Overall Rating
Overall Rating (17 Reviews)
4.8
(17 Ratings)(17 Reviews)
DIFFICULTY
2
SCENERY
4.3
PRODUCTION
4.8
SWAG
3.8
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 … MORE
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    As far as big city races and World Marathon Majors, I've done Boston, NYC, MCM, and Chicago. Chicago has the award for most crowds, hands down. It didn't hurt that … MORE

    As far as big city races and World Marathon Majors, I’ve done Boston, NYC, MCM, and Chicago. Chicago has the award for most crowds, hands down. It didn’t hurt that the weather was beautiful so people came out in droves to support!

    I registered on a whim since I had guaranteed entry and could skip the lottery. I figured I should run it while I could, who knows what the next year would bring and it checked Illinois off my list. I’m glad I did, it was a great trip and my birthday marathon!

    Getting to Chicago is easy and I had a direct flight from Virginia. I didn’t want to mess with a car so I used my own two legs and Uber to get around. Getting to the expo was the hardest part, but I made it. Giant expos are my least favorite part of big marathons, so I make a point of running in, grabbing my stuff, and running out. It was huge but well organized and pretty efficient given the size of the crowd milling around. I got out of there and went to my hotel (Westin North River). This was a great location to stay, by the way. Walk to great restaurants, walk to start, walk back from finish. Perfect. I made a side trip to the Shedd Aquarium one day and a local friend showed me all around the awesome parks by the lake. Beautiful area!

    Chicago is obviously a big city marathon, which means “scenery” is equivalent to neighborhoods, tall buildings, and big crowds, not beautiful foliage and coast lines. You run it for that electric vibe, not peaceful scenery. This is not usually my preferred type of race, but it is fun to run “the big ones.”

    I was in corral C, first wave on race morning. I walked from my hotel, along with lots of other people. The race area was well organized and efficient. I didn’t carry anything other than water and a banana with me so security was easy. LOTS of portajohns and easy to get where you need to be, just make sure to give yourself time.

    The course is VERY flat, with some “bumps” rather than hills. I actually found it was one of my slower times, and I think that has to do with the flat course and the fact that I knew I had a hilly marathon the next weekend, so I soaked up the sights and sounds instead of hoofing it. You run through a ton of the city and the crowds are never ending. There was one point where a couple had a sign that said “Puppy Power Here” and one of them was holding an adorable puppy. Needless to say I ran over to get my puppy fix before continuing on. That was the best part of any marathon ever. 🙂

    Lots of aid stations and bathrooms if you needed them, pretty much every mile I think. The only downside to this is I could smell the bathrooms before I saw them. Gross. I appreciated the availability of water and gatorade though. One other cool thing was the blue tangent line painted on the road. I think this was the first time the elites didn’t have pacers so they painted the blue line to show the most efficient route. I tried to follow it pretty closely but still came in over 26.2. It was very cool to think that I was running in the footsteps of the elites and idols like Deena Kastor.

    The finish was packed and it felt great to cross the line. Here’s where my three star SWAG rating comes in: the t-shirt is actually pretty crummy and boring and the medal was lackluster. I don’t run solely for the medal (ok maybe I do) and given how much this race cost and what a big deal it is, I was kind of let down by their choices. Still happy to have earned it but could have been much better. After I get my medal and space blanket, I picked up some water and walked the mile or so back to my hotel. Great shakeout for the legs! I love that this race starts at a “normal” time so you’re done at a reasonable hour.

    Overall: Just like all of the big city marathons, I think they’re worth doing once (more, if you like the crowds!). I still prefer small and simple with nice scenery, but Chicago is pretty special. It’s masterfully organized and run, and seems to go off pretty flawlessly. I enjoyed spending time in the city itself and getting to see it on foot on a beautiful day. If you get the chance, I definitely recommend running it and seeing for yourself.

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    Lorelei Jul 14, 2017 at 10:15am

    Thanks for your review! I'll be running this one with my hubby this year. It will our second world major. While I enjoy trail running (or paved running with Mother Nature scenery), I do also love huge crowds, especially for a long race. I've heard Chicago has the best and I am glad you concur. I ran London last year and the crowds there were spectacular. Since Chicago crowds are twice as big and I'm eager to soak in all that energy.

    I hope the medals and shirt are better this year. Keep an eye out for my review. I usually include pics.

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    em.durrett FIRST-TIMER '15

    An amazing experience for any pace runner! Chicago has been a dream of mine for years and finally it happened. The course support was unreal and even though the last … MORE

    An amazing experience for any pace runner! Chicago has been a dream of mine for years and finally it happened. The course support was unreal and even though the last 6 miles were hot and quiet I am so glad I completed Chicago!

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    aruskiewicz FIRST-TIMER '16

    Despite my personal struggles, I have nothing but admiration for this race. It really amazes me how much goes into planning and executing an event like this, and on this … MORE

    Despite my personal struggles, I have nothing but admiration for this race. It really amazes me how much goes into planning and executing an event like this, and on this day, everything worked flawlessly. While I enjoyed the first half of the race immensely, the second half was miserable. But I have zero criticism of the race or its organizers. Flat, fast course, with ridiculous crowd support the entire way. Everything runs flawlessly and it’s a joy to be a part of. So I’ve already pledged to come back so I can enjoy the entire thing as it deserves to be enjoyed. I’ve already got my name in the lottery for 2017, so hopefully I’ll be back sooner than later and will know exactly what to expect in my next go-around.

