Chicago Marathon

The history of the race

Wayne Goeldner, Wendell Miller, Bill Robinson, Sharon Mier, and Dr. Noel Nequin held a meeting at the YMCA on LaSalle Street in late 1976. Various matters came under discussion during the meeting but it was decided that the city of Chicago needed a world-class race similar to those seen in the American cities of New York and Boston.

The key founders of the Chicago Marathon came from all walks of life. One was a physical education director of the YMCA at Hyde Park, one was the Executive Director of Friends of Parks, and another was the Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation at a local hospital. A common aim and ambition was decided but, practically speaking, not much was done at this initial meeting.

However, the following year, Dr. Noel Nequin managed to organise the first large race in the city. This race was the Ravenswood Bank Lakefront Ten Mile Run and it attracted over one thousand runners. The organisers had only expected a few hundred to turn up on the day. The Mayor gave the race his backing and told the five key founders of the Marathon to start making real plans for a longer race through the iconic city of Chicago.

The first marathon was held on September the 25th, 1977. During the early years of the race, Chicago proved attractive to amateur racers but failed to attract world-class athletes. However, funding gradually increased during the early 1980s and, by the early years of that decade, professional runners were flocking to the city to take part in the race. By 1983, the Chicago Marathon had become one of the most popular and important races in the world.

In 1985, Steve Jones managed to break his own course record during a particularly exciting race. Two years later, 40 world-class athletes decided to compete in the marathon but nobody managed to set a particularly good time. The race’s sponsor changed in 1987 and it continued to change hands over the following few years.

The 2007 race proved to be interesting. It saw the first ever CEO Marathon Challenge, which brought together CEOs, presidents, owners of companies, and other executives in a tight race. This year was also notable for having three out of the four races decided during the final one hundred metres. Temperatures increased throughout the day, reaching unacceptable levels and forcing the race to temporarily shut down.

This year’s race (2008) was sponsored by the Bank of America and took place in the middle of October.

The route

The Chicago Marathon, unlike the Boston Marathon, is well-known for its flat course, which allows runners to compete at a relatively fast speed. The highest area of the course is located at just twenty-four feet. Because of these factors the course is famous for allowing competitors to achieve personal and world records. The course is not only flat, but is also extremely attractive. It winds through twenty-nine of Chicago’s neighbourhoods and allows runners to take in a close-up view of several landmarks of historical importance.

Unlike several of the other large American marathons, the route starts and finishes in the same place with Grant Park, (located on Columbus Drive near Buckingham Fountain) being home to both the starting and finishing lines. Runners are given six hours and thirty minutes overall to complete the route.

The route travels through Grand Avenue, before heading down Rush Street and then on to Hubbard Street. State Street leads to Jackson Boulevard and the three mile point on LaSalle Street. LaSalle Drive eventually leads to Sheridan Road before runners head through Broadway Street and Clark Street (where a McDonald’s will, undoubtedly, make several thousand athletes salivate at the thought of the extra energy which could be provided by a quarter pounder). The ten mile point is located on Sedgwick Street and another McDonald’s can be found on Adams Street!

The Chicago Marathon course continues down Jackson Boulevard before taking runners to Halsted Street. At this point, the route travels through the vicinity of Little Italy. Ashland Avenue sees the athletes run through the University Village, before heading through Chinatown at the 22 mile point. Thirty-third Street and Thirty-fifth Street take runners through Park Boulevard, before the course heads through Prairie District towards the finishing line.

Past results

The Chicago Marathon has seen some famous results over the past couple of decades:

  • The 1979 race saw Laura Michalek from the USA beat the other females to win the marathon aged only fifteen.
  • In 1999, Khalid Khannouchi set a new world record time of two hours, five minutes, and forty-two seconds. The athlete from Morocco also won the marathon the following year, with a time of two hours, seven minutes, and one second.
  • The Chicago Marathon in 2002 saw British athlete, Paula Radcliffe, win the race in two hours, seventeen minutes, and eighteen seconds, setting a new world record in the process. Her time beat the world record set the previous year in the event by Kenyan athlete, Catherine Ndereba.

How to enter

As the race was only run one month ago, the official Chicago Marathon website does not yet have any information regarding the application procedure for the 2009 event. However, this is the website to keep checking for up to date information. Application is easy: simply fill in an online form and wait for confirmation from the website.

In order to qualify for the event, you must be aged 16 or over on the day of the race next year. This year, the required maximum net finish time was six hours and thirty minutes. If you need to change the information on your application form, you can phone the Bank of America Chicago Marathon office on 312.904.9800.

You can also choose to register through an Official Charity Programme or an International Tour Group Programme. The maximum participant capacity for the Chicago Marathon is 45,000. Please bear in mind that if you become injured during the build-up to the event and cannot compete, there is a no refund, transfer, or deferment policy applicable to all race entries.