bank of america chicago marathon

The ultimate runner's guide to the 2023 Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Last minute tips, race-day amenities and everything in between

NOTE: A live stream of the 2023 Bank of America Chicago Marathon will appear in the player above beginning at 7 a.m. Tune in live for complete race coverage and a finish line camera showing runners as they cross the finish line.

Over 47,000 runners will hit the streets in less than two days for the 45th annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon. 

The course will host everyone from elite athletes to casual marathoners in one of the biggest marathons in the world. Whether you’re a seasoned Chicago Marathoner or it's your first time on this course, here’s everything you need to know about starting off on the right foot on race day. 

What to bring

The most crucial item to bring to the race is your participant bib as part of your race-day packet. You can’t enter the course without it.

Chicago Marathon participants must pick up their race-day packet at the Abbott Health and Fitness Expo in McCormick Place, located at 2301 S. Martin Luther King Drive. The expo’s open until 6 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. Attendees can find over 100 vendors offering the chance to purchase sports gear, watch speaker events and engage with interactive experiences

The packet includes:

  • Bib number and safety pins
  • MYLAPS BibTag timing device
  • Gear check tag
  • Nike participant running shirt
  • Participant bag
  • Participants over 21 will receive a tag on their bib number for one redeemable Goose Island Beer after the race.

Runners can only check their clear race-issued participant bag at the Buckingham Fountain Gear Check facility. You should not be leaving valuable items like wallets, cell phones or jewelry in your checked bag. Organizers are not responsible for lost, stolen or damaged items. However, you will be able to access a Lost and Found.

You’re permitted to bring a change of extra clothes, a small snack or a pair of small earphones to listen to music if you’re not an athlete competing for overall award or prize money. But, there is a list of things you aren’t allowed to bring too.

What not to bring

The following items are not allowed in Grant park as they can be deemed dangerous or inappropriate: 

  • Large bags (backpacks, suitcases and rolling bags)
  • Hard-sided coolers
  • Costumes covering the face
  • Any non-forming bulky outfits extending beyond the perimeter of the body, props and non-running equipment
  • Bicycles
  • Pets/animals (except for service animals)
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Illegal substances
  • Chairs
  • Weapons
  • Remote controlled aircrafts and drones

The following items are not allowed on the marathon course: 

  • Wheeled devices are not permitted other than a registered and authorized wheelchair, handcycle and duo team participants. Prohibited wheeled devices include non-registered wheelchairs and handcycles, baby joggers, strollers, skateboards, rollerblades and bicycles. Motorized devices of any kind are prohibited.
  • The use of selfie-sticks, camera mounts, video devices, computers or any similar devices by anyone while participating in the event is prohibited.
  • Camelbaks® and any type of hydration backpack are not permitted. For the avoidance of doubt, fuel belts and hand-held water bottles are allowed. Please be aware you may be asked to empty the contents of these containers before entering Grant Park.
  • Music devices with headphones are permitted for use on the course; however, participants must be alert to their surroundings at all times and must pay attention to important announcements made in Grant Park and along the course. Music devices with headphones are not permitted for use by athletes in the American Development Program.
  • Additional prohibited items on the course route include, but are not limited to: large bags (backpacks, suitcases and rolling bags), hard-sided coolers, costumes covering the face, any non-forming bulky outfits extending beyond the perimeter of the body, props and non-running equipment, including flagpoles and sticks, pets/animals (except for service animals), alcoholic beverages, illegal substances, chairs, weapons, remote-controlled aircrafts and drones.

Last-minute things to do before race day

Marathoners should stick to their curated training regimen in the days running up to the race. Doing a light run can help improve blood flow to your muscles and improve your neuromuscular system without causing soreness, energy loss or fatigue before the big day. If runners have prepared properly, resting the day before a race shouldn’t affect their marathon performance, experts say.

Eat carb-heavy meals. Try to have over 85% of your calories come from carbohydrates so that your body has a lot of fuel for energy. Carbohydrate sources can include pasta, rice, oats, bagels, potatoes and more. 

Event sponsor Chiquita recommends bananas as a pre-workout snack because of the vitamins and minerals they contain. Bananas are also a good source of energy and replace the body’s glycogen stores. Eating a banana up to 15 minutes after a workout can also help quickly replace the carbohydrates and minerals used during it.

How to get to the race 

Race organizers encourage participants to use public transportation on race weekend due to the 41 street closures in place for the course and heavy traffic.

The CTA recommends riders to purchase fares in advance to avoid long lines at the rail station vending machines. 

