Photo of marathon runners last year by sgoralnick on flickr

This Sunday, 39,000 runners from around the world will take part in a November tradition, the New York City Marathon. The 26.2 mile course will take participants on a winding course through all five boroughs of the city. The runners start in Staten Island at the base of the Verrazano Bridge before crossing into Brooklyn, where runners will run their most miles of the race. After Brooklyn, runners will head into Queens for a brief moment before going over the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan, where they will be welcomed by a roaring crowd on 1st Avenue. The runners will follow 1st Ave north until they enter The Bronx for a short while before returning to Manhattan for the homestretch down 5th Avenue. Finally, the runners will enter Central Park for their final 2+ miles to the finish. (PDF course map and approximate gmap)

The marathon isn't just an event for those that are running, but also for the millions of people that come out to watch the event. While the race will be televised on NBC, watching the race in person is, in some neighborhoods, as easy as walking out your front door. The marathon website has a great viewers guide to cheering not just the elite runners, but also your friends, if they're running, and all the other participants. And besides the runners, there are bands that line the course, providing tunes for all in earshot.

Start times for people in the race vary, and for the first time in NYC Marathon history, there will be a wave start for the open field. The elite women start at 9:10AM and the elite men start at 9:40AM. The wave start, designed to ease congestion along parts of the course, has the field starting at 9:40, 10:00 and 10:20. Athletes with disabilities begin at 7:30AM, wheelchairs start at 8:35AM and handcycles start at 8:55AM.

No matter who you're watching, the professional runners, your friends, or "Joe and Jane Marathon", be sure to cheer loudly as they run by.

And if you're wondering who to look for in the elite women's field and men's field, we have a quick list after the jump.

Women: Tegla Loroupe, Kenya (winner of the 1994 and 1995 NYC Marathon, finished 7th in 2007); Catherine "The Great" Ndereba, Kenya (won Boston 4 times, Chicago 2 times, silver in Beijing Olympics, looking for her first NYC win); Paula Radcliffe, Great Britain (won NYC in 2004 and again in 2007 after giving birth in Jan. '07); Dire Tune, Ethiopia (won Boston earlier this year, 15th in Beijing); Gete Wami, Ethiopia (came in 2nd in 2007, but won the first World Marathon Majors before racing last year in NYC by winning Berlin).

Men: Abderrahime Bouramdane, Morocco (2nd in Boston this year, won 3 other marathons previously); Marilson Gomes dos Santos, Brazil (2006 NYC winner); Abderrahim Goumri, Morocco (2nd to Martin Lel, who is out with injury, in NYC and London in 2007); Hendrick Ramaala, South Africa (2004 winner and 2005 runner up in NYC); Paul Tergat, Kenya (2005 NYC winner and former world-record holder)