runners provides educators with a curriculum that they can use to get kids active from a young age. The program helps teach physical literacy to kids and it’s free for public school students in New York City. “There’s been such a challenge for physical education in schools recently, with challenges that the schools are going through from a budgetary point of view. Physical Education is often one of the first things to get cut back and rising New York Road Runners is really aiming to fill that gap that exists” Simmelkjaer told NYN Media. “We have a very close partnership with the New York City Board of Education and we talk to them about how we can best serve to fill the gap to make sure that physical education does not suffer when the schools are struggling with their budget,” he said. While the program is aimed at physical education it also has benefits for students’ mental health. “When a kid is running there are two good things that are happening; they are getting exercise and they are also not on a device, they’re not on social media, they’re not doing those things that we know can sometimes be damaging to their mental health. So we really believe that this program can be a big part of combating this problem of both inactivity and mental health challenges that we are seeing among young people” said Simmelkjaer.
This marathon season, New York Road Runners launched a brand new event with their youth focused program called the Rising New York Road Runners kickoff. It’s a race that took place on Sunday in Central Park with about 1,000 kids aged between 2 to 18 participating and running various distances. “We’re really excited for this kickoff and hope it’s going to become the official kickoff to marathon week by giving kids - whether they’re public school kids who are a part of our Rising program or kids from the public - a chance to come and be introduced to this sport of running,” Simmelkjaer told NYN Media.
Among the kickoff activities, there are a variety of other events that are happening during Race Week and leading up to the marathon. The TCS Run with Champions event will bring together Rising New York Road Runners participants to run alongside professional athletes including some previous marathon winners.
The TCS New York City Marathon Expo presented by New Balance will be held from Thursday to Saturday at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. The expo is expected to draw marathon runners picking up race gear and shopping for new gear from various vendors selling apparel and other accessories. Also new at the Expo is “Citizen’s Stage.” “Citizen’s Stage is a stage taking place at the expo where we’re going to convene conversations about everything running; the running industry, how it can grow, how youth can get involved in running, sustainability and running, and the impact of running on mental health,” said Simmelkjaer. “We’re going to have a panel of all of the race directors of the major marathons from around the world talking about how they put on these big races.” The expo is open to the public.
The Abbott Dash to the Finish Line, a 5k race, is taking place on Saturday. “We’ve got over 10,000 runners who are registered for the Abbott Dash to the Finish Line 5k and that’s a really big event that kicks off the marathon weekend and the running events,” said Simmelkjaer.
Whether you’re participating in the race or not, there are tons of ways to get involved in the marathon. “The best thing you can do is show up on the course and cheer these runners on because having run this race twice myself before, I can tell you the runners need every bit of support and encouragement that they can possibly get,” Simmelkjaer told NYN Media. One way to start is through the TCS New York City Marathon mobile app, which is available for both Apple and Android devices. The app shows race courses, spectators areas and watch parties locations set up by running clubs along the route. Runners can be tracked by name and race number along the course. The marathon will be live broadcast on WNBC and ESPN.
The internationally recognized event has been a staple in the city for almost 50 years and become critical for the economy as well. “The marathon brings so many people to New York from around the world. We have over 10,000 international runners who fly in, stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, shop in stores and take mass transit all week long, so there’s a huge economic benefit,” Simmelkjaer told NYN Media. “The last time we did a study we found that the marathon brought in about $500 million of economic value to the city of New York. It’s a really great driver of tourism and visitation to the city. It’s a chance for people to see the city through this incredible experience of running through all five boroughs and being cheered on by New Yorkers.”