THE FINE PRINT: The following preview is written using the information available at time of publishing. Race organizers reserve the right to change the details, including route, sometimes without warning. That said, the details listed below may change come race-day. I do my best to avoid that whenever possible -- but sometimes it simply isn't possible. Thank you for understanding. Keep R/B/S'ing! -R3KC
2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon
Pt II: Course & Schedule Preview
You can go to the official schedule on the website HERE.
Race day is Sunday, October 8th. The marathon weekend begins on Friday. And we even have a 5k to speak on. Here's the break-down...
Friday, October 6th
The official Chicago Marathon course map can be found HERE.
Additional information on the course and amenities can be found HERE.
Beyond the massive participation numbers and world-class competition, and past the top-of-the-line amenities and unrivaled number of spectators, there is a very clear reason why this race is loved the world over: The course.
In my very humble opinion, there is no better way to tour a city than by on-foot. This is one of the primary reasons I remain in love with our own Kansas City Marathon: It actually is the perfect primer to those not familiar with our fair city. In a matter of hours, participants can tour the neighborhoods that make Kansas City a destination -- Crown Center, Power & Lights District, Crossroads Arts District, Old Westport, The Plaza, Nelson-Atkins, Waldo, Loose Park, and Penn Valley Park...all covered by the Marathon route (even the Half Marathon edition covers all but Waldo and Loose Park).
The Chicago Marathon does this in spades. The 26.2 miles of this route (which hasn't really changed much over the last few decades, mind you) traverse 27 of Chicago's world-famous neighborhoods, including 7 city parks. Every mile is closed to traffic -- unheard of in a city as robust as Chi-town -- and every mile is also brimmed with screaming spectators. If experience serves, the motivation of cheering spectators is nothing new -- running the entire 26.2 miles with not a single inch of quiet, spectator-less road is something altogether.
For this special course preview, we'll be breaking down the course bit-by-bit, including Google Earth Street View images of important route spots. I'll also include info on popular landmarks along the way, of which there is no shortage.
So let's get in to it, shall we?
Mile 0: Start Area & Start Corral
In all reality, the course begins before the course actually begins: Gracefully navigating the starting corral is integral to a successful race (the same could be said for parking, but we'll get to that next month).
By now (late-August as of publishing), you should be fully aware of your starting corral. And, by now (mid-August as I write), you should also know that corral change requests have closed.
That said, you can look up your corral assignment again via the official website. Here's a snapshot of qualifying/estimated finish times and their relationship to start corral assignments...
The actual, physical start line and start corral itself is located at the intersection of Columbus and Monroe Streets, sandwiched between Maggie Daley and Millennium Parks. There is a pedestrian walk bridge between the two parks that goes over Columbus Street -- the start line is just behind (to the south) of that (that bridge will be closed, by the way - though open to media).
The size of the start corral extends waaaaaaay back, past Jackson Street, nearly to the Buckingham Fountain (ever seen Married with Children? The fountain in the opening credits? That's Buckingham Fountain).
I attended (as a spectator) the race in support of a friend in the past that was in Corral K...it took about 45min before she even got to the start line. Patience is a virtue, my friends.
Reports stated that getting in to the corral was surprisingly easy. Just check your expectations on waiting around prior to arrival. Race reports from participants of the 2016 edition all had planned on a 6am arrival, and experienced minimal hiccups as a result. I recommend the same: 6am arrival, whatever that means given your chosen accommodation for race weekend. Research any shuttles your hotel is providing, and take full advantage. Experience tells me you should expect to add 30min to whatever expected arrival time of the hotel shuttles are, just to be safe. The L-Train is also a good choice, with the nearest stop being Millenium Park.
The Marathon official webpage gives very little information about race-day transportation and parking -- and likely for good reason. There are so many options to choose from, and thus too many variables to track. Thus, I will resort to the same and just say: This is the one bit I can't help much on. Do your research prior to race day!
Miles 0 - 1: Start Line to Streetville & the Magnificent Mile
Mile zero is exactly at Monroe Street. Runners will continue north, Millenium Park on the left and Maggie Daley Park on the right, under the Columbus Drive pedestrian bridge. Columbus Drive actually descends ever-so-slightly from Monroe. Looking to the left before the pedestrian bridge, you'll see the tip-top of Jay Pritzker Pavilion, though most of it will be hidden from view. The descent is in preparation for an underground section beneath the first of many neighborhoods - New East Side.
After a small bit underground, you'll pop out the other side of Whacker Dr, this time running OVER the river, ending up the Streeterville neighborhood at about 0.6 miles.
Grand Avenue is the next stop, and the first turn on course, coming in at about the 0.75-0.8mi mark.
