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One of the six world marathon majors, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is one of the premier long-distance running events in the world. Originally starting in 1977, it attracts thousands of competitors and tens of thousands of spectators to Chicago for the annual event.
While the Chicago Marathon isn’t as famous as its Boston counterpart, it’s still considered one of the most renowned races in the world, with complete live TV coverage, massive crowds, and some of the world's best distance runners traveling for the event. It takes place in the heart of Chicago and showcases the magnificent architecture of its skyline, the beautiful Lake Michigan waterfront, and a few dozen of the city’s distinctive neighborhoods.
The city welcomes the spectators and runners with open arms, as The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is one of its largest events of the year. It also offers runners and their supporters a chance to see one of the most vibrant cities in the country, with enormous cultural appeal and a beautiful setting to enjoy.
Here’s everything you need to know about the 2023 Chicago Marathon:
About The Chicago Marathon
For runners, qualifying for the Chicago Marathon takes plenty of planning, with registration (for guaranteed entry, especially) being due almost six months in advance. For guaranteed entry, you’ll need to complete a course certified by USA Track and Field (USATF) between January 1 of the previous year and the due date for registration. There are time brackets based on age for qualification. For non-guaranteed entry, there is a lottery system where runners will typically have between a 10% and 20% chance of being selected, depending on the year.
The Bank of America Chicago Marathon traditionally takes place during the first weekend of October. This year’s edition is set for Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023. For local runners and spectators, the start of October brings welcoming brisk temperatures after a hot and humid Chicago summer. It’s generally considered to have ideal running conditions, barring rain. It’s also one of the final events in Chicago before the famously frigid winter months, which only adds to the appeal for Chicagoans looking for one final party.
Spanning 26.2 miles throughout over a dozen Chicago neighborhoods, the track showcases 29 Chicago neighborhoods, including its downtown and all its landmarks. The starting line and finish line are located in the gorgeous Grant Park, which is nestled between the downtown “Loop” and the lakefront.
From there, runners and spectators are treated to a tour of the city’s inner neighborhoods, snaking through distinct areas like the LGBTQ-friendly neighborhood Boystown in the north and Chinatown and Pilsen in the south.
These are the highlights, with special events in each, like drag dancers in Boystown, Mariachi in Pilsen, and a traditional dragon parade in Chinatown. These colorful displays are part of what makes the Chicago Marathon such an iconic event and fully display the diversity and cultural appeal of the city.
Because of the winding nature of the course, spectators will want to plan their viewing spots well ahead of time. Luckily, there are plenty of useful tools, even a mobile app complete with an interactive course map where you can find the best place to watch the race. The race starts off on Michigan Avenue and will be the most crowded, but you’ll be able to catch different vantage points with some planning, as you can take the train to catch your runner at different milestones.
It’s highly advisable for traveling spectators to be light on their feet if they wish to catch the race from multiple vantage points. If you’re stuck with your bags, investing in a Chicago luggage storage service like Bounce can make race day more convenient (especially if you fly out of the city that Sunday evening).
Luggage storage in Chicago
For runners, you’ll be traveling with a ton of gear. Many marathon participants will bring multiple pieces of luggage to accommodate all the shoes, exercise equipment, and extra clothing needed to sustain a full weekend of activity. The average marathon runner will stay three to four nights to have time to prepare for the race and celebrate the immense accomplishment of completing this grueling achievement.
This will add a layer of travel considerations as you might get stuck with a bag or two on travel days. If you find yourself with a few hours to kill before heading to the hotel, convenient and secure luggage storage can be a lifesaver if you want to get some sightseeing or a brief warm-up run in. With dozens of convenient luggage storage locations across the city, Bounce is the premier service in Chicago.
Bounce has 24/7 support, an intuitive mobile app for finding and booking luggage storage, and a series of features aimed at making this service easy to use and ultra-reliable. There’s also the BounceShield guarantee and the peace of mind that comes with our rigorous vetting process for ensuring the quality of storage facilities.
Things to do during the Chicago Marathon weekend
There’s so much to do in Chicago beyond the actual marathon. If you’re making a weekend out of it or planning a post-race party, you’ll have plenty of options beyond race day for an epic trip to Chicago. Here are a few options:
The iconic Navy Pier juts out into Lake Michigan and is one of the most recognizable attractions in Chicago. It’s located less than a mile from downtown, and you’ll enjoy stellar views of the Chicago skyline and lakefront. It’s family-friendly and has plenty of (both fun and constructive) activities for the kids. The Ferris Wheel will get you some incredible views of Grant Park, which might just be the best way to watch the hordes of runners from afar… Navy Pier can get pretty crowded, so planning ahead or going on a different day is advised.
Lincoln Park, which is located about two miles north of the Loop and Grant Park, has its own zoo, complete with dozens of exotic animals from around the globe, along with hundreds of bird and insect species. It might be difficult to access on race day because of the route, but it’s an easy visit the day before or after.
On any given season, at least a few SNL cast members can credit Chicago’s Second City program with starting their comedy careers. Located in Old Town, on the near north side, Second City puts on improv and comedy shows out of their storied theater. If you’re a runner looking to calm the nerves the night before race day, this is a great way to have some fun. If you’re a spectator looking for a quintessential night out in Chicago, this is a great option for getting the laughs going!
Don't forget that traveling light makes sightseeing in Chicago so much easier. Head to any of our luggage storage locations in the city, drop off what you don't need, and get ready for a Chicago adventure.
See you at the Chicago Marathon 2023?
The Chicago Marathon is far from just a race. It’s a chance for local and international competitors to test their mettle against the best of the best. It also offers spectators a chance to enjoy one of the country’s best travel destinations during a marquee weekend. However you plan on celebrating Marathon weekend in Chicago, you can trust Bounce to take care of your belongings while you explore Chicago during one of the most exciting weekends of the year.
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All you need to know
Can I defer the Chicago Marathon 2023?
All registration and entry fees are non-refundable, but runners who either cannot travel or cannot compete can cancel their entry by October 4. While none of the investment can be recouped, canceling (or deferring) by the deadline will ensure guaranteed entry in the 2024 Chicago Marathon. It’s hardly ideal, but if injuries (or life, in general) happen, you can at least make plans for the next year.
How do you get guaranteed entry to the Chicago Marathon?
Guaranteed entry ensures racers a place in the Chicago Marathon, whereas most applicants need to enter a lottery. Participating in a charity program and competing in an associated race are ways to get guaranteed entry. The deadline for guaranteed entry is typically 11 months in advance (for example, the deadline for the 2023 Chicago Marathon was in November 2022).
Where is the starting line for the Chicago Marathon?
Both the starting line and finish line can be found in Chicago’s Grant Park. The park is located directly east of Downtown Chicago. Registration and other information for participants will be found between Jackson Drive and Columbus Drive, just east of The Loop.
How many weeks should you train for a marathon?
Training for a marathon can go a lot of different ways, and there is competing information everywhere, but competitors should expect to train between 12 and 20 weeks at a minimum. Each week, you should expect to run three to four times, with rest being important to avoid injury. Prior to the race, you should complete at least two 20-mile runs, with your longest run being about two weeks prior to the race. Running a half marathon is advisable, given it prepares you for the mindset needed to complete a full 26.2-mile race.