bank of america chicago marathon

Runner's Guide to 2021 Bank of America Chicago Marathon

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Tens of thousands of runners will hit Chicago streets this October as they prepare to run 26.2 miles and experience the city in an entirely new way. 

Here's what you need to know if you plan on participating in the race:

When is the 2021 Bank of America Chicago Marathon?

The 43rd running of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is scheduled to return to take place on Sunday, Oct. 10.

The weekend schedule of events includes:

Friday, October 8
Abbott Health & Fitness Expo; Packet pick-up
McCormick Place, West Building, Hall F2
9 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Saturday, October 9
Abbott Chicago 5K
Grant Park (Ida B. Wells east of Michigan Ave.)
Race start: 7:30 a.m.

Abbott Health & Fitness Expo; Packet pick-up
McCormick Place, West Building, Hall F2
9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Sunday, October 10
Bank of America Chicago Marathon
Grant Park

Marathon Wheelchair Start (men): 7:20 a.m.
Marathon Wheelchair Start (women): 7:21 a.m.
Marathon Handcycle Start: 7:23 a.m.
Wave 1 Start (red): 7:30 a.m.
Wave 2 Start (blue): 8 a.m.
Wave 3 Start (orange): 8:35 a.m.
Spectator access to Grant Park begins: 9:30 a.m.

Abbott 27.2 Fest
Grant Park, Butler Field
9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Runner Reunite
9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Do I have to pick up my participant packet, participant bag and T-shirt at the Abbott Health & Fitness Expo?

Yes. You must pick up your participant packet and participant bag in person at the Abbott Health & Fitness Expo during regularly scheduled hours. These items (participant packets, bags and participant shirts) will not be available for pickup on race day and will not be mailed. Individuals will not be allowed to pick up these items on behalf of others.

Can I pick up my participant packet, participant bag and t-shirt on the day of the race?

No. Participant materials will not be available for race day pick up.

Where is Abbott Health & Fitness Expo (packet pick-up) located?

The Abbott Health & Fitness Expo is held at the McCormick Place Convention Center. For more information on the Health & Fitness Expo, visit the Expo & packet pick-up page.

Where is the start line?

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon start line is located in Grant Park at the intersection of Columbus Drive and Monroe Street.

Where is the finish line?

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon finish line is located on Columbus Drive south of Balbo Drive in Grant Park.

How quickly do I have to run the Chicago Marathon?

The Chicago Marathon has a course time limit of 6 hours and 30 minutes. After this time, the course will re-open to vehicular traffic.

Participants must maintain a 15-minute per mile pace (approximately) or faster, completing the full marathon distance—start line to finish line—within the event time requirement.

What happens if I can't finish the race?

Those who finish outside of the time limit will not be recorded as official finishers and may not receive full on-course support from aid stations and traffic safety personnel.

What is the course route?

Starting in Grant Park, runners will travel the 26.2-mile route goes through 29 city neighborhoods while being cheered on by 1.7 million spectators, according to organizers.

Here's a look at what this year's route will be:

Credit: Bank of America Chicago Marathon

See the full size version of the map here.

Along the course, there are 20 aid stations located approximately one to two miles apart, organizers noted. Each station will consist of a medical tent, toilet, Gatorade Endurance Formula, public address announcer and water.

What COVID protocols will be in place this year?

The marathon said it is "working closely with the City of Chicago, including the Chicago Department of Public Health, to provide a safe and enjoyable race weekend experience for all event attendees."

Participants in the race and anyone attending the Abbott Health & Fitness Expo will be required to show proof of a complete COVID-19 vaccination series or a negative test. The marathon has also outlined a "health policy" here.

Among the requirements are:

  • If you have tested positive or been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of the event, you should not participate in or attend the event. 
  • If you feel sick or experience symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g., a fever of 100.4F or higher, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking, muscle pain/achiness, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, nasal congestion, runny nose, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue or any other symptoms associated with COVID-19 identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) you should self-isolate and not participate in event activities or enter event venues while symptomatic. "We encourage individuals experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 to get tested and consult a medical professional for additional guidance," race organizers said.  
  • All attendees must adhere to local and state COVID-19 guidelines and mandates. This includes face coverings and quarantine advisories. In any case where the event’s protocols are more specific than state and local guidance, the official event health protocols should be adhered to. 
  • Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken no earlier than October 7, 2021 is required for entrance to the Abbott Health & Fitness Expo. Individuals unable to prove full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will be barred from entering the Health & Fitness Expo and unable to pick up the necessary race materials that allow for participation in the event. 
    • Accepted COVID-19 tests are those offered by healthcare facilities or available over the counter in pharmacies that have received Federal Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization (EUA) and include RT-PCR, RT-LAMP, lateral flow, and rapid antigen tests.   
    • Children who are not eligible for vaccination will need a negative COVID-19 test result to attend the Abbott Health & Fitness Expo.
  • Individuals who elect to provide proof of vaccination should be prepared to display proof of vaccination in the form of an immunization record issued by a government entity or accredited healthcare facility. Acceptable forms of proof include the original document, a photocopy, or digital image on a smartphone, tablet or other device. The immunization record must include the name of the individual matching their government issued photo identification, the date of vaccination(s), and a serial number or batch number of the dose given. 
  • Upon verification of proof individuals will receive a tamper proof wristband which will act as identification at the screening process and allow entrance into event venues for the remainder of the weekend. The wristband must be worn continuously throughout race weekend and should not be removed.  

