Some of the most elite runners from around the world — and about 47,000 other committed participants — are here to run 26.2 miles Sunday as part of the Chicago Marathon.
The race starts in waves beginning at 7:20 a.m. in Grant Park and follows a route through 29 neighborhoods. It is a flat, fast course considered one of the world’s six major marathons.
But it didn’t start out that way. Nor was it called the Chicago Marathon — it was the Mayor Daley Marathon. Heck, the first race in 1977 wasn’t even 26.2 miles. Yet it has become more inclusive for a variety of people — including wheelchair racers — throughout the decades and has been canceled only twice: because of the lack of a sponsor in 1987 and the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
Here’s what to know if you plan to participate, cheer on a runner or just want to avoid traffic jams on race day.
The start line is located in Grant Park at the intersection of Columbus Drive and Monroe Street.
- 7:20 a.m.: Men’s wheelchair
- 7:21 a.m.: Women’s wheelchair
- 7:23 a.m.: Handcycle
- 7:30 a.m.: Wave 1 (red)
- 8 a.m.: Wave 2 (blue)
- 8:35 a.m.: Wave 3 (orange)
- 9:30 a.m.: Spectator access to Grant Park begins
Sunday’s race forecast looks good: a high temperature of 57 degrees and sunny, according to the National Weather Service. Check the latest forecast here.
What are the ideal race conditions? Temperatures between 40 and 50 degrees, low humidity, partly cloudy and dry.
The high was 89 degrees on Oct. 7, 2007. For the first time in Chicago Marathon history, officials cut the race short as hundreds of runners laboring across oven-like streets were treated for heat-related illnesses. The stoppage happened about 3½ hours after the start amid complaints of insufficient water for the runners.
Of the 35,867 who started, 24,933 finished. More than 300 runners were taken from the course in ambulances. One runner, a Michigan police officer with a heart condition, died, although the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office determined his death was not heat-related.
The low temperature for the Oct. 30, 1988, race was 21 degrees.
Chicago has one of the flattest — and hence fastest — marathons in the world. Five world records have been set here, but many runners compete in this race to qualify for others, such as the Boston Marathon.
Runners start and finish in Grant Park but go as far north as Sheridan Road and as far south as 35th Street. Streets along the course will be closed for most of the morning and reopen on a rolling basis. (Note: The route is subject to change.)
- 2:03:45. Set in 2013 by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya (men’s open division)
- 2:14:04. Set in 2019 by Brigid Kosgei of Kenya (women’s open division)
- 1:25:20. Set in 2022 by Marcel Hug of Switzerland (men’s wheelchair division)
- 1:39:15. Set in 2017 by Tatyana McFadden of the United States (women’s wheelchair division)
The course is open for 6 hours, 30 minutes. Registrants must be capable of completing the full distance, start line to finish line, within this time requirement (about 15 minutes per mile). Participant times greater than the event time requirement will not be recognized as official.
Runners and spectators can reserve a parking spot in advance through Millennium Garages, ParkWhiz or SpotHero. There will be no parking along the course.
Chicago Transit Authority trains and buses
The CTA will add service on its Red, Blue, Brown and Green lines and earlier service on the Purple Line on Sunday. Some buses will be rerouted. See the CTA website for more information, including where to purchase passes in advance, race viewing areas near CTA stations and park-and-ride locations.
Metra will run extra trains in addition to its regularly scheduled Sunday train service on the Metra Electric, Milwaukee District North and Union Pacific Northwest and West lines. Unlimited rides Sunday are available for $7. See the Metra website for more information.
South Shore Line
The South Shore Line, which connects South Bend, Ind., with Chicago, will operate extra service on race day. See the South Shore Line website for more information.
No-parking zones along the course will be enforced beginning at 1 a.m. Sunday, which means any vehicles in those areas will be ticketed and towed.
Roads on the course close at 7 a.m. and begin reopening at 9:30 a.m. after the final runners have passed through. In the Loop, plan for roads to reopen at 10 a.m. Lincoln Park roads are set to reopen around 12:30 p.m., Near West Side around 2:45 p.m., Pilsen around 3:15 p.m., Bronzeville around 4 p.m. and the entire course around 6 p.m. But as always, times are subject to change, so check first.
Roads inside Grant Park will close Thursday and most will reopen by Sunday evening. All streets will reopen by 6 a.m. Monday.
To avoid delays
Consider using Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive and the expressways — including the Dan Ryan (I-90/94), Kennedy (I-90/94), Eisenhower (I-290) and Stevenson (I-55) — instead of local roads.
To avoid extra crowds, spectators aren’t allowed to escort runners to the start line or greet runners at the finish line. Organizers recommend spectators support runners from various spots on the course and meet up with runners after the race in designated areas within Grant Park.
The closest spot to view runners at the finish line is the Bank of America Cheer Zone at Mile 26, Michigan Avenue and Roosevelt Road.
Reunite with a runner
The 27th Mile Post-Race Party and Runner Reunite area of Grant Park will open to spectators at 9:30 a.m. To access this area, spectators must pass through security and bag screening at Jackson Drive and Michigan Avenue or Ida B. Wells Drive and Michigan Avenue.
Race participants will meet at the start line in Grant Park.
Must be claimed by each participant at the Health & Fitness Expo at McCormick Place, Lakeside Center on Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Bring photo identification to obtain a bib number, timing device, gear-check tag, participant shirt and bag. No one will be allowed to pick up these items on behalf of others. Items will not be available for pickup on race day.
Security and safety
As in years past, only participants displaying their race bibs, event staff with proper credentials and ticketed guests will have access to the start and finish areas in Grant Park. Marathon participants are asked to use the transparent bags they receive from the prerace expo to expedite the security-screening process. Runners are required to register with a government-issued photo ID. The event website has information on the event alert system.
Sources: Bank of America Chicago Marathon, Tribune reporting and archives