August 7, 2018

Marathon Madness

Not only is today #TravelTuesday, it’s exactly two months until the 2018 Chicago Marathon, which runs (pun fully intended) on Sunday, October 7th. One of the biggest in the world and a part of the World Major Marathon series along with Berlin, Boston, London, New York, and Tokyo, the Chicago Marathon attracts runners from around the world, from the casual to the ultra-competitive.

The Marathon has a pretty cool story. It starts and ends at Grant Park, the “front yard” of Chicago, and the way that the course places our downtown and skyline at the front and center of the event means that it’s always attracted unusually high numbers of amateur runners in addition to the people who actually have a shot at taking in some of that $250,000 in prize money. The first “official” edition of the modern-day race ran (sorry) in 1977 as the Mayor Daley Marathon, because naming things after politicians is Chicago’s third leading export after hot dogs and replacing the letter T with the letter D. However, the Chicago Marathon actually has a much longer tradition than that: wildly popular races throughout downtown were held sometimes even multiple times a year through the first three decades of the 20th Century, so even if you might not know it, Chicago’s always been a bit of a running town. When 4200 runners participated in that inaugural run in 1977 it set a world record, and it’s only grown since.

These days, the Marathon attracts more than a million spectators, along with 45,000 runners, which still places it pretty high up there in the rankings. We all know that you can stare in wonder at the downtown cityscape for days on end (well, maybe not days, but on clear days I sure have trouble pulling myself away from our balcony), but what else is it that makes the Marathon such a big deal? I’m no topographical expert, but as you may or may not know, the Midwest is pretty flat, and I’m no long-distance runner, but I think we can all agree that flat ground is a lot better for running than not-flat ground. Chicago’s almost entirely grid-based street system makes the race’s course a little bit easier and simpler than many others, and for visiting runners and their supporters, it doubles as a little bit of sightseeing, too—one of the course’s highlights is that it makes passes of all four of Chicago’s sports landmarks: runners get an up close and personal look at Wrigley Field, the United Center, Guaranteed Rate Field (forever Comiskey Park, to us stubborn holdouts), and Soldier Field. It’s quite the spectacle. The whole middle part of the city basically shuts down for that Sunday in October, and overall, it’s just a great time to make a trip out of.

Registration starts just a week after the Marathon ends and closes only a month later, so if you or someone you know is a running aficionado, be sure to plan your trip soon!