When and where are face masks required?

All attendees are required to wear face coverings while at indoor event venues, including the Abbott Health & Fitness Expo. Face coverings must be two-ply at a minimum and cover the mouth and nose securely. Single-ply neck gaiters and face shields are not acceptable face coverings. Face coverings may temporarily be removed to eat or drink or to verify identity to security personnel.  

Participants are encouraged to wear face coverings in Grant Park pre-race. Additional masks will be available post-finish for participants who would like to re-mask before making their way to the Abbott 27.2 Fest or Runner Reunite. 

Attendees who have access to a tented area are required to wear face coverings while inside the tent. 

Spectators are encouraged and may be required to wear face coverings in Grant Park and while supporting their participant on course. 

What if I test positive before the race?

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon has announced two new exceptions that will allow some runners to defer their entries to 2022, if needed in the lead-up to this year's race.

Organizers said participants who test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of the event - meaning on or after Sept. 27 - will be able to fill out an online form asking to defer their place and entry fee to 2022.

Such requests will only be allowed from midnight Sept. 27 through 11:59 p.m. Oct. 10.

Runners who register as non-U.S. residents will also be eligible to defer their spot in the race and their entry fee. Such participants would need to fill out an online form by 5 p.m. on Oct. 6.

Those who are not eligible for either exception but must cancel their registration can do so through 5 p.m. on Oct. 6 and while their entry fee will not be refunded, they will have access to guaranteed entry for the next event, organizers said.

Can I travel before the race?

The event has put into place an exception to the standard event policies to acknowledge government travel restrictions preventing a participant from traveling to Chicago race weekend.

Registered participants who meet the criteria for the exception on or after Sept. 10, 2021, will be eligible to defer their 2021 place and entry fee to the 2022 event. Click here for more information.

How many runners will I be running alongside?

Marathon organizers say they are preparing for 35,000 participants this fall.

"We don’t anticipate adjustments to the field size at this time, but we are prepared to make changes, as necessary, to align with guidance from public health officials," a statement on the marathon's website reads.

What is the best way to get to the marathon?

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) offers an economical and convenient way to get to and from Grant Park on race day. For the most up-to-date travel information and to learn how to use the CTA bus and rail system visit transitchicago.comOpens a Dialog.

What about parking?

If you drive, allow for extra time for heavy traffic congestion and street closures due to the race.

The closest race day parking options to Grant Park are available at the Millennium Garages (Grant Park North, Grant Park South, Millennium Park and Millennium Lakeside garages).

For more information, visit

What happens if weather becomes an issue?

If weather changes during the race participants will be alerted based on the Event Alert System (EAS) levels. The Event Alert System is a color-coded system that communicates the status of course conditions to participants, spectators, volunteers and event staff leading up to and on race day.

On race day, the current EAS level is announced via public address announcements and color-coded signs/flags at the start and finish areas and at each of the 20 aid stations along the course.

What is and is not allowed on course?

  • The use of music devices is permitted during the race; however, in keeping with USATF rules for championship races, athletes competing for overall awards or prize money may not use music or communication devices during the Event. The use of cell phones, cameras or similar devices by participants while in the Event is discouraged, and Event officials reserve the right to disqualify any participant using such devices who pose a safety hazard on the course.
  • The use of selfie-sticks and any camera mount or rig by participants while in the Event, is prohibited.
  • The use of video devices, computers, drones, unmanned aerial devices, or any similar devices are not permitted on or near the race course.
  • The use of wheeled devices by participants or any other person authorized to be on the race course shall be strictly limited to: (a) authorized and registered wheelchair, handcycle and duo team participants and (b) authorized course marshals on bicycles.
  • Baby joggers, baby strollers, skateboards, rollerblades, unauthorized bicycles or any other wheeled devices are not permitted on the race course.
  • Additional prohibited items on the race course route include, but are not limited to: large bags (backpacks, suitcases and rolling bags), hard-sided coolers, costumes covering the full face (except face coverings if mandated by governmental order), any non-forming bulky outfits extending beyond the perimeter of the body, props and non-running equipment, including flagpoles and sticks, pets/animals (except service animals that are trained to perform specific work or tasks for a person with a disability), alcoholic beverages, illegal substances, chairs, weapons, remote-controlled aircrafts and drones, Camelbaks® and any type of hydration backpack. For the avoidance of doubt, fuel belts and hand-held water bottles are allowed.

Is there an age limit to run the race?

To register, you must be 16 years of age or older on Event day. Registrants under 18 years of age must have the registration form completed by a parent or legal guardian permitting participation.

What are start corrals?

Start corrals are designated start areas designed to facilitate a more efficient and convenient race start for all participants. Start Corrals are assigned based on a submitted and verified qualifying time or on the estimated finish time you entered on your race application.

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