Qualify for the Chicago Marathon: How to Do It!

How to Qualify for Chicago Marathon? The Chicago Marathon is one of the most popular and prestigious marathons in the world, attracting participants from various corners of the globe. As part of the World Marathon Majors, the event garners significant attention and anticipation each year. For many aspiring marathon runners, qualifying for the Chicago Marathon signifies a major achievement in their running careers. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the requirements, process, and tips for qualifying for the Chicago Marathon. By understanding the application window, basic requirements, qualifying times, acceptance rates, and entry fees, you will be well on your way to securing a spot in this iconic race.

Eligibility Requirements

To participate in the Chicago Marathon, there are certain eligibility requirements that must be met. Understanding these requirements is essential for planning your marathon endeavors.

Minimum age

The minimum age requirement for participating in the Chicago Marathon is 16 years old. Younger runners are ineligible for the event, and need to focus on other races and competitions better suited for their age group.

Participation limits

Each year, the Chicago Marathon implements a cap on the number of participants allowed, with spots typically filling up incredibly quickly. To ensure you have a chance to qualify, it is crucial to apply as early as possible during the application window.

Qualifying Process

Securing a spot in the Chicago Marathon involves either meeting time-qualifying standards or gaining entry through non-guaranteed means, such as charity slots, local race circuit eligibility, or the legacy finisher program.

Time-qualifying standards

Running a marathon within a specific time range, known as a qualifying time, can guarantee entry into the Chicago Marathon. These standards vary according to the runner’s age and gender.

Men’s qualifying times

For men aged 16-29, a marathon time of 3 hours and 5 minutes or faster is required. For male runners aged 30-39, a marathon time of 3 hours and 10 minutes or faster must be achieved. Men aged 40-49 need to complete a marathon in 3 hours and 20 minutes or faster, and male runners aged 50-59 must attain a finish time of 3 hours and 35 minutes or faster. Finally, men aged 60 and above need to run a marathon in under 4 hours to qualify for the Chicago Marathon.

Women’s qualifying times

For female participants aged 16-29, a marathon time of 3 hours and 35 minutes or faster is needed. Women aged 30-39 must complete a marathon in 3 hours and 40 minutes or faster. Participants aged 40-49 need to finish a marathon in 3 hours and 50 minutes or faster, while women aged 50-59 require a time of 4 hours and 10 minutes or faster to qualify. Lastly, female runners aged 60 and older should complete a marathon in under 4 hours and 40 minutes.

Non-guaranteed entry options

If you haven’t met the time-qualifying standards, don’t worry – you still have a chance to participate in the marathon through non-guaranteed entry methods.

Charity entry

Each year, thousands of charity spots are available for the Chicago Marathon. By obtaining one of these spots, you commit to raising funds for specific charities while securing your entry in the race.

Local race circuit eligibility

Runners who have participated in specific races within the Chicagoland area and met certain performance criteria may also be considered for marathon entry within the local race circuit pool.

Legacy finisher program

If you have a history of running in the Chicago Marathon and accumulating a significant number of finishes, you may be eligible for entry through the legacy finisher program.

Registration Process

Registration Process Marathon

To enter the Chicago Marathon, you’ll need to navigate the registration process, which includes understanding the application window, taking the necessary steps for registration, and determining entry fees and payment options.

Application window

The registration period for the Chicago Marathon typically opens months in advance, with the application window usually open for about a month or two. Keep an eye on the marathon’s official website for key dates and announcements.

Steps for registration

To register for the Chicago Marathon, you’ll need to create an account with the race organizer (currently with Bank of America) and complete the online registration form, providing your personal information, intended participation category, and qualification details. Once the application window opens, submit your registration as soon as possible to improve your chances of being accepted.

Entry fees and payment options

Entry fees for the Chicago Marathon vary depending on your entry category, with fees for time-qualifiers priced differently than charity and non-guaranteed entries. Upon confirmation of your entry, a credit card payment must be made to secure your spot.

Submission of Past Marathon Results

To validate your qualifying time, you’ll need to submit proof of your past marathon results. This involves providing race details, submitted results, and adhering to specific timing requirements.

Accepted races for qualification

For your marathon time to be accepted as valid for qualification, it must have been achieved at an officially recognized marathon event. These events typically have certified courses and verifiable results.

Timing requirements for past marathons

Your qualifying time must be from a marathon completed within a specific window prior to the Chicago Marathon registration period. Ensure that your chosen race falls within this accepted timeframe.

Verification and documentation

During the registration process, you must provide documentation that verifies your past marathon time. This usually involves submitting a link to the official race results page or a race certificate.

Tips for Achieving Qualifying Times

Successfully achieving the time-qualifying standards for the Chicago Marathon may seem daunting, but with effective training, optimal race selection, and proper pacing, you can increase your likelihood of success.

Effective marathon training

To improve your marathon times, follow a solid marathon training plan that incorporates adequate base mileage, speed work, tempo runs, and long runs in order to build endurance and speed. Regular strength training and flexibility exercises can also help maximize your performance.

Optimal race selection for qualifying

Choose a qualifying race that offers an advantageous course, suitable weather conditions, and sufficient time for training and recovery. Consider the (other US marathons) available throughout the year that might align with your goals.

Importance of pacing

During your qualifying race, focus on maintaining an even pace that aligns with your target finishing time. This strategy can help conserve energy, minimize fatigue, and increase your chances of achieving your qualifying time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I qualify if I’ve never run a marathon before?

To qualify for the Chicago Marathon, you must provide a marathon time from an earlier race within the accepted timeframe. If you’ve never run a marathon, consider participating in a smaller marathon event to attempt meeting the qualifying times or explore non-guaranteed entry options.

What if I don’t meet the age requirement?

If you do not meet the age requirement, you will be ineligible to participate in the Chicago Marathon. Focus on races and competitions designed for your age group or wait to compete once you have reached the required age.

If I don’t qualify for this year, can I use my qualifying time from a previous marathon for the next year?

As qualifying times need to be achieved within a specific timeframe prior to the registration period, it may not be possible to use a previous marathon time for the following year. Consult the Chicago Marathon’s official guidelines to confirm specific acceptance criteria.

What happens if I qualify but then become injured?

If you obtain a qualifying time but are unable to participate due to injury, you will typically forfeit your entry for that year. Consult the marathon’s cancellation and deferral policies for further details.

Can I change my qualifying time after I have already registered?

In most cases, you cannot modify your qualifying time once your registration has been submitted. To ensure the most accurate information is provided, carefully review your registration details before submission.


Qualifying for the Chicago Marathon can be a challenging yet rewarding endeavor for any runner looking to participate in the prestigious race. By meeting eligibility requirements, understanding the qualification process, following a tailored training plan, and acting fast during the application window, you can work towards achieving your marathon dreams. 

Remember that you can also explore non-guaranteed entry options if you haven’t met the qualifying standards. As you view the progress of others, take this opportunity to learn from their experiences and tailor your own training, setting you on a path towards Chicago Marathon qualification and earning the chance to race alongside the world’s biggest marathons.