How Long is the Chicago Marathon? All You Need to Know

How Long is the Chicago Marathon? The Chicago Marathon is one of the most prestigious and popular marathons in the world. As part of the World Marathon Majors, it attracts thousands of participants and spectators every year. In this article, we’ll cover the ins and outs of the Chicago Marathon, including its length, rules, and what you need to know to participate or watch the race.

Chicago Marathon Basics

The Chicago Marathon is a showcase of athleticism and personal achievement, with a storied history and stunning route through the heart of the city.

History and Significance

The origins of the Chicago Marathon trace back to September 23, 1905, when the first race of its kind was run in the city. However, the modern era of the Chicago Marathon as we know it today commenced in 1977, initially celebrated as the Mayor Daley Marathon in honor of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley.

As one of the six races in the prestigious World Marathon Majors, the Chicago Marathon attracts top professional athletes and amateur runners from around the world.

Route and Terrain

The Chicago Marathon course features a flat, fast route that winds through 29 diverse neighborhoods, offering runners breathtaking views of the city’s iconic landmarks and skyline. The race starts and finishes in Grant Park, providing a breathtaking backdrop for this unforgettable event.

Time Limit and Cutoffs

The Chicago Marathon has a strict time limit of 6 hours and 30 minutes from the final wave start. Runners who fall behind the official pace vehicle may be asked to move to the sidewalk and are no longer officially part of the race—meaning they are subject to normal traffic laws.

Marathon Distance

Understanding the marathon distance is crucial for proper preparation and training. The Chicago Marathon is 26.2 miles long, which is the standard length for a marathon. This distance puts the race in line with other major marathons worldwide.

Rules and Regulations

Running the Chicago Marathon requires adherence to strict rules and regulations to ensure a fun and safe experience for everyone involved.

Aid Stations and Facilities

A total of 20 aid stations are strategically placed along the course, providing water, sports drink, and medical support. Runners can find toilets, refreshments, and other critical services, enabling them to focus on their performance and enjoyment of the race.

Race Entry and Qualifications

Entrance to the Chicago Marathon is either through a lottery system or by meeting specific time qualification standards. Runners can also secure a guaranteed entry by joining an official charity team and raising funds for a noble cause.

Spectator Guidelines and Street Closures

Thousands of spectators flock to the Chicago Marathon to support their loved ones and watch professional athletes compete. The organizing committee provides a spectator guide, which includes relevant street closure information and the best spots to view the race.

Training and Preparation

Preparing for the Chicago Marathon requires dedication and a well-structured plan tailored to the unique challenges of this world-class event.

Tips for First-Time Runners

First-time runners should focus on gradually increasing their weekly mileage and incorporating a mix of easy runs, long runs, and speed workouts. It’s essential to know what to wear and invest

in suitable running shoes and clothing to stay comfortable and prevent injuries.

Training Plans and Suggestions

A well-structured training plan is crucial for marathon success. For beginner runners, a 20-week half marathon training plan can be an excellent starting point before tackling a full marathon plan. More experienced runners should tailor their training plans to their specific goals, considering factors like speed, endurance, and individual strengths and weaknesses.

Clothing and Gear Recommendations

Choosing the right clothing and gear can make a substantial difference in comfort during the marathon. Runners should select moisture-wicking fabrics, comfortable running shoes, and socks designed to prevent blisters. Don’t forget essentials like a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect from the elements.

Race Day Information

Understanding what to expect on race day can help alleviate stress and ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Start Time and Location

The Chicago Marathon typically starts at 7:30 AM, with participants divided into multiple waves based on their expected finish time. The race starts and finishes in Grant Park, known as “Chicago’s front yard.”

Weather Conditions and Considerations

The weather on race day can be unpredictable, ranging from cool and crisp to unseasonably warm. It’s essential to stay up-to-date with the weather forecast and adjust your clothing and race strategy accordingly.

Race-Day Logistics and Transportation

Chicago offers an efficient public transportation system, making it easy for runners and spectators to navigate the city on race day. The organizing committee provides information on race day transportation and other logistics, ensuring a seamless and stress-free experience for all involved.

Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve compiled answers to some common questions about the Chicago Marathon to further enhance your understanding of this prestigious race.

Can you walk the Chicago Marathon?

Although walking is allowed, participants must maintain a 15-minute-per-mile pace to finish within the 6-hour-and-30-minute time limit.

How many participants finish the Chicago Marathon?

Approximately 45,000 runners register for the race each year, with more than 90% successfully completing the course.

How does the Chicago Marathon rank among other marathons?

As part of the World Marathon Majors, the Chicago Marathon is one of the most prestigious and well-known races globally, ranking alongside others like the Boston, New York City, and London Marathons.

What is the countdown to the next Chicago Marathon?

The date for the next Chicago Marathon usually falls on the second Sunday of October. Be sure to visit the official event website for the latest news and updates.


The Chicago Marathon is a remarkable event in the global running community, and its 26.2-mile course showcases the best of the city while challenging participants to achieve their personal best. By understanding the race’s history, rules, preparation requirements, and other essential details, you’ll be well-equipped to enjoy this incredible event, either as a participant or spectator. 

Whether you’re an experienced marathoner or new to the sport, the Chicago Marathon offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to chase greatness and create lasting memories.