No Checked Baggage for NYC Marathon?

If you have run the NYC Marathon before, you may have complained or had an issue with the long lines/wait to get your baggage post-race.  For those not familiar with the NYC Marathon, this is what the post-race area is like: All runners enter a chute immediately after crossing the finish line.  There is no way in or out of this chute until you make it through all the “checkpoints”.  You get your medal and heat blanket, get your photo taken, pick up water, fruit, and other post-race fuel, and then head to the baggage area.  There is always a HUGE back-up / wait to get your baggage.  After that, you leave the chute and can find your family/friends who are waiting on Central Park West (by lettered signs corresponding to your last name).

I’ve run the NYC Marathon several times.  In my opinion, the wait at the end is a necessary evil of participating in a race with almost 50,000 other people.  Yes, it is long and stinks and all I want to do is find my family and get inside, but I’ve always viewed it as a good way to keep my body moving (regardless of how slow the crowd is moving).

The organizers of the NYC Marathon announced this morning that baggage check will no longer be provided starting at this year’s marathon.  They are instituting this change due to the high volume of complaints regarding the amount of time it takes to make it through the chute system (due to the baggage check checkpoint).

In order to supplement the no-baggage policy, the NYC Marathon will now provide:

  • The Marathon Finish Line Poncho, a water-repellent, hooded, and fleece-lined garment to be handed out to every finisher
  • Establishing NYRR “Call Home” stations at the start and post-finish so runners can communicate with friends and family
  • A new and improved Family Reunion area near the runner exit
  • Increasing the number of wave starts from three to four to reduce runner density along the course and at the finish line. (Source:

I am not running the marathon this year – but would be extremely disappointed if I were.  Here are my thoughts:

  • Cell Phone: I don’t run with my phone, but rely on it pre-race to keep in touch with my family.  The call system is great in theory, but what are those lines going to look like?  I would much prefer to have my cell phone pre and post-race.
  • Warm Clothes: I am lucky enough to have a sister who lives two blocks (yes, only two blocks) from the finish line, so having warm clothes in checked baggage isn’t a necessity for me – I am back in her apartment within 5 minutes of exiting the chute.  But, I have run other marathons where this is not the case and having a pair of sweatpants/sweatshirt was CRUCIAL. It is NOT warm in NYC in November.
  • Medicine: Again, not necessary for me, but I’m sure there are runners who may need /want medicine or other medical supplies post-race.
  • ID / Credit Card / Money: I never run races with this, but I always put it in a ziplock bag because you never know when you might need it.  This was my M.O. after Boston – I had planned to walk back to my hotel with my husband but was SO cold and tired that I needed to take a cab instead.  Many runners in NYC (especially those who live in/around NYC) usually opt to take the subway (or cab) post-race.  They will now be required to carry this with them in order to travel post-race.

I understand that race organizers are always looking to improve on logistics to make the race experience the best it can be.  But, I don’t think this is the answer.  I’m sure if they took a poll of the 50,000 people registered to run the marathon, the majority would be willing to deal with the long lines in order to maintain this necessary race perk.

What are your thoughts?  

Have you ever run a marathon without using the baggage check system? 


There are some good comments being posted on the NYRR and NYC Marathon Facebook pages.

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    17 thoughts on “No Checked Baggage for NYC Marathon?

    1. I just want to exit faster. If this works, I’ll be getting to pizza and beer a lot faster 😉 I did not check a bag last year and didn’t plan on it this year, so I have a more positive outlook than most. I hope everyone can find solutions and NYCers are generous and help traveling runners out!
      Kristin Miller recently posted..ING NYC Marathon NO Bag Check SolutionsMy Profile

    2. I have never run a marathon USING the checked baggage. Call me paranoid, but all the claims that you should not put something valuable in the bag makes me not want to put money, cell phone, car keys, etc.

