How Many Waves In Nyc Marathon

As a marathon runner, I’ve always been fascinated by the organization and logistics that go into hosting a race of such magnitude. One aspect that has always intrigued me is the concept of waves in a marathon. During the New York City Marathon, runners are organized into different waves, but how many waves are there exactly? Let’s dive deep into this topic and explore the inner workings of wave assignments in the NYC Marathon.

The Purpose of Waves

Before we delve into the specifics of how many waves there are in the NYC Marathon, let’s first understand the purpose of implementing waves in a race. With tens of thousands of participants, it would be chaotic to start everyone at once. Waves allow for a more efficient and organized start, ensuring that runners have enough space and can maintain a steady pace without overcrowding.

Waves are typically determined based on the projected finishing times of runners. The fastest runners are assigned to the first wave, while the slower runners are placed in subsequent waves. This not only helps with maintaining a smooth flow at the start, but also allows runners of similar abilities to compete against each other, making for a fair and competitive race.

Wave Assignments in the NYC Marathon

The New York City Marathon takes wave assignments seriously to ensure a seamless race experience. Generally, the NYC Marathon consists of three waves: Wave 1, Wave 2, and Wave 3. Each wave has a designated start time, and runners are assigned to their respective wave based on their qualifying times or estimated finishing times provided during registration.

Wave 1 is usually reserved for elite runners and those who have achieved particularly fast qualifying times. This wave sets off first, allowing these athletes to showcase their exceptional abilities and compete against each other on the course.

Wave 2 includes runners who have achieved moderately fast qualifying times or have estimated finishing times that fall within a certain range. This wave starts shortly after Wave 1, ensuring that these runners have their own space to run comfortably without being impeded by faster or slower participants.

Wave 3 consists of runners who have achieved slower qualifying times or have estimated finishing times that are longer than those in the previous waves. As the final wave, Wave 3 typically starts a bit later than the other waves, allowing these participants to have their own start without feeling pressured by faster runners.

Additional Waves and Corrals

While the NYC Marathon generally has three main waves, there may be additional waves or corrals within each wave to further organize and manage the large number of participants. These additional divisions are determined based on the projected finishing times provided by the runners during registration.

Within each wave, there may be designated corrals that group runners with similar projected finishing times together. This helps prevent congestion and allows for a smoother start, as runners within each corral have similar pacing abilities.


So, to answer the question of how many waves there are in the NYC Marathon, the general answer is three: Wave 1, Wave 2, and Wave 3. However, it’s important to note that there may be additional divisions within each wave to further organize runners based on their projected finishing times. Overall, the implementation of waves in the NYC Marathon plays a crucial role in ensuring a safe and efficient start for all participants, allowing them to focus on achieving their personal bests without the chaos of a massive crowd.

As a marathon runner, I appreciate the attention to detail and organization that goes into the wave assignments. It not only enhances the overall race experience but also provides a fair and competitive environment for all participants. So, whether you find yourself in Wave 1, Wave 2, or Wave 3, embrace the energy of the crowd, pace yourself, and enjoy the journey of conquering the iconic New York City Marathon!