The 42nd edition of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon returns to the Windy City on Sunday, October 13, winding 26.2 miles through downtown Chicago and the city’s North, West, and South sides. Whether you’re one of the estimated 40,000 individual participating in the race, rooting for an athlete, or simply trying to avoid the crowds and street closures, here’s what you need to know about the 2019 event.
What time does the race start?
Grant Park opens to race participants at 5:30 a.m. Competition kicks off promptly at 7:20 a.m with the wheelchair race start followed by three waves of runners stepping off at 7:30, 8:00, and 8:35 a.m. Participants are expected to complete the race distance within the allotted time requirement of 6 hours and 30 minutes. For more information, check the official Chicago Marathon event schedule.
What route does the Chicago Marathon follow?
Starting and finishing at opposite ends of Columbus Drive in downtown’s Grant Park, the course follows the same basic layout as in years past: runners snake their way through 29 Chicago neighborhoods and cross the Chicago River fives times.
The course stretches as far north as Sheridan Road, west to Damen Avenue, and south to 35th Street. A detailed map of the marathon shows the exact route plus the locations of aid stations, medical tents, cheering areas, food, and other concessions.
What streets will be closed?
Over the weekend—and especially on Sunday—motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians can expect to experience congestion and longer travel times due to closed streets and large crowds along the racecourse.
Street closures begin at approximately 7:00 a.m. on Sunday. Most neighborhood streets will reopen in the afternoon or early evening, or when officials deem it safe to do so. A handful of roads near the Grant Park start/finish line will be closed before the event and reopen later.
A parking ban will be in effect along the course starting late Saturday night. Vehicles not removed from these streets by 1 a.m. Sunday, October 13 will be ticketed and towed to the city’s nearest auto impound.
How do I get to the race?
With crowds and street closures expected to snarl vehicular traffic, your best bet is to take public transit. The CTA provides convenient access to multiple spots on the course including the finish line at the southern edge of Grant Park and the following locations can be accessed using the L:
- Grand Red Line station – Miles 1, 3, and 12.5
- Monroe Red Line station – Mile 2
- Chicago Red Line station – Miles 3.5 and 12.25
- Clark/Division Red Line station – Miles 4 and 12
- Sheridan Red Line station – Mile 8
- Addison Red Line station – Mile 8.5
- Sedgwick Brown Line station – Mile 11
- Washington/Wells Brown, Pink, Orange lines stations – Mile 13.5
- UIC-Halsted Blue Line station – Miles 14.25 and 17
- 18th Pink Line station – Mile 19
- Cermak-Chinatown Red Line station – Mile 21.5
- Sox-35th and 35th-Bronzeville-IIT Red and Green Line stations – Mile 23
- Cermak-McCormick Place Green Line station – Mile 25
- Roosevelt Red/Green/Orange Lines station – Finish line
On race day, the CTA will run longer trains on Brown, Green, Orange and Blue lines in addition to more frequent service on the Red, Blue, Brown and Green lines before and and after the event. The will be earlier trains on the Purple Line and extra service on #3 King Drive bus line.
The CTA recommends pre-purchasing fare cards in advance to avoid long lines at vending points. The agency will also offer a limited number of souvenir marathon-themed Ventra cards at select locations.
If you must bring your car into the city, the Millennium Garages offer the closest parking options. Drivers can consider booking marathon parking in advance using a service like SpotHero. The CTA also provides Park & Ride facilities to ditch your vehicle far from the crowds around Grant Park.
The Metra commuter system will run extra inbound and outbound trains on race day in addition to regularly scheduled Sunday service. Another good option for getting around town on Marathon weekend is Chicago’s Divvy bikeshare system.
Where is the best spot to watch?
The race organizers expect 1.6 million spectators to line the racecourse on Saturday and encourage viewing at recommended spots on Grand Avenue between Columbus Drive and State Street, State Street between Grand Avenue and Jackson Boulevard, and the official Bank of America Cheer Zone near the finish at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Roosevelt Road.
Non-runners, however, will not be granted access to Grant Park’s start and finish areas on race day. Spectators looking to reunite with their runners after the race are welcome to do so at the Biofreeze 27th Mile Post-Race Party, located at Butler Field along Columbus Drive. Here, alphabetical signs will allow friends and family to track down their athlete by name. Guests will be required to pass through security and bag screening checkpoints.
What to leave at home
Participants, volunteers, staff, and spectators will have to pass through security to enter Grant Park. Prohibited items include: oversized bags (backpacks, suitcases, rolling bags), hard-sided coolers, selfie sticks, costumes covering the face, pets (except for service animals), alcohol, illegal substances, weapons, chairs, bicycles, and drones.
Can I watch the marathon on TV or livestream?
On race day, NBC 5 Chicago and Telemundo Chicago will provide TV and live streaming coverage of the event. The televised broadcast airs from 7 to 11 a.m. while the online streams will go live at 7 a.m. and conclude 3 p.m.
Fans outside of Chicago can follow the action on NBC Sports Network or the NBC Sports Gold subscription service. Live broadcast streaming is also available on the Chicago Marathon mobile app which will be available to download prior to race day.
Live audio commentary can be found on AM radio station 670 The Score between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. The station will air a Chicago Marathon preview show at 7 a.m. on September 28, October 5, and 12.
Can I track runners during the race?
With so many runners and even more spectators, following a specific runner during the race can be a difficult task. Thankfully the official ChiMarathon app (for iPhone and Android) allows you to do just that. Search by name to follow up to 20 runners from your mobile device. Live tracking will also be offered race day on Chicago Marathon’s website.
Everything you need for race weekend can be in the palm of your hand with the 2019 #ChicagoMarathon mobile app, powered by @tcs_na. Special features include runner tracking, interactive maps, schedules, and more. Download it today from the App Store or Google Play! pic.twitter.com/WYTMrPp17V— Chicago Marathon (@ChiMarathon) September 27, 2019
What’s the weather forecast for the marathon?
Runner can expect cloudy, breezy skies with a high of 55 degrees and a low of 39 degree. Participants should check the forecast regularly to inform decisions on clothing, pre-race hydration, and other factors.
A color-coded Event Alert System (EAS) will update runners on course conditions to participants leading up to and on race day. The levels range from low (green) to moderate (yellow) to high (red) to extreme (black) based on the weather another other conditions.
Real-time weather information is also available on the ChiMarathon app.
Where to stay for the Chicago Marathon
According to organizers, runners from 50 states and more than 100 countries travel to Chicago each fall for the event. The Chicago Marathon has partnered with Experient to provide room blocks at dozens of hotels convenient to the race route.
Fancy a stay at a hotel packed with history and architectural intrigue? Check out this list of 16 historically significant Chicago hotels. While you’re at it, take a look at our seasonal city guide or things to do with kids if you’re traveling with family.