      There are handy little velcro pockets that attach to your shoe for a key or money. Oiselle sells AWESOME distance short that have two zipper pockets (one on the bum, one on the side of the hip) in addition to the standard pocket built into the lining. My marathon maniac had has a zipper pocket on it as well. I like to carry my own goods.

      If I want to have my phone with me (which I did for the one marathon I ran in 2005 and for the 13 I ran in 2009, the years in which my husband was deployed) I wear it in a little phone case that velcro wraps to my arm. For the other 7 marathons I have run I have not wanted/needed my phone with me. My plan is to always stay at the closest hotel to the finish, but sometimes it is booked and I stay at the closest hotel to the start. For Chicago I stayed at a hotel near Midway airport. In any case, the mylar blankets provided after the race have been perfect (and not too much) to keep me warm after the race.

      I always run a race with a $20 in my hat (if I am wearing my marathon maniacs hat) or in my shoe (either in a velcro pocket or under the insole), just in case I need it. I don’t find ID to be necessary because of the info on the bib, but have been known to tuck a debit card in my running shorts pocket if needed.

      I have needed medical supplies at only one of my 21 marathons and the aid stations (which they have a HUGE one at finish lines) are well equipped.

      It is great that NYC is notifying people of this 2 months out, that way folks can practice in training what to carry/wear if there is something they need.

    3. This new policy is really awful!!
      I live in Europe. I have planned to come to New York specifically for the marathon. I have no friends nor people from my family waiting for me at the end. I believe this new policy is not only extremely dangerous for the safety of the runners (New York could be pretty cold on November). but also it discriminates people that comes from outside NYC or abroad (as me). It’s really a shame that they announced that two months before the race. If I had knew before I would have never book hotel and flight to run this marathon. This is what I call a fraud!!!

    4. I’ve never checked a bag at a marathon and I’ve run in big races like NYC, Boston, Chicago, etc. I don’t have my family/friends bring anything to the finish because I never use it. Boston has post-race cell phones that you can use and surprisingly there was no wait — however, this is with half the running field and bag check. I just always ask a random stranger if I can use their phone since I don’t run with mine… and I’ve never had anyone tell me no. The worry is that cell phone service SUCKS here in NYC when you have a big event so most likely the grid will go down. I can see why people are upset, especially since you can’t just launch this on people half-way through training after you’ve paid nearly double to run the race! Congestion is not a good enough reason.
      Lora @ Crazy Running Girl recently posted..A MINI CELEBRATIONMy Profile

    5. This is an absolutely awful decision. What about the risk of hypothermia? No poncho will help you if you’re wearing soggy clothing. Also, what about those who may not have family/friends waiting for them at the finish to hold their belongings?

      And worst of all, why announce this two months before the start of the race?

      I had no choice but to email Mary Wittenberg and Peter Ciaccia. Here’s what I sent:

      If you care to do the same, you can reach them at and Their Facebook page does nothing to facilitate communication, so it seems email is the only way to go.
      Brian recently posted..An Open Letter to Mary WittenbergMy Profile

    6. Believe it or not, in all 6 marathons I’ve only used bag check once (Boston). I but that’s probably because most of my races have been in close proximity to where I live and I’ve always taken “throw-away” items to the start. I also have a tendency not to trust that my bag will be there…I don’t like to check bags at the airport either. Maybe I’m paranoid after our honeymoon experience where we checked our bag and our camera (with all our honeymoon pictures) was stollen from our checked bag (thank you very much Continental). Anyway… I’ve run big races (RnR Phoenix and San Diego) each time I’ve met my husband post race in the family meeting area and he’s got all my stuff. But I can understand that no bag check would be very inconvenient if you were from out of town and running by yourself. It certianly requires more planning ahead for participants.
      Sarah @RunFarGirl recently posted..35 Weeks Pregnant and NOT Running?!?My Profile

    7. This seems to just replace the baggage line with a line for the phones to work out where to meet people. How many phones are they planning to put there!
      I’d better go do some thrift shopping for disposable start line clothing. Awesome – NOT.