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    raider1990 REPEAT RUNNER '16

    Wow! This is my second marathon and my second Chicago Marathon. Going lottery and getting in two years running was not expected but I'll take it. I love this race … MORE

    Wow! This is my second marathon and my second Chicago Marathon. Going lottery and getting in two years running was not expected but I’ll take it.
    I love this race and would do it again if given the chance. The spectators are spirited and loud and provide a constant stream of energy which keeps you going at all stages of the race.
    The volunteers were incredible and efficient and my hat is off to each and every one of them. Thank you thank you thank you.
    Organization of the event was, once again, top notch. I cannot imagine how much planning goes into an event of this magnitude but it is appreciated.
    Thank you Chicago for a truly epic time and now I have a new PR and it’s on to the next one.

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    cris.nistler FIRST-TIMER '15

    This course was great. There is SO much support from all of the spectators in Chicago. It's almost impossible not to start out to fast during the first 3 miles … MORE

    This course was great. There is SO much support from all of the spectators in Chicago. It’s almost impossible not to start out to fast during the first 3 miles which weave around down town. It’s much easier to settle in to a pace when the course enters some of the northern neighborhoods. It’s such a great way to see a LOT of the city! I ran it on a very hot day, but the fire hydrants were cracked open, spectators handed out wet sponges and there were a lot of huge aid stations.

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    janerunswild FIRST-TIMER '13

    I ran the Chicago marathon in October 2013. It was a race to remember for many reasons, but most memorable was the fact that I ran with my sister and … MORE

    I ran the Chicago marathon in October 2013. It was a race to remember for many reasons, but most memorable was the fact that I ran with my sister and brother (my cousin came too but sadly couldn’t run due to an injury). My parents also came to watch the race, and we had a fantastic time together in the Windy City. There are so many things to say about the race, one of the largest races in the country, but I will narrow it down to two quick lists of what did and didn’t work. List is in my race racap in my blog.

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    jkentris FIRST-TIMER '15

    Absolutely first class production from the expo to the post race party! This marathon lived up to its billing as one of the best in the world! The course is … MORE

    Absolutely first class production from the expo to the post race party! This marathon lived up to its billing as one of the best in the world! The course is flat and the scenery is amazing. You run through 24 unique neighborhoods in Chicago all the while being cheered on by over a million screaming fans. Leave the music at home as there is plenty on the course and you wont be able to hear through your headphones anyway! You may even consider parting from your tracking device as the tunnel you begin in and the sky scrapers play havoc with accurate tracking. Two of my running friends and I each showed a total of 27 miles on our different devices. Didn’t matter, as the pace is as fast as you want to go. The on course set up is excellent and volunteers know their stuff. You have plenty of signage and information along the way so you know exactly how far you have to go and which type of hydration/nutrition is available ahead and exactly where it will be located. While there were 45K runners the course did not feel crowded as they effectively enforce the corral rules and timelines. I liked the fact that there were medical personnel all along the course evaluating any runners who were struggling. It makes perfect sense as this was their 38th running of the event. I would definitely do it again!

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    rafaelsands REPEAT RUNNER '13

    Done Chicago twice - before it was converted to a lottery last year - and both times have been absolutely incredible. The city itself is amazing, and the marathon does … MORE

    Done Chicago twice – before it was converted to a lottery last year – and both times have been absolutely incredible. The city itself is amazing, and the marathon does a REALLY good job at showcasing the city. It’s clear the marathon means something to this place. Highly recommend.

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    isaaco FIRST-TIMER '14

    For first timers, this course if as flat as you can get with a little tiny hill towards the finish line. The spectators around the different parts of the city … MORE

    For first timers, this course if as flat as you can get with a little tiny hill towards the finish line. The spectators around the different parts of the city were great- China town, etc. Lots of entertainment to keep you going. This is also one of the best organized races I have ran.

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    peonysnail FIRST-TIMER '04

    A great race in a great city! Course snakes around, which makes it possible for your friends to see you at multiple spots. Sign up as a group and pay … MORE

    A great race in a great city! Course snakes around, which makes it possible for your friends to see you at multiple spots. Sign up as a group and pay a little extra for the group staging area – gear drop, port-a-potties and post race food and massages.

    DIFFICULTY
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    grizmiler FIRST-TIMER '14

    PR, and a great time in Chicago. What an incredible event. The support was off the charts and the excitement surrounding the event provided so much motivation. MORE

    PR, and a great time in Chicago. What an incredible event. The support was off the charts and the excitement surrounding the event provided so much motivation.

