The NYC Half: Evolution of an Iconic Race
This year marks New York Road Runners’ 60th anniversary, and it’s an opportunity to look at the impact of our largest events on our runners and our city. The 2018 United Airlines NYC Half is a big part of that story, and Peter Ciaccia, president of events of NYRR and race director of the TCS New York City Marathon, reflects on the 13-year history of the race and shares his excitement about this year's running.
Supporting Lower Manhattan
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, Downtown Manhattan was in dire need of support, and NYRR responded by putting on the Run to Liberty 10K, with over 2,500 finishers, in August 2002. The race took place again in 2003 on the streets around Battery Park and along the West Side Highway, bringing support to the businesses in the area. It worked.
We saw the potential to do more—to put on a bigger event that would showcase more of NYC and deliver a “wow” factor. Ultimately, we envisioned a race with as great an impact as the New York City Marathon.
Working with our city agency partners, in August 2006 we launched the NYC Half, with over 10,000 runners on a course from Central Park to Battery Park by way of Times Square (“wow”). The race featured a world-class pro field and a TV broadcast. Runners loved it, and the local economy got a significant boost. It worked again.
A Must-Do Half
Over the next few years, the NYC Half became one of the world’s most popular half-marathons. It became a big race for charity runners, interest from the international community grew, and even celebrities toed the line. Still, we envisioned more—a spring race with a marathon-like impact. But with over half the route in Central Park, our field size was limited to around 10,000.
In 2010 we moved the race to March and in 2012 we introduced a new course with a finish in the Financial District. We could now accommodate 15,000 finishers. Runners loved the course, and again downtown businesses benefited as runners ran, finished, and brunched.
Heightened Community Impact
In 2014 we tweaked the course again to allow the launch of a pro wheelchair race and a field of 20,000 runners. In 2015 United Airlines came in as title sponsor and we added a youth run in Times Square showcasing hundreds of kids in our free youth programs. We continued to grow the race’s charity impact, bringing us closer to the marathon-like community impact we envisioned. Since 2010, charity runners have raised over $32 million to benefit important causes.
This Sunday we’ll kick off our “new” United Airlines NYC Half. We’ve added 2,500 runners to the field (over 42,000 applied for the entry drawing) allowing 22,500 people to journey down Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue, across the Manhattan Bridge, through Manhattan’s Lower East Side, up the FDR Drive, and over to Times Square, finishing in Central Park. The course goes through new neighborhoods and includes iconic sights and gorgeous views.
The Evolution Continues
The new course will be fun, exciting, and an incredible way to see the city. From first to final finisher, you will all have an amazing experience. Beyond race day, we at NYRR will continue to expand our programs and engagement with the communities along the new course through free programs in schools, parks, and centers, and to drive economic impact to local businesses. This is what we do all year long.
The evolution of our events never stops—thank you for running with us and being a part of it.