ING NYC Marathon Announces New No-Baggage Policy

The world's largest marathon hopes to ease finish-line congestion.

(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

ING New York City Marathon officials announced today a significant shift in one of their long-established race management policies: Participants will no longer be able to bring a bag to the start in Staten Island and have it transported to the finish in Central Park by truck.

The change, according to New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg, was being made to ease congestion in the area known as the post-finish, or walk-off, where for years runners had to trudge up to a mile to reclaim their belongings before leaving the park. Race officials had tried different approaches to ease congestion, but decided eliminating baggage transport altogether was the best approach. Officials said today that runners could expect to exit the park up to 30 minutes faster than before.

"Our primary objective is to provide runners with the best possible and safest experience," Wittenberg said through a prepared statement. "The post-race walk-off has been too long and too congested, and was overwhelmingly the number-one complaint of our runners for years. We worked in close partnership with the City to develop the best solution that balances our responsibilities to runners with the impact on the surrounding neighborhoods."

To ease runner concerns about being cold or getting wet after they finish (should there be rain), Wittenberg's team developed a one-size-fits-all, fleece-lined, hooded, waterproof poncho which will be given to each finisher. Also, the race's family reunion area will be closer to the runner exit in the park, allowing runners to reunite with family members and important possessions more quickly.

Wittenberg also announced two other changes to ease runner fears about being bagless. First, free-to-use phone kiosks will be available to runners at both the start and post-finish areas so they can call family members should they choose not to carry their personal cell phones during the race. In an online chat this morning via Twitter, race officials said that international calls would be permitted. Second, the race will now have four starting waves, instead of three, which will further reduce congestion on the course and smooth the flow of runners through the finish line and post-finish areas.

Runners can wear any clothes they wish to the start, but will have to leave them there, officials said. Clothes left behind will be collected by race volunteers and donated to charity in a coordinated effort with New York/New Jersey Goodwill Industries and UPS.

Minutes after the announcement was made, the marathon's Facebook page lit up with over 250 comments, nearly all of which were negative.

"This is a horrible solution to a non problem," wrote John Muir of Patterson, NJ in a typical response. "If you are going to have a race with 10's of thousands of people, congestion at the finish is inevitable. There are runners who will be there by themselves and count on being able to retrieve phone, keys, wallets, medicines as well just some dry clothes to change into."

But at least one runner who took the time to comment saw the benefit of the new program.

"This is the best news!!" wrote Emily Parsons, a senior account manager at Google who lives in New York City. "Taking over an hour to get out of the park last year was terrible. Thank you for making this change!! :)"