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How the Chicago Marathon Works


Chicago Marathon Entry
Two-time defending champion Kurt Fearnley, of Australia, crosses the finish line of the Chicago Marathon with a time of 1:29:09 on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009.
Two-time defending champion Kurt Fearnley, of Australia, crosses the finish line of the Chicago Marathon with a time of 1:29:09 on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009.
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

You must act fast if you want to enter the Chicago Marathon. Registration fills up fast and is limited to 45,000 applicants on a first-come, first-serve basis. When entering the Chicago Marathon, keep in mind:

  • You must be 16 years or older on race day. If you are under 18, you will need a parent or guardian's consent.
  • You can't sell or transfer your bib number. If you are caught doing so, you will be disqualified and possibly banned from future races.
  • You can't get a refund if you decide not to run, and entry fees won't be deferred to a future race.

The Chicago Marathon has a maximum time limit of 6.5 hours. In order to finish in time, you must be able to maintain a pace of nearly 15 minutes per mile. Some things to know:

  • Minimum qualifying time: You don't need a minimum qualifying time to enter Chicago. However, there are seeded start corrals for faster runners.
  • Seeded start corrals: Men with a qualifying time of 2:30:59 or less and women with a qualifying time of 3:00:59 or less are eligible to start in the elite group. There are also four other groups, corrals A through D, which require qualifying times of 3:10:59 to 4:00:59 respectively.
  • Wheelchair division: In 1980, Jane Schiff became Chicago's first unofficial wheelchair winner with a time of 3:02:38. In 1989, Chicago officially instituted a wheelchair division. Today, the race remains open to wheelchair and other disabled competitors. If you have a disability and want to participate, write to the registration manager at registration@chicagomarathon.com

[source: Bank of America Corp, Event Rules]

One way to make your Chicago Marathon experience more meaningful is to run the race for charity. You have one hundred charity partners -- including the Red Cross and the American Cancer Society -- from which to choose. Sometimes charities can offer bib numbers even after registration is closed.

From runners dressed in costume to marriage proposals at the finish line, Chicago is one fast, fun-filled race. Learn more about the course itself in the next section.


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