Running the Chicago Marathon is one of the best ways to explore the city's diverse neighborhoods, as participants race up north to Wrigleyville, out west to Greektown, down south to Chinatown and everywhere in between.
Over a span of 26.2 miles, the race course winds its way through 29 neighborhoods and provides runners and spectators alike with a unique tour of Chicago.
Here's what you can expect at each mile of the race.
Near North Side: After departing from Grant Park to begin the 26.2-mile journey, runners will reach their first mile marker on the Near North Side just west of Michigan Avenue. In this mile, runners will see some of Chicago's biggest attractions, including "The Bean," the Magnificent Mile and Navy Pier off to their right.
Loop, Streeterville: Runners will race south into Streeterville and the heart of the Loop for the second mile, crossing the Chicago River and winding through iconic skyscrapers. It'll be too early for most shops and restaurants to open, but runners will get a glimpse of some of the best shopping and dining options available post-race.
River North: Heading back north again after completing the Loop tour, runners will enter the stylish River North neighborhood, where they will reach the 5K mark. This is an ideal place for spectators to watch for their friends and family in the race as it is further from the chaos of Grant Park, but it is located just a few blocks away from the Mile 1 marker, making it easy to beat the runners to the next stopping point.
Goose Island, Old Town: Continuing north, runners will race past Goose Island, home to the brewery and pub of the same name. While there isn't much else to see on the island, runners will soon enter Old Town, where they will run past more shops and restaurants.
Old Town Triangle, Lincoln Park: After leaving Old Town, runners will enter what's known as the Old Town Triangle before hitting the southernmost point of Lincoln Park (the actual park). The course may feel like it opens up around Mile 5 as runners begin to separate and the tall buildings are replaced by the open green space of the park.
Lincoln Park: The course continues through Lincoln Park as it enters the neighborhood of the same name. Runners will race past the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the Lincoln Park Conservatory before they reach the 10K mark just after the Mile 6 marker.
Lakeview East: The last leg of the trek to the north ends just after Mile 7 in Lakeview East, a residential neighborhood near the lake with shops and restaurants scattered throughout.
Boystown, Wrigleyville: The party gets started as runners near Mile 8, where the Boystown neighborhood usually hosts a party complete with music, dancing and costumes. Runners will also race within a few blocks of the iconic Wrigley Field. Spectators will find a tighter and rowdier crowd here, but the party is just as fun for spectators as it is for the runners.
Lincoln Park, Park West: Runners will venture back into the Lincoln Park and Park West neighborhoods, but this time a little further from the lake. Passing historic homes and small boutiques, this mile will be a stretch of calm after the race through Boystown and Wrigleyville.
Old Town, Goose Island: Mile 10 offers another look at Old Town and Goose Island. Runners will also race east on a stretch of North Avenue, which is a busy street filled with shopping.
Near North Side: Ten miles after first reaching the Near North Side, runners will be back to the same neighborhood again, this time running south on Wells Street. This is another great spot for spectators who want to watch their friends and family kick off the race and meet up with them again for a boost of support several miles later. The Mile 11 and Mile 4 markers are just a block apart.
River North, West Loop: Runners will once again race through River North and cross the Chicago River soon after before entering the West Loop, a fast-growing neighborhood with new restaurants, shops and urban apartment complexes popping up all the time.
West Loop, Greektown: Continuing west, runners will get a taste of Greek culture as they pass by several Greek restaurants and the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center. This neighborhood is small but vibrant and is one of the first cultural enclaves runners will pass through on the marathon course. The halfway point is also just past the Mile 13 marker. It's a perfect spot to greet runners before heading south or meeting them at the end in Grant Park.
Near West Side: The course quiets down once runners are past the hustle and bustle of the Loop area. To keep up their spirits, runners will be met with a charity block party just past the Mile 14 marker.
Near West Side, Tri-Taylor: Mile 15 marks the westernmost point of the marathon course. Runners will head back east after passing the mile marker.
Near West Side, Greektown: Finishing the tour of the Near West Side and catching one last glimpse of Greektown, runners will next head south on Halsted as they begin the last 10 miles of the race.
Little Italy: This next stop hits another cultural enclave in Little Italy. While fewer Italians remain in this neighborhood than in years past, many of their restaurants still exist and continue to serve delicious Italian food. The course continues to stay quiet and less crowded around Mile 17, so it could be a good spot for spectators to meet their runners and give them some encouragement as they finish out the last nine miles.
University Village, Illinois Medical District: Perhaps less exciting than some previous stretches of the marathon, Mile 18 is no less impressive as it passes through the nation's largest urban medical district. The University of Illinois Medical Center, the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital, Rush University Medical Center and the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center are a few of the facilities in the area. Several educational institutions are also located in this area, including the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Pilsen: The race course will become crowded with spectators once more as runners reach the next cultural enclave in Pilsen, a neighborhood known for its Mexican-American influence. Runners will see countless colorful murals painted on the sides of buildings along 18th Street and smell the delicious scent of Mexican food wafting from nearby restaurants.
East Pilsen, Lower West Side: The tour of Pilsen ends at Mile 20, and runners continue south to East Pilsen and the Lower West Side. After the festive party in Pilsen, runners will enter East Pilsen, also known as the "Chicago Arts District." Runners will pass by several art galleries and creative spaces before turning northeast toward Chinatown.
Chinatown: Mile 21 is a kind of "last hurrah" for runners as they pass through one of the last cultural enclaves and festive parties along the route. With only five miles to go, runners are usually weary when they enter Chinatown, but their spirits are soon lifted when they are met with Chinese music blasting from speakers as dancers in a dragon costume parade through the neighborhood. For spectators, Mile 21 is an ideal final meeting point before heading back to Grant Park to greet their friends and family post-race or watch them cross the finish line.
Bridgeport: Continuing south, runners will reach the residential neighborhood of Bridgeport, known for its close-knit community and neighborhood restaurants and pubs.
Bridgeport, Bronzeville: About 15 miles after passing near Wrigley Field, runners will race past U.S. Cellular Field, the home of the White Sox. Runners will also get a taste of the historic Bronzeville neighborhood, known for its contribution to African-American music, literature and culture.
Bronzeville: Heading back north for the final stretch of the marathon, runners will continue through Bronzeville up Michigan Avenue.
South Loop: The crowd of spectators will begin to thicken again as runners near the end of the race and enter back into the Loop area. They may be too tired to notice, but they will pass by the Museum Campus, where the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum are located.
South Loop, Grant Park: Runners will cross the finish line in Grant Park, where the race began 26.2 miles earlier. Although this is likely to be the most crowded and chaotic place to watch the runners, it is also the most energetic. The finish line is walking distance from the runner reunite area, where you'll have the best chance of meeting up with your family and friends after the race to congratulate them.