bank of america chicago marathon

Track, watch and cheer: The ultimate 2023 Chicago Marathon spectator's guide

Where to cheer, how to track your runner and more questions answered on how to be the best Chicago Marathon spectator

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.

In less than a week, 47,000 runners are set to descend on the streets of Chicago for the 2023 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. 

If you’re among the 1.7 million people planning to gather on the sidelines and root for runners, you’re probably wondering where you can cheer, how to best navigate street closures, if you can meet up with runners after the race what to do in between the start and finish time. 

Here’s a rundown of tips to have a successful watch day:

Where are the best places to cheer?

Spectators are not allowed to gather at the race’s start and finish lines, but you can still get a good view at different points along the course. 

The Bank of America organizes multiple cheer zones across various checkpoints on race day. These annual cheer zones have established their own traditions for spectators to enjoy. 

Bank of America Cheer Zones

If you’re hoping to get close to the start or finish line, wake up early to secure a spot at one of the organizer’s on-course Cheer Zones located at Mile 13 on North Wacker in front of Bank of America Tower and at Mile 26 close to the finish line near Michigan Avenue and Roosevelt Road. Entertainment will also be available throughout the day. 

Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle Cheer Zone 

At the 8K point of the race, runners who participate in the annual 8K Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle have a designated Cheer Zone to celebrate the Chicago Marathon. This Cheer Zone is located in Lincoln Park. 

Bank of America Chicago 13.1 Cheer Zone 

At the halfway point of the course, spectators can celebrate the Chicago Marathon in Chicago’s West Side. The third annual Bank of America Chicago 13.1 race will take place on June 9, 2024. 

Charity Block Party

At Mile 15, you’ll find the Bank of America Chicago Marathon’s Charity Block Party, where spectators can cheer on charity runners. This Cheer Zone celebrates the thousands of runners who join in on the marathon to raise funds for charities. 

The party is located at Adams and Loomis Street near Whitney Young High School.

Can I track my runner?

Download the Bank of America Chicago Marathon app to track your runner, available on both Apple and Android devices. You can add up to 20 runners on the app. Search a runner’s name and add them to your “favorites” for them to appear on your tracking list. 

The app also provides the day’s scheduled events, an interactive course map and photos from the race. 

How can you watch your favorite runner cross the finish line - even if you're not there in person?

NBC Chicago, Telemundo Chicago and NBC Sports Chicago will offer complete live coverage and live streaming of the 2023 Chicago Marathon and the finish line in both English and Spanish.

Users can watch live broadcasts of the event on nbcchicago.com, nbcsportschicago.com and telemundochicago.com, as well as their respective apps, from 7 - 11 a.m. There will also be a finish line camera streaming from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

More details can be found here.

How do I get to the marathon?

With 41 anticipated street closures in place for the marathon, organizers advise spectators to make use of public transportation to navigate the course. Vehicles and pedestrians are not permitted to cross closed roads. 

The Bank of America has outlined train routes to get to various mile checkpoints in the race here. The most updated versions of train and bus schedules can be found on the Chicago Transit Authority website.

Metra will also offer extra early morning inbound and early afternoon outbound trains on four of its lines for runners and spectators. The lines with extra service include Metra’s BNSF, Milwaukee District North, Union Pacific Northwest and Union Pacific West.

The service will run in addition to regularly scheduled Sunday trains, officials said.

Those planning to drive in should expect traffic and altered routes on race day. 

Marathon attendees can purchase 12- and 24-hour blocks of parking spots in one of four Millennium Garages on Oct. 8: Millennium Lakeside, Millennium Park, Grant Park South and Grant North Park. These are the closest garages to Grant Park. 

Millennium Garages is offering a discount to spots purchased ahead of race day and further discounts for those who choose to book a parking spot for longer than a day. 

Where can I meet up with a runner?

Spectators can enjoy the 27th Mile Post-Race Party and Runner Reunite area of Grant Park starting 9:30 a.m. and continuing through 4 p.m. The annual party features music from a Chicago-based DJ with refreshments available for purchase. 

To enter the area, spectators must pass through security and bag screenings located at Entrance Gate #1 on Jackson Drive and Michigan Avenue or Entrance Gate #4 at Ida B. Wells Drive and Michigan Avenue.

To find your runner, go to Butler Field in the 27th Mile Post-Race Party, where alphabetical signs are set up to facilitate meeting locations by name. It’s best to agree on a specific letter with your runner before the race so you know exactly where to find them. 

Getting from the finish line to the Post-Race Party can take runners longer than 30 minutes so make sure to plan ahead.  

What should I do while waiting for my runner? 

Elite marathoners might take two hours to finish the course while casual runners may take up to five hours

There are many things to enjoy during this time window for those waiting to meet a particular runner at the end of their race. The Chicago Marathon course passes through 29 neighborhoods in total, each with different atmospheres for spectators to enjoy. 

Chinatown at Mile 21 is known for its dragon parade and loud music, while busy crowds and parties can often be found in Boystown and Wrigleyville at Mile 8. 

Spectators can also make brunch reservations on restaurants along the marathon’s course or enjoy parties at various cheer zones. 

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