The race is produced by the New York Road Runners and has been run every year since 1970. It is held on the first Sunday of November and attracts professional competitors and amateurs from all over the world. Because of the popularity of the race, participation is restricted by a lottery system, with preference given to previous participants.
In 2003, a record 34,729 people participated in the race.
The top male finisher was Martin Lel of Kenya in a time of 2:10:30. The top female finisher was Margaret Okayo of Kenya in time of 2:22:31, breaking her previous course record of 2:24:21 set in 2001. In recent years, runners from Kenya have dominated the event
The top Americans were Matt Downin (2:18:48) and Cheri Blauwet (2:33:11), both of California.
The course begins in Staten Island near the approach to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. The bridge, which normally carries only vehicular traffic, is closed for the event. In the opening minutes of the race, the bridge is filled with runners, creating a dramatic spectacle that is closely associated with the event.
The course winds through Brooklyn and Queens, crosses the East River on the Queensborough Bridge into Manhattan. It then proceeds north on First Avenue, crosses briefly into the Bronx over the Harlem River before returning to Manhattan. It then proceeds south through Harlem and Central Park and terminates near Tavern on the Green.