    8. I am excited for it. It’s not so much where you live – I happen to live close but I have done travel races and always have my stuff with someone at the end. For NYC have someone at the finish line you can meet with clothes and flip flops! I always carry my phone metro card, money and health card in my spibelt! I have everything i need on me. And they are giving jackets out – awesome. Most people can get dry clothes from someone at finish anyway or have money on them to get somewhere like a hotel or close by friends house. I say if this rectifies the chaos at the finish and waiting in crammed in corrals to get out – I am all for it! It is BAD at the finish and anything is better than that after running a marathon.

      • This works for you because you happen to live close. Some of us literally come alone.. no family or friends cheering at the race or waiting at the finish line. We are now required to carry everything we need. That jacket will do me no good if it rains on race day and I am SOAKED at the finish with no clothes to change in to/ out of the wet ones. It can take over an hour to go from the finish chute to your hotel… and that means no stopping and sharing stories with runners, no going out to eat after, just straight to the hotel.. it means leaving the area, and to me it ruins the experience.. I want to be there, to high five fellow runners.. not sitting on a cold metro in my wet clothes with a hotel key and nyc jacket…. its not done right to me.. good luck to those who want to get in line to use a phone.. is long distance going to be free?
        Eric recently posted..energybitsMy Profile

        • Eric, I live in Queens, so I’m a lot further than the hotels people will stay in. If you’ve ever run this marathon, the exit is horrible. You’ll sit in wet clothes for 45 minutes just to EXIT the park, with your muscles freezing up INSTANTLY. It may be quicker to leave (In a more timely fashion now) and get to your hotel to shower and change. I hope it turns out to be a positive experience for you, it really is a great race.
          Kristin Miller recently posted..ING NYC Marathon NO Bag Check SolutionsMy Profile

    9. Thanks for the info. I am running NYC this year and I know I have an email in my inbox from NYRR, but this is the first I’ve heard of this change. I’m not happy!!!!!!!!!!

      Getting out of the chute and out of Central Park after the race is long and not a lot of fun, but so what?!?!?! The race itself is organized exceptionally well and I can deal with a little delay. It’s not THAT bad.

      Now I will have to have my husband lug my warm clothes around the city with him while toting 2 little girls too. That stinks! Plus, the body glide I put on right before checking my bag will be toast. I know that’s not that big a deal, but I really liked the bag check! Silly complainers!!!

    10. I must be much more cautious or nervous than the average – but especially when I’m travelling to a race, I’d never in a million years leave my credit card in a race bag check – what if it were lost?! Same with my cell phone… I’d be scared I’d never see it again. I’d either leave those things with family/friends, or run with them.

    11. I think this is a huge logistical issue they have caused. Why not use 4 waves and the bag check and see if the 4 waves help? The issues you bring up are clear. Not everyone meets family and friends after the race. A lot of people run these races alone. Now they will need to carry EVERYTHING they need after the race for 26.2 miles. Fuel belt, pack, etc… This is a mistake.

      For the race that continually charges more and more, they seem to be offering less and less….
      Eric recently posted..Something new – FIT 1My Profile

    12. This is my first time running NYC. I was actually quite surprised when I read the e-mail this morning. I do not mind leaving my clothes for the needy but I now need to run with belt to hold money and such so I can make it back to my hotel.
      Amy recently posted..Catharine Valley 1/2 MarathonMy Profile

    13. I am running New York for the first time, and this is pretty suprising, and I wonder if it will be a trend for other events. I’ve never actually have never used a bag drop though. Not sure why. I just buy a thrift store collection of clothes to drop off in the chute. I dont’ think I would be checking my cell phone anyway, but yes, I’m sure a post-race cell phone line will be like the massage – tent at some races. It’s a good idea, but only a few will actually get to use it.
      Mark Matthews recently posted..Vacation RunningMy Profile