It’s hard to believe the Chicago Marathon will turn 40 when thousands of runners step across the start line in Grant Park Oct. 11, 2017. I remember when a neighbor (three houses ago) helped with the planning and ran in it and his wife was a spectator for the first one in 1977. They were excited that it attracted over 4,000 runners.
Add a zero for 2017. In 2016 there were more than 40,000 runners. Visit race history for more background info.
Part of the popularity lies in the course. It’s ideal for runners who like a flat terrain (say opposed to the last hill in the Boston Marathon). However, the course also has the travel-lover’s bonus of showing off 29, diverse Chicago neighborhoods filled with different residential, business and ecclesiastic architectural styles, sculptures and murals.
So, the question is where to watch the race.
General spectators won’t be able to go near the race’s start and finish areas in Grant Park on race day. These area are for participants with bib numbers, event and credentialed staff plus a few ticketed individuals. The Post-Race Party and runner reunite area of Grant Park will open to spectators at 9:30 a.m. but with heavy safety measures in place including personal and bag screening.
With an expected 1.7 million spectators, standing in a crowd near the beginning and end of the race will be tough to watch for someone or cheer that person on. Checking other course sites makes more sense.
First, here are the neighborhoods along the 26.2 mile course. Bridgeport, Bronzeville, Central Station, Chinatown, East Pilsen, (The) Gap, Greektown, Illinois Medical District, Lakeview East, Lincoln Park, Little Italy, Loop, Magnificent Mile, Near North, Near West Side, New East Side, Old Town, Old Town Triangle, Park Boulevard, Park West, Pilsen, Prairie District, River North, South Commons, South Loop, Streeterville, University Village, West Loop and West Loop Gate.
Secondly, click Spectator Guide to download a pdf that can help you decide where to go and what time you’ll want to be there.
You can drive if you stay west of the course’s street closures but Chicago’s public transportation system is excellent. The “L” is the best choice for getting around the city during the marathon because buses will be impacted by street closures.
One veteran Chicago Marathon runner recommended the Mile 14 area near the University of Illinois Chicago Campus. The Blue Line UIC-Halsted Station is near miles 13.5 to 16.5. When exiting use the Halsted Street or Morgan Street exit then walk two blocks north on Morgan Street to Adams Street (Mile 13.5). Exiting at Halsted Street gets you to Mile 16.5.
Runners are expected to reach this area from 8:27 a.m. to 1 p.m.
As to safety, Chicago Marathon officials working with the City of Chicago, added safety rules and features following the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon. such as screening of participants, clear plastic bags for gear checks and access only to Grant Park just for runners. Security rules only allow ticketed finish line viewing.
More meetings were held with the city following the recent horrific Las Vegas shooting.
Executive Race Director Carey Pinkowski said, ” As we enter the final week of preparations for the 40th running of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, the horrible events that took place in Las Vegas are weighing heavily on our hearts. We extend our deepest condolences to the victims, their families and all who have been affected by this national tragedy. We also understand how many who plan to participate in Sunday’s celebration may have some concerns about public safety in the wake of Sunday’s events. ‘
Pinkowski added, “We are constantly examining, modifying and enhancing our public safety and security plan based on input from our law enforcement partners. This week, we will be discussing what adjustments will be made given Sunday’s tragedy. And, on race day, we will be working alongside the Chicago Police Department and many others in the law enforcement community, as we do every year, to keep our event, our participants and our city safe.”
She re-uttered the mantra heard on TV since the shooting about seeing something, saying something. “We remind everyone on race day to report any suspicious activity to law enforcement immediately.”
Both marathon and city officials emphasize that participating in the race as runners and cheerers show is still important.
“Wwe encourage all participants to join us on Sunday for what is always an uplifting, joyous celebration of the human spirit,” said Pinkowski.
For more guide information visit Spectator.