First, you must remember this is the largest marathon in the world; you'll have 38,000 runners to contend with even before the race begins. If you're fast, you can guarantee a berth by logging a qualifying half- or full-marathon time (the 2008 bar was set at 1:23 and 2:55, respectively, for men under 40) and applying by May 1. Otherwise, the standard lottery odds are a dismal one in eight. As soon as you're confirmed, book a hotel near Central Park. The night before the race, reserve your taxi to the ferries (or the official buses), so you won't miss your boat to the starting line, on Staten Island. Watch your pace: The first 16 miles are flat, but that changes after the Queensboro Bridge. "Our course is tough," says race director Mary Wittenberg. "Run the last 3.5 miles of the course beforehand; that alone shows you how hilly it is." $155; ingnycmarathon.org
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