If anything like past years, the atmosphere around downtown Chicago, Oct. 7-9, will buzz with electricity and a babble of languages. That weekend, thousands of athletes and their friends and families from across the US and more than 100 countries will be in town for the Chicago Marathon.
The race is Sunday morning, starting and finishing in Grant Park. But everyone comes in ahead of time for pre-race gatherings, night-before carb loading and to see the city.
First in a series on enjoying Chicago and the race during marathon weekend is a “crib sheet” of basic information so you get where you want to go. (Times mentioned are Central Daylight) By the way, with more than 40,000 participants and their families in town, hotels have been filled that weekend months in advance and restaurants will be jammed. Best plan may be to stay near O’Hare Airport and take a shuttle or the “L” downtown.
If coming to town, know the race place and time:
The main action is in Grant Park between Michigan Avenue on the west and Lake Shore Drive on the east and from Monroe Drive on the north to 11th Street on the south. On race day, the area is for participants only until after 8 a.m.
Wheelchairs push off at 7:20 a.m. followed by the elite runners at 7:30 a.m. The rest of the pack steps over the starting line behind the top runners.
Marathon sponsor Bank of America throws a 27th Mile Post-Race Party that is open to the public, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The party features live music and food from 10:30 a.m. and beer sales from 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Public transportation is the phrase of the day because the 26.2 mile course covers several neighborhoods from Lakeview through the Loop to Chinatown and back.
Here are a few race locations:
Beginning – For miles 1 to 4, runners start at Columbus and Monroe Drives, head north on Columbus to Grand Ave., west on Grand to Rush St., south on Rush St. to Hubbard St., west on Hubbard to State St. and south on State to Jackson Blvd. They continue west on Jackson Blvd. to LaSalle St. and north on LaSalle St. to Division St.
Middle – Runners doing mile 12 to 16 will be moving west on Hubbard St. to Orleans St., south on Orleans St. to Franklin St., south on Franklin St. to Adams St., west on Adams St. to Racine Ave. then continuing west on Adams St. to Damen Ave., south on Damen Ave. to Van Buren St., east on Van Buren St. to Ogden Ave. and northeast on Ogden Ave. to Jackson Blvd.
End – For miles 22 to 26, runners are going south on Wentworth Ave. to 33rd St., east on 33rd St. to State St., south on State St. to 35th St., east on 35th St. to Michigan Ave., north on Michigan Ave. to 29th St. They continue north on Michigan Ave. to Roosevelt Rd., east on Roosevelt Rd. (westbound lanes) to Columbus Dr., north on Columbus Dr. to the finish line.
Marathon runners often have favorite spots where they suggest supporters watch.
“From the runner’s perspective, the best place to have your support team (family and friends) is in locations that are usually pretty sparse and mid-way through the course,” said Sheri Jacobs, a frequent Chicago Marathon participant.
“I think the best place to see someone in the race is on Adams, a block east of Racine. It is easy to get to because if you are driving, you can get off the highway and simply go west. This is between mile 13 – 14,” Jacobs said.
“After you see your friend go by you can go south one block to Jackson Blvd and see them again around mile 16.”
She also offers a couple of tips on how to be seen by a runner.
“I tell people to stand on the left side of the street and hold a helium balloon. That way the runner will see you from a
distance and make sure to run by you. It is much more likely that the runner will find you than that you will see the runner,” Jacobs said. “It’s hard to watch thousands of people run by and pick out one runner.“
More Chicago Marathon information
Guide to seeing the city during marathon weekend