The 45th running of the Chicago Marathon will take place Sunday.
Planning on spectating in person? Or maybe tuning in from your couch to watch the elite competitors finish? Hoping to avoid the whole darn thing?
We’ve got you covered. (And if you’re one of the 47,000 people taking part in the marathon, here are some tips from a veteran.)
The race’s start and finish lines are in Grant Park, which means the area around the park is also traffic central. The rest of the course’s 26.2 miles will snake through 29 Chicago neighborhoods, stretching north to Wrigleyville, south to Bronzeville and west to the United Center.
For those neither running the race nor planning to cheer on participants, the course map also doubles as a handy guide to no-parking zones and street closures.
No parking zones along the course will be enforced beginning at 1 a.m. Sunday. Street closures along the route will occur between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., and longer in Grant Park. Streets will reopen on a rolling basis as the final runners pass through (at a 15-minute mile pace).
Click here for a 2023 course map.
And They’re Off!
Participants will start in staggered waves, beginning with wheelchair competitors at 7:20 a.m. The first runners will hit the course at 7:30 a.m., with successive groups at 8 a.m. and 8:35 a.m.
Spectators will have access to Grant Park beginning at 9:30 a.m.
And They’re Back!
The fastest wheelchair racers should cross the finish line sometime around 8:45 a.m., and the top runners should break the tape shortly after 9:30 a.m.
Everyone else is allotted a maximum time of six hours and 30 minutes to complete the course.
Some 1.7 million people are expected to line the marathon route cheering on friends, family and total strangers, turning the course into “one long scream tunnel,” according to WTTW News producer Nicole Cardos, who ran the Chicago Marathon for the first time in 2022.
Shouting and acting excited for four or five or six hours straight is probably more exhausting than the marathon itself.
Some tips for spectators from Cardos:
— The Bank of America Chicago Marathon app is a great tool to keep track of a specific runner during the race.
— Race participants love funny signs. Cardos is still cracking up over one that read “Pain is just a word for bread in French.”
— Miles 17 to 23 are where runners tend to lose steam (and possibly hope) and could really use encouragement, but this stretch of the course often attracts fewer spectators. So if you want to go the extra mile for participants, head to UIC/Little Italy, Pilsen, Chinatown and Bronzeville.
Participants really do appreciate the effort, Cardos said.
“The city shows up for you,” she said. “It’s one of the most heartwarming experiences you might ever have.”
Here’s how to use CTA to navigate your way around the course.
The Chicago Marathon’s flat course makes it popular with elite competitors looking to set world records. Cool temperatures and cloudy conditions could help their efforts Sunday.
Here’s who to watch.
Expectations are high for record-breaking performances this year with a field that includes 2022’s returning women’s champ Ruth Chepngetich, looking for her third consecutive win. Chepngetich ran a blistering pace last year and just missed a world record by 14 seconds. The bar has been raised since then, though, with a new world record established just weeks ago in Berlin: The time to beat is 2:11:53.
Top U.S. women in the field include Emily Sisson, who finished second in 2022 and set a record for an American woman. Also keep an eye on Molly Seidel (bronze medalist at the 2020 Olympics) and Emma Bates.
On the men’s side, 2022 champ Benson Kipruto is back and hoping for a repeat, but faces a strong challenger in emerging phenom Kelvin Kiptum. Kiptum is running his first marathon in the U.S. after putting the world on notice with a 2022 debut in Venice that was fastest inaugural run in history.
Top U.S. men include Galen Rupp (the 2017 Chicago winner), Conner Mantz and Leonard Korir.
In the wheelchair division, 2022’s top men and women finishers Marcel Hug and Susannah Scaroni will defend their titles.
The marathon is a huge event, and there’s no getting around the amount of trash left in its wake by competitors and spectators.
To minimize waste, organics like banana peels are collected and sent to a local compost facility. Cast-off heatsheet blankets are taken to a facility that turns them into composite wood boards. And all that clothing runners shed at the starting line is donated to Illinois AMVETS.
Unused food and water from the finish line are donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
To further reduce waste, marathon organizers are trialing Hiccup reusable cups in 2023. The blue cups can be returned to designated bins where they’ll be collected, cleaned and reused at future events.
13.1 Fast Facts
We were going to give you 26.2 tidbits, but we dropped the ball on training. So here’s a half-marathon’s worth of trivia.
1. A misfiring of the starter’s cannon injured two people in the marathon’s inaugural year back in 1977. “Despite the accident, the event ran very smoothly,” according to official race history.
2. The number of race participants has grown from 4,200 to more than 47,000. And the registration fee has jumped from $10 to $240 for U.S. residents and $250 for non-residents.
3. Prize money is $100,000 for winners of the men’s and women’s divisions.
4. The wheelchair division debuted in 1984.
5. The largest margin of victory for men was 4:57 in 1977; for women 13:55 in 1978.
6. Total number of finishers to date: 967,975
7. Charity runners raised a record $27.6 million in 2022.
8. The 1993 marathon, run on Halloween, was no treat for runners, with a wind chill of 12 degrees. On the flip side, the 2007 marathon was halted after three and a half hours due to heat, with temperatures in the 80s and high humidity.
9. Between water and Gatorade, the marathon goes through 100,000 gallons of hydrating liquids.
10. In 2001, Kenya’s Ben Kimondiu — a pacesetter hired to push a fast pace for the first half — stayed in the race and won, a first (and last) for a pacer.
11. Talk about a close call. In 2006, Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot and Daniel Njenga were in a neck-and-neck sprint to the finish line. Just when it looked like Cheruiyot had secured the win, he slipped and fell before breaking the tape. It took an official review to determine Cheruiyot’s torso had crossed the plane ahead of Njenga for the victory.
12. The marathon was canceled in 1987 for lack of a sponsor and in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
13. In 1979, the top two women finishers were disqualified after it was proven they hadn’t run the entire race. But the scandal led to a record that still stands: 15-year-old Laura Michalek became the new winner, the youngest in Chicago Marathon history.
13.1 U.S. women have dominated the wheelchair division, winning 31 out of 33 races. Manuela Schär of Switzerland is the only international competitor to break the Americans’ stranglehold, taking first place in 2018 and 2019.