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    Otter REPEAT RUNNER '12

    I've run New York, Berlin, Big Sur, Marine Corps, Grandmas, and a number of other marathons, and Chicago is still THE BEST. In no particular order, here are some of … MORE

    I’ve run New York, Berlin, Big Sur, Marine Corps, Grandmas, and a number of other marathons, and Chicago is still THE BEST. In no particular order, here are some of the reasons why:
    –The location is perfect. Of any big race that I’ve run, the Chicago Marathon is by far the easiest to get to on race morning, just a short walk from the red line subway. Grant Park is very spacious, and its capacity for runners & spectators makes gear check a total breeze.
    –The course is F-L-A-T, and along with London & Berlin, it’s one of the only courses in the world where there’s a legitimate chance for a world record to be set during every running.
    –The race takes you on a true tour of the city, through neighborhoods that all of their very own, distinct vibe. Downtown, Lincoln Park, raucous Boystown, Old Town, River North, West Loop, Little Italy, Pilsen, Chinatown…you’re going to see the entire city, man, and the crowd support is perhaps second only to NYC
    –For spectators, it is SHOCKINGLY EASY to use Chicago’s public transportation to follow your runner around and see them in 3, 4, or even 5 different places on the course. It’s very easy for spectators to be actively engaged.
    –The aid stations are huge, long, well-stock, and plentiful.
    –Seriously, the crowd support is unbelievable.
    –Swag is nice: there’s always a cool medal every year, and the Nike running shirt is a top-of-the-line lightweight tech shirt that’s suitable for racing. It’s of a much better quality than the typical low-end, wearable polyester sheets that you get from most races.
    –Plenty of beer at the finish, typically Goose Island; you’re only supposed to take 1, but they never care how many times you come back.
    –Grant Park is a wonderfully relaxing place to chill, stretch, and hang out after the race; it’s the complete opposite of the Central Park experience after the NYC Marathon, where you embark on an unending march without having any time to stop.
    –As far as the scenery goes, it’s one of the loveliest big-city marathons you could run….very cool architecture, and each neighborhood has its own character. And the only hill to speak of comes at Mile 26!

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    mikek0525 REPEAT RUNNER '13

    I'm biased because I live here, but it's an amazing race, well organized and with plenty of fan support. And you can't beat the view of a world-class skyline! MORE

    I’m biased because I live here, but it’s an amazing race, well organized and with plenty of fan support. And you can’t beat the view of a world-class skyline!

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    Chaddieboy FIRST-TIMER '14

    This is the first time running the Chicago Marathon and I have to say is that I love my city! The race started in Grant Park and went through 29 … MORE

    This is the first time running the Chicago Marathon and I have to say is that I love my city! The race started in Grant Park and went through 29 neighborhoods and finished back in Grant Park. Some highlights were the waving seniors before entering the Lakeview area. The thousands of cheerers along the course, there were enough refreshment areas. I ran through neighborhoods that I didn’t know existed or never visited. The only complaint I would have is that the finisher’s shirt wasn’t that great. I can now say that I am a Chicago Marathoner and have a great medal to prove it.

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    KatieD FIRST-TIMER '14

    I ran this as my first marathon. I was very impressed with the organization of the event. 45,000 runners is a lot! I had never run a race this big … MORE

    I ran this as my first marathon. I was very impressed with the organization of the event. 45,000 runners is a lot! I had never run a race this big and it took some getting used to. A lot of people bumped me and there was tons of garbage littering the course at the water stops. I had to do a lot of weaving to get around people. Something happened with the paddles that the pacers were supposed to carry during the race and they did not have them so I lost my pacing group in the first mile of the race. In retrospect, it was probably not the best marathon to run as a first timer. But the crowd support was phenomenal and I enjoyed the course. I don’t regret running it and I would run it again.

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    dansolera REPEAT RUNNER '11

    This was my first marathon in the city I call home, so I can't help but be biased. But absolutely anyone else running it would find few faults with it … MORE

    This was my first marathon in the city I call home, so I can’t help but be biased. But absolutely anyone else running it would find few faults with it (except, maybe how pricy it has become). The course showcases 29 distinct Chicago neighborhoods, it’s flat as a pancake, you are always surrounded by thousands of screaming spectators, the weather is (usually) perfect, it starts and ends in Grant Park, which is incredibly easy to reach, the medals are always detailed, the Expo is enormous, the souvenir shirts are worn for years to come … honestly, everything I can say about this race is an accolade. Race director Carey Pinkowski knows how to put an event together, and the consistently deep elite field shows it too. DVR’ing the race and watching it afterwards is a treat because it makes you feel like you raced twice, once for you, and twice to see the lithesome East Africans go for the crown.

    Chicago is hands down the best big-city marathon out there. I haven’t run all of them (that would take forever but I’m excited to try), but so far, it’s the cream of the crop. For a first-timer or a veteran, this is one race you cannot miss.

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    2tallfritz REPEAT RUNNER '13

    Chicago does it right from the expo to the race day experience. Volunteers and crowd support is off the hook. You'll never see more of Chitown in one day than … MORE

    Chicago does it right from the expo to the race day experience. Volunteers and crowd support is off the hook. You’ll never see more of Chitown in one day than you will during the Chicago Marathon. It’s a must run in my opinion and I’ve ran 4-5 now.

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