Race Review: Abbott World Majors Bank of America Chicago Marathon

19 May, 2019 • by Admin

Global reputation for its fast, flat course which takes runners on a scenic tour of the city’s ethnically diverse neighborhoods

Running the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is the pinnacle of achievement for elite athletes and everyday runners alike. Since its inaugural running in 1977, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon has developed a global reputation for its fast, record-setting course. Year after year the Bank of America Chicago Marathon hosts representatives from more than 100 countries and all 50 of the United States to compete on this world stage to accomplish a personal dream by reaching the finish line in Grant Park.


The Chicago Marathon is a marathon held every October in Chicago, Illinois. Alongside the Boston, New York, London, Berlin, and Tokyo Marathons, it is one of the six World Marathon Majors. Thus, it is also an IAAF Gold Label race. The Chicago Marathon is the fourth-largest race by number of finishers worldwide.2

The first race was held on September 25, 1977 under the original name the Mayor Daley Marathon, which drew a field of 4,200 runners. The race has been held every year since, except in 1987 when only a half-marathon was run. It is among the fastest growing marathon road races in the world, due in part to its largely fast and flat course which facilitates the pursuit of personal records and world record performances. The race has achieved its elite status among marathons by developing relationships with sponsors who provide prize money to lure elite runners who have produced American and world record performances. Since 2008, the race has been owned and organized by Bank of America, and is officially known as the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

The race is limited to 45,000 runners and only runners who finish within 6½ hours are officially timed. Those wishing to participate can register after either meeting a time qualifying standard or being selected through a general lottery. Although the race has limited registration, exceptions include elite runners, legacy finishers, and charity representatives. Increasingly, local, national and global charities as well as humanitarian organizations encourage sponsored participation in the event as a means of fund raising.

  • When: October
  • Website:
  • Largest field: 44,610
  • Inaugural running: 1977
  • Estimated spectators: 1.7M
  • Prize purse: $803,500
  • Time & record bonus: $420,000

Schedule of events (2019)

Friday, October 11

  • 9 a.m. – 8 p.m: Abbott Health & Fitness Expo; Packet pick-up McCormick Place

Saturday, October 12

  • 7:30 a.m: Advocate Health Care International Chicago 5K
  • 9 a.m. – 6 p.m: Abbott Health & Fitness Expo; Packet pick-up McCormick Place

Sunday, October 13 (Grant Park, Chicago)

  • 5:30 a.m. – Gear check opens
  • 5:30 a.m. – Start corrals open
  • 7:20 a.m. – Wheelchair Start
  • 7:21 a.m. – Handcycle Start
  • 7:23 a.m. – Athletes with Disabilities Start
  • 7:30 a.m. – Wave 1 Start
  • 8:00 a.m. – Wave 2 Start
  • 8:35 a.m. – Wave 3 Start
  • 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m: Biofreeze 27th Mile Post-Race Party Grant Park, Butler Field
  • Times are subject to change.


  • Men: 2:01:39 (Eliud Kipchoge, KEN, 2018)
  • Women: 2:18:11 (Gladys Cherono, KEN, 2018)
  • Men's Wheelchair: 1:21:39 (Heinz Frei, SUI, 1997)
  • Women's Wheelchair: 1:36:53 (Manuela Schar, SUI, 2018)


The marathon course is a loop course, starting and ending at Grant Park. From here, the current course winds through 29 of the city's neighborhoods.43 The course loop can be generally divided into three sections: North, West, and South. In each of these sections, three of the city's main stadiums are near the course's turning points: Wrigley Field to the north; the United Center to the west; and Guaranteed Rate Field to the south. The city's fourth professional stadium, Soldier Field, is located near the start/finish area.



The expo was pretty huge and we got lucky and got in without a lineup in sight. I saw photos from the Friday that showed crowds of people and really long lineups. I showed up shortly after the 5K ended on Saturday morning and there was nobody. I was directed to the counter I needed and grabbed all my stuff pretty quickly. There were lots of booths to look through.


Race management was great. Constant updates for months leading up to the run. And the week of kept me updated with possible weather changes and whatnot. Really great information being provided constantly. No excuses to say you didn't know what was going on or when something was going on.

Volunteers were awesome. Water, Gatorade Endurance drink at all of them. People filling your portable water bottles if you had them. Sometimes people with hoses spraying water to cool people down. Later on, at a few stations were quarter pieces of banana. Also at one station were Gatorade gummy Bloks and a couple of stations after that were Gatorade performance gel packets. Plenty of ways to hydrate (or overhydrate too) but also making sure all runners were fueled up.

Race Start

To enter Grant Park, you're supposed to go through a specific entry point. I followed that, and got through quick, but I don't think it really matters. Corrals close 10 minutes prior to race start, so give yourself time to wade through the crowds to get lined up. Again, this is where I was fortunate to have done the Shamrock Shuffle, as it provided a good measuring stick for what Grant Park looks like on race morning.

The race gets going pretty quickly. We spend the first few miles weaving around the city itself before making the turn north. This is the first section where we got to experience the wind coming from the north, although it wasn't awful at this point. You'll pass the 10k on the way up and the 15k in Lakeview on the way back. It started to rain a bit in this section. Not heavy, but enough to be noticeable.

The north part of the city takes you almost the entire first half, as you hit 13.1 coming back into downtown. After a couple miles next to the river (where your GPS will go crazy) it's off to the west side of the city. The crowds thin a little bit out around the 25k mark, but it's a nice spot to check in with yourself before the massive crowd support returns. You'll also run past a cheer section with all of the race charities, which is really cool!

Finishing Line

Swag: always a great shirt (one of my faves, and I have quite the collection now!) and Medal. And a variety of snacks in the bag AND post-race! Pirates Booty post-race this year!!! Amazing!!

The medal ribbon was kind of eh, and the post race snacks were all cheese type crackers - something plain would have been lovely. But they put it in a BAG for you so you don't have to carry a ton of stuff with you in post marathon hands. You get a heetsheet. It was too hot for one, then my body temp dropped and I was freezing so I'm glad I had it for the walk back to the Palmer House.


The entire race deserves more then 5 stars. Not just because of how well its managed. But because of the spectators. I truly believe every one standing on those streets...spectators/volunteers/police/fire dept are what make this race so amazing. Music on every block! Tons of people cheering for you, no matter what the weather is like! The positivity and encouragment you will feel from complete strangers is enough to make me tear up just writing this! When you are at mile 20 and think you can go no further. There will be a rally of people telling you can, how awesome you are and to keep pushing! The snacks/food/drinks that are handed out by the spectators is also great. You never know what happen in 26.2 miles, but there is someone there willing to offer you additional fuel of somesort to make sure you can keep going!


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