Grand Avenue will lead you to the next underground trek, under one of the most popular shopping destinations in the country: The Magnificent Mile. This mile-long stretch of Michigan Avenue features high-end fashion peddlers and some spectacular food to boot. But don't get your hopes up! We're running UNDER it (in fact, you'll be running underneath a Nordstrom's). The Burberry scarves and Garrett's Popcorn will have to wait for another day.
Speaking of underground: These descents under and ascents out from bridges really present the only real "climbing" on-route. The overall elevation gain for the 26.2 mile course comes in under 200 feet. Your calves will thank you.
Coming out from underneath Michigan Avenue will bring you to mile marker 1. Congratulations! Now do it 26 more times.
Miles 1-3: The Loop
The next turn is another left, this time coming at State Street, one of the best locations for food in Chicago (well, at least, most of it -- let's not forget Little Italy and Greektown). We're headed back over the river, this time southbound.
Crossing the river brings us to neighborhood #4, The Loop. And appropriate a name it would seem, as our course loops around the neighborhood as well. But first, along the east side of The Loop, we'll get a fair few famous landmarks, including the Tribune Building on the left just after the bridge. And just past the Tribune comes our first aid station, about 1.7 miles in (and halfway between the river and mile marker 2), at State and Washington. Left your water bottles at the hotel? Didn't have time to answer nature's call before the race? Now's your chance.
The southern run along The Loop begins at mile marker 2, where runners will turn right heading westbound on Jackson.
A short, three-block run brings marathoners to the west side of the loop, turning right heading north-bound on LaSalle.
The Loop comes to a close at the river. After the river's crossing, runners will hit mile marker 3.
Miles 3-5: LaSalle to Lincoln Park
Past the river, mile marker 3 begins a long, 2-mile stretch on LaSalle. Another aid station hits, this being the second. Between mile marker 3 and and aid station 2, you'll pass over the 5k split mats.
Approaching mile marker 4, runners hit the next neighborhood on course: The Near East Side. Mile marker 4 comes at past halfway up the northbound LaSalle jaunt, as runners ready to cross over Division Street.
Though I strongly doubt any boredom will be experienced during the Chicago Marathon, the monotony of the northern trek on LaSalle comes to a close as LaSalle curves east toward the southern edges of Lincoln Park. Then runners come off LaSalle just past Clark, entering Lincoln Park on northbound Stockton.
Mile 5-7: Lincoln Park
8km down! Only need to do it 4 more (and change) times. Not long past mile marker 5 is an aid station. And then, you'll be running along the western edge of the Lincoln Park Zoo. You won't get to see any animals, though -- not quite close enough to the enclosures themselves.
The next turn comes in at about 5-3/4mi, a right turn eastbound on Fullerton. This is followed nearly immediately by a left turn back north on Cannon. Just past the turn on to Cannon, runners will hit the next aid station, followed quickly by mile marker 6.
With leaves beginning to fall from the trees, Diversey Harbor should be visible just off the east/right side of the run route. Nearing the end of the northern edge of the harbor, and upon exiting Lincoln Park, runners will hit the 10k split. A slight right on northbound Sheridan comes just past 10k.
Continue north on Sherdian. At about 6.8mi, it runs in to Inner Lake Shore Drive. Belmont Harbor begins to pop up on the east/right, and runners hit mile 7 halfway up the harbor.
Mile 7-10: The turn back south through Old Town Triangle
The Chicago Marathon route is sorta broken up in to three main extensions: A north, a west, and a south. Up to now, we've mostly been travelling northbound on the northern extension. Past mile 7, we finally get to turn around for the loooonng southern trek to complete the northern extension of the marathon route.
This comes in the form of a left turn westbound on Addison from [Inner] N Lake Shore Drive (coming about 7.4 miles in), followed quickly by another left turn southbound two blocks later on to Broadway (about 7.6 miles in). This takes runners in to the quaint Lakeshore East neighborhood (think Brookside in KC).
Lake me take a moment to point something out/remind us all of something. During preview such as this, I often discuss terrain, and any hills that pop up on the route. This has none. Seriously. You may get some ascents and descents on-to and off-of bridges/overpasses, but that's it. With a combined total of less than 200 feet of climbing over the route's entirety (depending on who you talk to), it truly is pan-flat. So, I haven't forgotten to point the climbs out...they just don't exist.
Anyways -- back to the race.
This section of Broadway runs south-southeast. At mile marker 8 -- and the next aid station -- the road kinds to due-south. You stay on Broadway, though. And begin to come out of Lakeview East in to the Park West neighborhood as you approach Clark St.