The Blue, Red, Brown, Orange, Green, Pink and Purple lines will all offer updated schedules effective Oct. 8. Find the most up-to-date information on CTA bus and rail schedules on the website.

Organizers have suggested various routes to get to different mile checkpoints along the race’s course. Instructions can be found here and a map of rail systems among the course can be viewed here.

Buses will be rerouted due to marathon set-up and clean-up. More details on these reroutes can be found on the CTA site here.

Metra will be operating extra services for the marathon. Pedestrians can purchase a $7 Saturday or Sunday pass to provide unlimited rides on the date purchased. They can also take advantage of the $10 Weekend Pass only available on the Ventra App for unlimited rides on both weekend days.

If you plan on driving in, marathon attendees have the option to park in one of four Millennium Garages come race day: Millennium Lakeside, Millennium Park, Grant Park South and Grant North Park. These are the closest garages to Grant Park.

Millennium Garage spots are organized into 12- and 24- hour blocks. A discount is available for spots purchased ahead of race weekend and further promotions are available for those who choose to purchase a spot for longer than a day.

Entering Grant Park on race day

The park, gear check and start corrals will open to runners starting 5:30 a.m. Corrals will close 15 minutes before their start so be sure to plan ahead. 

Make sure your event-issued bib is visibly fastened on all four corners to your outer layer of clothing for security personnel to see as you enter Grant Park. Every participant must pass through a designated security screening entrance gate located off Michigan Avenue. 

There are information tents located throughout Grant Park on race day:

  • On the eastern side of Michigan Avenue at 11th Street
  • On the eastern side of Michigan Avenue at Harrison Street
  • On the eastern side of Michigan Avenue at Jackson Drive
  • Within the Buckingham Fountain Gear Check facility
  • Within the 27th Mile Post-Race Party near the Monroe Drive entrance
  • On the northwest corner of Ida B. Wells Drive and Columbus Drive

What to know about start corrals

Every runner is assigned a start corral based on their qualifying standards. You can view your start coral on your participant account. The deadline to request a change to your start corral was back in August. 

Your start corral helps determine your race start time. This is the schedule:

Marathon Wheelchair Start (men): 7:20 a.m.

Marathon Wheelchair Start (women): 7:21 a.m.

Marathon Handcycle Start: 7:23 a.m.

Marathon Wave 1 Start (red): 7:30 a.m.

Marathon Wave 2 Start (blue): 8 a.m.

Marathon Wave 3 Start (orange): 8:35 a.m.

Join a pace team

Runners who need a push to reach their personal bests can join a Pace Team for free by registering at the Abbott Health & Fitness Expo. Pace Teams are groups of runners led by experienced marathoners who are there to help each group reach its performance goal. Pacers will keep the group running in even splits, keeping a steady pace to run the most efficient way possible.  

Take advantage of course amenities

The marathon’s course map and its amenities can be found here

There are 20 aid stations located throughout the course where runners can find medical equipment, toilets, water and Gatorade Endurance Formula. There are two medical stations with professional medical personnel located in Grant Park. 

There are two Gatorade Endurance Energy Gel at stations 14 and 18 for a recharge, and a Biofreeze Pain Relief Zone just after mile 21.

Be sure to look out for the following Bank of America Cheer Zones located at Mile 13 on Wacker Drive and Mile 26 near Michigan Avenue and Roosevelt Road, less than 1/5th of a mile from the finish line. There are three more Bank of America cheer zones: the Shamrock Shuffle Cheer Zone at the 8K mark, which pays homage to the annual Shamrock Shuffle 8K race. There's also a cheer zone at the race's halfway point to pay homage to the Bank of America 13.1 mile, and finally the Charity Block Party at mile 15.

Post-race activities

Be sure to reconnect with friends and family at Runner Reunite where alphabetical signs are set up for people to help find each other. It’s best to identify a specific letter with those you plan to meet up with so both parties know exactly where to go when the race ends. Getting from the finish line to the Post-Race Party can take longer than 30 minutes so keep that in mind when planning.

Celebrate your success at the 27th Mile Post-Race Party in Butler Field located near the start line at Columbus Drive and Jackson Drive. Organizers have planned music from a Chicago-based DJ. Food and drinks will be available for purchase. 

Marathoners over 21 can tear off the beer tag on their bib for one Goose Island Hazy Beer Hug, Goose Island Full Pocket Pilsner or Michelob ULTRA Superior Light Beer.

The party will open to the public at 9:30 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. Beer ticket sales will run from 9:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. and beer ticket redemption from 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

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