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How the Chicago Marathon Works

Chicago Marathon Route
Runners grab water at an aid station during the 2004 Chicago Marathon as other participants run past.
Runners grab water at an aid station during the 2004 Chicago Marathon as other participants run past.
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Chicago sports a route designed to highlight the city's diversity. Jeremy Borling with the Bank of America Chicago Marathon says, "The course runs from Downtown to Lincoln Park on the North Side of the city and continues to Old Town, Little Italy, Pilsen, Chinatown, Bronzeville and points in between. Each of the neighborhoods on the course truly embraces the event and adds its own unique footprint."

The race starts and finishes at Grant Park. Grant Park is in the part of Chicago known as "the Loop," so named because visitors can find a loop of public transportation on all sides of the park. Both the start and finish lines are easy walks to several major hotels; this comes in handy for runners when they're tired after the race. Furthermore, the Chicago Marathon, with its easy-to-use loop of public transit, is very fan-friendly. Motivated spectators can hop a train to view runners at various points along the course.

Twenty aid stations, located every one to two miles along the route, provide water and Gatorade, medical support, and bathroom facilities to runners. At mile 13, a nutrition station provides Accel Gel. Accel is a nutritional supplement in semi liquid form that offers a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio. (Carbohydrates fuel performance and protein aids in recovery.) Aid stations 15-18 (miles 20-23.5) offer bananas -- a preferred food for runners because they are full of good carbohydrates, contain potassium (which runners lose through sweating) and because they're generally easy on the stomach.

One wild card in planning for the Chicago Marathon is Chicago's unpredictable weather. In October, Chicago temperatures can vary from 80 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (26.6 to 1.1 degrees Celsius). The average high is 67 F (19.4 C), and the average low is 47 F (8.3 C). To better prepare runners for fickle weather, the Chicago Marathon features an event alert system. This is a color-coded method of communicating weather conditions to racers in the days leading up to and including race day.

Want to know more about the Chicago Marathon? Next, up, we share Chicago stories and talk about race results.