As the route runs in to Park West, Broadway intersects with Clark Street and Diversey. Runners will slight-left it on to Clark Street heading south-southeast. Not far past the intersection, runners come up on mile marker 9, smack-dab in the middle of the Park West neighborhood.
The 15k (!!!) split comes just after where Clark intersects with Fullerton Avenue. This is followed up immediately by an aid station. Not more than a tenth-mile past 15k, runners come up on a chicane on-route: The quick right-left combo of westbound Webster to southbound Sedgwick.
This will bring runners again through the neighborhood portion of Lincoln Park after coming out of Park West. And once through Lincoln Park, back in to the Old Town Triangle neighborhood just in time for mile marker 10.
Mile 10-13.1: Old Town and River North (again)
Past mile 10, a left turn on to North Ave, followed by a right on to southbound Wells St takes runners back in to the Old Town neighborhood of earlier on route, and presents with the next aid station route. Look to your left through the alleyways, and you'll see marathoners working their way between miles 4 and 5. This one-block-parallel route continues from the aid station at ~10.5, through mile marker 11 in Near North Side, all the way to the aid station at ~11.85mi in the River North district (or about the 5k split for marathoners trekking northbound on your left).
The next turn comes after the 11.85mi aid station on to westbound Hubbard, and runners will hit mile marker 12.
Time to make it back across the river! Continue under the L tracks on Hubbard to mile marker 12. This will be at the intersection of Hubbard and Orleans St. Orleans is where you turn, left/southbound. Orleans kinds slightly left, turning in to Franklin St across the river. As you come off the bridge, you'll hit the 20k split, and the next aid station. This aid station is the first of two Gatorade Energy stations (this one features carb energy chews).
This southern run on Franklin is actually the final meters of our "northern extension" of the route. The next turn takes us finally on to our second "western extension," and that comes at Monroe Street. Monroe will also shoot runners up and over Chicago River South Branch.
Two blocks past the river, runners hit mile marker 13, followed by a left turn on Jefferson, which houses the 13.1mi split. HALF MARATHON, BABY!
Mile 13-18: The Western Loop and Near West Side
Each of these extensions/loops has their own distinctive style. The northern loop is the city, to be sure, with some of the more quaint and trendy residential and shopping neighborhoods that border it. This western loop has a flavor all on its own.
Chicago is home to one of the best Little Italy's and Greektown's in the country (and good Chinatown, too, but that comes later). This section of marathon route covers them both.
Greektown is first, after passing through the half-marathon split located in the aptly-named West Loop Gate. The westbound run along Adams St for a good 7 blocks of the Near West Side/West Loop district to about Racine, takes you through the formerly robust Greek neighborhood. Coming out of Greektown, runners hit the next aid station and mile marker 14.
This two-mile stretch of Adams continues all the way to Damen St. for the western extension's turn-around point just before mile marker 15.
The run on Damen is short-lived: only two blocks before turning left again on to eastbound Van Buren, but not before hitting mile marker 15 on the way.
One block east on Van Buren, and runners take a slight-left on to Ogden Avenue (including the next aid station), followed by a slight-right on to Jackson. The 25k split (25k!!!!!) is just beyond the turn on to eastbound Jackson. A medical tent pops up a block or two east of 25k, followed two more blocks by mile marker 16 just before Racine.
Look through the alleyways on your left, and you'll see runners hitting mile marker 14. Past Racine, you'll come in to the southern stretches of Greektown.
For me -- during training at least -- this is where the pain starts to set in. The first big wall doesn't come in until about 20mi, but it's by mile 16 that I can feel it approaching. In short, this section is where I become WAY to aware of the distance I have run, and have yet to run.
Having the Willis Tower on the horizon should help, though.
Another aid station comes in dead-center of the southern stretches of Greektown, followed by a right-turn on to southbound Halstead at about 16.5mi. From here runners will head over the Eisenhower Expressway and out of The Near West Side.
The University of Illinois-Chicago campus borders Little Italy to the east. Runners, after the Eisenhower Expressway, will run to the east of that, UIC on your right. Approaching the next turn on to westbound Taylor Street brings you to mile marker 17.
TECHNICALLY, once south of the Eisenhower, you enter in to the Little Italy district, which now shares real estate with University Village. HOWEVER, Little Italy really doesn't start until after passing through Morgan Street (and past the last of the UIC campus buildings). You know it, too: The roadway median disappears, the streets narrow, and a restaurant called Tuscany pops up on the right.
A city block in to the REAL Little Italy, the next aid station -- a Gatorade Endurance (this one with energy chews) -- comes in (at right about - once again - Racine Ave).
