Verrazano Gets Ready for NYC Marathon

Anyone who's ever hosted a special event knows the amount of planning and prep work needed to be a good host. Now imagine doing it for 45,000 people. That's what a team of managers and Operations personnel at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge must do each year to get ready for Marathon Sunday.

Verrazano Gets Ready for NYC Marathon"It's like our Super Bowl," said General Manager Daniel DeCrescenzo, who, along with his team begins planning for the event months before the ING NYC Marathon takes place. This year's event is Nov. 7th.

The Verrazano's soaring 693-foot towers and graceful network of suspended cables has been the starting point for the race since it became an all-borough marathon in 1976. Now in its 41st year, this year's race will feature 45,000 runners and will be seen by a worldwide television audience of 315 million viewers. 

DeCrescenzo, like any good host, begins his annual marathon preparations by making a detailed "to do" list, which ranges from regularly scheduled tasks like filling in potholes, fixing broken delineators and cleaning roadway drainage areas to special race day items including readying electronic message signs and temporarily removing guiderails near the toll plaza to give runners easier access.

A week before the race, the familiar blue, green and orange start lines are painted across the toll plaza. But the bulk of the work begins the night before when the upper level of the bridge is closed at 11 PM so maintenance crews can cover the bridge's finger joints with Masonite boards, which are strong and slightly bendable, so runners and wheelchair racers have a smooth surface. 

The finger joints are the metal intertwined joints that allow the bridge's roadway decks to expand in summer months and contract in winter. Crews secure the 3-foot wide by 33-foot long boards to four locations beneath the upper level roadway, and use 16 mats at four locations on the lower level of the bridge.

At the same time, Operations personnel are setting up checkpoints, reconfiguring toll plaza lanes so traffic can continue moving across the lower level of the bridge before it is closed for the race at 7 AM. 

Hours before the race begins the toll plaza comes alive with activity. Operations personnel begin escorting a convoy of buses filled with race participants, dozens of trucks that will carry the runners' personal gear to the finish line, and the U.S. Army canons that will signal the start of the race, slowly across the bridge to make sure the temporary covers on the finger joints are not disturbed. MTA and NYPD command centers are set up and the bridge gets a final sweeping around 6 AM.

When the last runner leaves the bridge, normally around 11:30 AM, the work for Verrazano crews is not done yet.

Using everything from front-end loaders and mechanical sweepers to workers with shovels and plastic garbage bags, crews begin scooping up all the discarded warm-up jackets, pants, water bottles, towels and other debris left behind by the runners. Once the concrete barriers, guiderails, cones and delineators are all back in place, the bridge is reopened to traffic, usually by 3 PM. 

"As the starting spot for one of the world's premier races, a tremendous amount of behind the scenes work is necessary, but we are proud to show off our bridge and be part of the New York City Marathon," DeCrescenzo said.