15 Best Chicago Marathon Tips, According to Insiders
Updated: Jan 16
So you’ve gotten into the Chicago Marathon (hopefully)! Congratulations, you’re about to run one of the best marathons in the world. We coach more runners training for the Chicago Marathon than any other marathon.
Each year we ask our Chicago Marathon finishers what their best tips are. Here’s a list of the top tip every Chicago marathon runner needs to know.
When you register for the lottery, you will be prompted to include your estimated time/pace. This then determines your corral assignment you receive over the Summer. There is a period of time you are permitted to dispute the corral assignment and request a different corral. If you believe your pace will be faster than when you estimated in the lottery entry, request to change corrals. Otherwise, you may be caught in a slower pace group than you want, and there is very little opportunity to pass folks for the first 10K.
Logistical Tips For Chicago Marathon
When booking accommodations, do it early and stay within walking distance of grant park to make getting to/from the race easy. The expo is a few miles away, so you will need to uber to that.
The expo gets insanely crowded, so get there early and plan on extra time.
Take public transit or Uber, and make sure your cheering squad does too. It's an easier (plus faster & cheaper!) way to get around the city when so many streets are blocked off for the race. There are a ton of train lines that will drop you just a few blocks away from the start, and the place will be crawling with runners, making that suuuuuper early morning feel just a little bit safer.
If you are willing to make the investment, the Skyline Hospitality Tent purchase of $150 is well worth the money. A heated tent before the race with chairs and tables, dedicated zero line port-o-potties, tons of food before and after, guides that bring you out of your corral before the start, and massages after the race. It's really fantastic.
Give yourself enough time to get to the start line. If taking the train, be aware of delays. Ubers won’t get you close due to street closures. If you are late, you won’t be able to make it to your designated corral.
The start/finish is at the same place in grant park, which makes gear check VERY easy! I recommend bringing a change of warm, dry clothes to leave in the gear check- there are also private changing stations to put on the new clothes while you wait for other runners to finish.
After the race, getting your checked bag will take almost an hour. Be prepared to stand in line.
Race Tips For Chicago Marathon
Water and fueling stations get crowded, especially in the early miles. Water and Gatorade are at EVERY hydration stand (which is like every mile)
If you are running with pacers, be patient and do not panic if you are not close to them at all times. You will have plenty of miles to catch up with them. Staying closer to them will require fighting and pushing around with other runners. (Takes up too much energy)
The blue line on the course shows the tangents- follow that so that you are running the tangents. It's the quickest way to the finish and helps with the many corners you'll turn.
Your GPS will not be 100% accurate. For accurate mile splits, use the course markings and manually lap miles bc you will not be able to rely on the GPS watch with all the tall buildings in the city.
Be aware there is a slight uphill in the last ½ mile before turning left on Columbus feels like a mountain.
After you finish it's a pretty long walk (maybe a mile) to get back to the bag check etc. Grab the fuel offered right after the finish to be able to begin refueling right away
Engage with people! Chat it up other runners in the corral, at the expo, and I always, always try to engage with the crowd and Chicago has a great crowd. My favorite are the little kids with their hands out for a high (or very low!) five- the look on their faces after making that contact always gives me a huge boost that I carry with me through the next few miles.
Make sure you eat a proper pre-marathon breakfast before you leave your hotel, and bring snacks as it make be a while until your race starts.
Best of luck!!