New York does everything big, and the city's famed marathon is no exception. In addition to having a huge field of international runners and 2 million New Yorkers coming out to support the marathoners, the New York City Marathon occurs on the largest media stage in the world, with TV viewership topping 300 million. It also boasts the largest prize purse of all of the major marathons, with a total of $800,000 being given out for the 2010 race. Each male and female champion wins $130,000, and that total goes up to $200,000 for a previous champion. The cool fall temperatures in November are a big draw for runners, as well.
The race starts on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge on Staten Island and winds its way through all five boroughs on the way to the finish line in Central Park. In 1970, the first New York City marathon had only 127 runners, who paid a buck apiece to run a 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometer) course that looped several times through Central Park. The capacity for the race is close to 40,000, with an average of roughly 38,000 finishing most years. Since more than 90,000 people apply to run each year, qualification is based on a long list of rules, ranging from running times and membership in the New York Road Runners (NYRR) club to whether the runner has participated in other Road Runner events. Fees for the race are $149 for NYRR members and $185 for nonmembers. Course records were set for the men in 2001 with a time of 2:07:43, and in 2003 for women with a time of 2:22:31.
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U.S. runners are taking longer than ever to cross the finish line. HowStuffWorks details a study that attempts to explain why.