ING New York City Marathon

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Photograph: Jean-Pierre Durand

Good news, couch potatoes: You don't have to slog through all 26.2 miles to enjoy marathon festivities. This year, organizers have planned more events pegged to the annual contest than ever before, so whether you're pounding the pavement or aching at the thought of it, our guide will get you prepped and pumped for race day.

Health and Fitness Expo
The Javits Center will be transformed into a running mecca for the three days leading up to the race. There you can watch The Road to the Finish, a panoramic film that documents the marathon through all five boroughs; grab training tips from sports science experts; and purchase just about any type of jogging paraphernalia. 655 W 34th St at Eleventh Ave. Thu 3, Fri 4 10am--8pm; Sat 9am--5pm. Free.

Marathon Opening Ceremony
Think of this evening event in Central Park as a small-scale Olympic kickoff. Representatives from more than 75 countries will show off their colors during a Parade of Nations; dance troupe Anti-Gravity will perform aerial feats; and famous athletes such as U.S. champ Meb Keflezighi will appear. Stick around for fireworks and end the evening with live music. Enter at Central Park West and 67th St. Fri 4 at 6pm; free.

NYRR Dash to the Finish Line
Join former Olympians such as Deena Kastor and Dathan Ritzenhein at this inaugural 5K, which gives running enthusiasts and walkers the chance to cross the official finish line with only one-eighth the exertion required for the main event. The racecourse winds its way through midtown, from the United Nations to 42nd Street, and ends in Central Park. Meet at Dag Hammarskjld Plaza, 47th St between First and Second Aves; nyrr.org; Sat 5 at 8:30am; $50--$55.

ING New York City Marathon 2011
Stake out a lively spot—we recommend along Fourth Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, First Avenue between 60th and 96th Streets in Manhattan or Central Park South near the finish line—to cheer the tens of thousands en route to the finish. Get there early to catch the elite competitors, who start at 9:10 (women) and 9:40am (men), or later in the day as amateurs flood the streets. Locations and times vary. Sun 6; free.

THEY'RE OFF!
ING New York City Marathon; visit nycmarathon.org for details.

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