Mile 18 comes as runners come out of Little Italy and in to the actual University Village part of University Village.
Mile 18-23: Pilsen & Chinatown
For many (if not most), walls will be hit. And there's a good chance it'll happen in this section. Luckily, by now, we've hit a countless number of aid stations, and two Gatorade Endurance Nutrition Stations.
Organizers will know the suffering had by runners in this section, and potentially through to the finish. To combat this, aid stations increase in frequency slightly, to the tune of one for every mile. Beyond mile 20, solid food is even on-hand, fully aware that stomachs start to rebel against supplemental nutrition such as drinks, gels, and chews.
Ashland Avenue is the next turn after mile 18, a wide thoroughfare that divides the remaining blocks of University Village and the Medical District. Halfway down Ashland, at about 14th, the 30k (30k!!!!!!!!!) split comes. Past that, runners hit a stretch of industrial buildings before turning off Ashland on to eastbound 18th. Mile marker 19 is just after the turn.
Pilsen, also known as the Lower West Side, is the next neighborhood on hand, starting at mile 19, and makes up the next mile-plus, until runners hit the river.
Are you a Mexican food fan? The Lower West Side has some of the best Mexican (and Latin-inspired) food in the city. You'll also catch a glimpse or two of some pretty cool street art on the walls of several buildings.
The next aid station is at mile 19.5 (-ish), at about 18th Street and Racine (pattern?).
The 18th & Halstead T-intersection marks the end of our 18th Street run, and the end of the next mile. We turn back on to southbound Halstead (from mile-17 fame), and pass mile marker 20.
Let's just take a moment to marvel at how you've run 20 miles.
You've no-doubt run a 10k somewhere in your training (and likely even racing), yeah? That's all there is left. We're in the final stretches. If you've come this far, you're going to finish.
Reward yourself with a banana. The next aid station will hav'em, not even a quarter mile past mile marker 20.
As runners pass over the West Branch of the Chicago River, we're really starting to hit our third and final extension -- the southern loop, if you will. A sharp left-hander after the river brings runners off of Halstead and on to Archer Avenue.
Pass under the I-90 bridge, and you'll hit your next neighborhood, evident by the Chinese Market that pops up on the right. You're in Chinatown.
And not long past the market is the next aid station, followed immediately by mile marker 21.
The hub of Chinatown isn't for a couple of blocks up the road, as runners continue through the three-way intersection of Archer, Cermak, and Princeton. As you approach the intersection, the Chinese-American Veteran's Memorial will be on your right. Runners are to slight-right it on to Cermak.
Chicago has one of the best Chinatown's in the country, too. In fact, many Asian cultures are well-represented in Chinatown. Continuing on Cermak, runners will pass by a plethora of Thai, Korean, and Vietnamese restaurants and shops as well.
Chinatown seems to be one of the best-represented neighborhoods on the Chicago Marathon route, as well. Cermak is already of the busiest streets in town, but the next right turn on to southbound Wentworth literally takes you through Chinatown's gates.
The next half-mile on Wentworth, all the way through to the I-55 bridge, is book-ended entirely by Chinatown shops and eateries.
Once at I-55, runners hit the 35k (35k !!!!!!!!!!!!) split, followed by mile marker 22 under the bridge, and the next solid-food-stocked aid station at about 22.5mi.
Mile 23-Finish Line: The Final 5k
En route to mile 23, runners run parallel to I-90 on Wentworth, and turn left on to 33rd, passing over I-90 in the process. When we're talking about climbs, the ever-so-slight curve of these bridges are all the climbing we really speak of. However, at 23 miles, I'm sure I'll feel it anyways.
Time spent on 33rd is short-lived. On approach to the Illinois Institute of Technology, runners right-turn on to southbound State.
Southbound on State not only takes you through the Technology Institute, but also takes you in to the next neighborhood: The Bronzeville District. State Street is also short-lived, and runners will make a 1-80 turn back north, using 35th, followed one block later by the turn on to Michigan Avenue.
Ironically, this is the longest single-road stretch for the whole marathon, and it comes in with less than 5k to go. The road is straight-and-true on Michigan Avenue, and back north you'll hit several South Side neighborhoods: The Gap, South Commons, Prairie District, and Central Station.
Not long after the turn off of 35th Street, you hit one of the three (the last three) aid stations on this stretch as well, and every remaining mile marker will make an appearance on Michigan Avenue, too (well, technically mile 26 is on Roosevelt, but just barely).
Finally, the finale... A right turn on to Roosevelt, mile marker 26, bridge over the tracks, and a left turn on to Columbus in to Grant Park.
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