Autumn in Chicago is packed with things to do, but there’s always room in our busy lives for the annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon, returning for its 38th year Sunday, October 9. Nearly two million spectators flock to the 26.2-mile route annually, cheering on participants with some of the most creative handmade signs as runners race toward the finish line in Grant Park. While October offers up tons of things to see in Chicago, this is an event you won't want to miss. Check out our guide to everything from spectating to carbo-loading, plus how to gear up and what runners need to know.
When is the Chicago Marathon?
The Chicago Marathon takes place on Sunday, October 9, beginning at 7am and running through the afternoon.
Where is the Chicago Marathon?
The Chicago Marathon begins and ends in Grant Park, but the course winds through the city's streets, stopping from Chinatown, Pilsen, Lincoln Park and more Chicago neighborhoods. Take a look at the complete route map here.
Chicago Marathon info
Archive of Chicago Marathon Coverage
Spectator 101: Can't-miss tips to watching the Chicago Marathon
Clarify which side of the street you’ll be cheering from so your runner can make sure he or she will be on the same side as you. The Red Line Spectator: Capturing most of the race at the north and south points? The Red Line is your answer to hit at least four spots on the route. Start off at the first mile marker on Grand Avenue Hop north on the Red Line to Addison and south down Broadway to catch runners at mile eight. Then head south on the Red Line to the Cermak stop in between the 21 and 22 mile markers. From here, take the Red Line north to Roosevelt and snag a spot just as runners are turning the corner from Michigan to Roosevelt to Columbus and the finish line. The Leisurely Loop Spectator: Start at State and Wacker and catch runners as they make their way south over the bridge. The Marriott Renaissance corner is a great spot to catch runners and gives you an advantage to walk across Wacker to LaSalle so that you can catch your runner running north at mile three. Proceed over to Hubbard to catch your runner right before the halfway point at mile 12. From here, start making your way to the finish line and enjoy your last 1.5 hours (give or take) before your runner completes the race The Good Samaritan Spectator: Embrace the West Loop as your spectator location, where spectators tend to thin out and runners start to feel the pain of miles 16–18. If you want to round out support, make your way to mile 25 where your runner will likely be dazed
How to spot a runner in a marathon | marathon-watching tips
1. Use a homing device Go to chicagomarathon.com and sign up for runner tracking. You’ll get messages via text message, Twitter or Facebook when your runner passes checkpoints: the start line, half marathon and various other milemarkers along the way. Each text also displays the runner’s average pace up to that point—info you can use to better calculate when he will reach you. 2. Know your runner’s predicted pace Runner tracking can go on the fritz on race day—whether your cell has bad service or there’s a glitch in the technology. (One year, I received text updates for friends more than 12 hours after the race was over…helpful!) So find out what pace your pal expects to run and then calculate what time she should pass your cheering spot. This is no time for modesty. For example, if she says she’ll run 9-minute miles but she really plans to run 8s, your window for spotting her at the halfway point would move up by almost 15 minutes. 3. Pick a viewing spot in advance Don’t wait until you roll out of bed Sunday morning to decide where you feel like standing along the course. Choose a spot in advance and tell your runner exactly where you’ll be. Must-share info: The intersection, mile, even the side of the street you’ll hang out on—so they can align themselves on that side of the pack. It’s much easier for a runner to find you than vice versa. 4. Find out what your runner is wearing Even if you’re looking for your twin brother in the crowd, you won’t spot him unless you know