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How To Get Into The Chicago Marathon How To Get Into The Chicago Marathon


How To Get Into The Chicago Marathon

"Discover how to secure a spot in the prestigious Chicago Marathon with our in-depth guide. Get featured tips and strategies to make your dream a reality."


Welcome to the exciting world of the Chicago Marathon! This iconic race, held annually in the Windy City, attracts runners from all over the world. Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or a first-time participant, the Chicago Marathon offers a unique and memorable experience.

The Chicago Marathon, established in 1977, has grown to become one of the most prestigious marathons in the world. With its flat and fast course that takes runners through the city’s vibrant neighborhoods, it has become a favorite among both elite athletes and recreational runners.

Completing a marathon is an incredible accomplishment, but getting into the Chicago Marathon requires some planning and preparation. In this article, we’ll explore the various entry options and provide you with tips on how to secure your spot in this highly sought-after race.

Whether you’re aiming for a personal best, looking to experience the thrill of a big-city marathon, or simply want to be part of the incredible atmosphere, the Chicago Marathon has something for everyone. So, let’s dive into the details and help you navigate the process of getting into this prestigious event.



Proper training is the key to a successful marathon experience. Whether you’re a seasoned runner or a beginner, it’s essential to establish a training plan that suits your fitness level and goals. Training for the Chicago Marathon typically spans around 16-20 weeks, allowing sufficient time to build endurance and prepare your body for the 26.2-mile challenge.

A well-rounded training plan should include a combination of running, strength training, and cross-training activities. Gradually increasing your mileage and incorporating intervals, long runs, and rest days will help you build both your cardiovascular fitness and endurance.

It’s crucial to listen to your body and adjust your training plan accordingly. Be mindful of any signs of overtraining or injuries and seek professional advice if needed. Stretching, foam rolling, and proper recovery techniques can also aid in preventing injuries and promoting overall performance.

If you’re new to marathon training, consider reaching out to a running coach or joining a local running group. They can provide guidance, support, and valuable insights into the training process. Additionally, staying motivated during training can be challenging, so finding a running buddy or participating in virtual challenges can add excitement and accountability to your journey.

Remember, training is not just about logging miles; it’s also about fueling your body with the right nutrients. Proper nutrition, hydration, and rest are crucial components of your training routine. Pay attention to your diet and ensure you’re consuming enough carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats to support your energy levels and recovery.

Incorporating strength training exercises, such as squats, lunges, and core workouts, can help improve your running form, prevent muscle imbalances, and enhance overall performance. Don’t neglect flexibility exercises to maintain or improve your range of motion and prevent muscle tightness.

Lastly, don’t forget to gradually taper your training in the weeks leading up to the marathon. Tapering allows your body to recover and be in optimal condition for race day. Trust your training, stay focused, and be patient with yourself throughout the process.


Qualifying Times

Qualifying for the Chicago Marathon through a designated time standard is an option available to runners who have demonstrated exceptional speed and endurance in previous races. The qualifying time requirement varies depending on age and gender, and it is subject to change each year. Meeting the qualifying time ensures you a guaranteed entry into the race.

The qualifying time standards for the Chicago Marathon are based on the Boston Marathon qualifying times. To qualify, runners must achieve a specific time based on their age on race day. The qualifying times are typically more challenging for younger age groups and slightly easier for older age groups.

For example, as of 2021, the qualifying time for men aged 18-34 is 3 hours and 5 minutes, while the qualifying time for women in the same age group is 3 hours and 35 minutes. The qualifying times gradually increase as the age groups go up.

It’s important to note that meeting the qualifying time does not guarantee an immediate entry into the Chicago Marathon. In situations where the number of qualifying runners exceeds the available slots, a random selection process may still take place.

If you have achieved a qualifying time in a previous marathon, make sure to keep track of your results and be prepared to provide proof of your finish time during the registration process. This can usually be done by submitting an official race result or a certified time from a qualifying race.

Qualifying for the Chicago Marathon through time standards is an exciting goal for many runners. It requires dedication, consistency, and hard work to achieve the necessary speed and endurance. If you’re determined to earn a spot in the race based on your previous race performance, make sure to aim for a time that meets the qualification standards and be prepared to submit the necessary documentation during registration.


Lottery Registration

If qualifying through a designated time standard is not an option for you, participating in the lottery registration process can be a fair and exciting way to secure a spot in the Chicago Marathon. The lottery system allows runners from around the world to enter for a chance to be randomly selected for an entry.

The lottery registration for the Chicago Marathon typically opens several months before the race date and remains open for a specified period of time. During this registration window, interested participants can submit their entry for the chance to be selected. The lottery entry fee is non-refundable, and runners must meet certain eligibility requirements, such as being at least 16 years old on race day.

If you choose to enter the lottery, it’s important to carefully read and understand the guidelines and restrictions outlined by the race organizers. These may include rules regarding multiple entries, transferring entries to other individuals, and deferring entries to future years.

After the registration period ends, the lottery drawing takes place, and the selected participants are notified via email. If you’re one of the lucky ones to secure a spot through the lottery, congratulations! You’ll then proceed with the registration process and pay the registration fee to confirm your entry into the race.

However, it’s essential to note that the lottery registration does not guarantee an entry, as the number of applicants is typically much higher than the available spots. Therefore, it’s crucial to have a backup plan or consider alternative entry options in case you are not selected through the lottery.

If you’re determined to run the Chicago Marathon but unsure about your chances in the lottery, you might consider exploring other avenues for entry, such as charity entry, legacy entry, or international entry. These options provide additional opportunities to secure a spot while also supporting worthy causes or representing your country.

Entering the lottery can be an exhilarating experience, as it offers the chance to be selected for one of the most iconic marathons in the world. Whether you’re a seasoned runner or a first-time participant, the lottery registration process opens up the opportunity for anyone to take part in the incredible Chicago Marathon.


Charity Entry

If you’re passionate about giving back to the community while pursuing your marathon dreams, participating in the Chicago Marathon through a charity entry is a great option. The charity entry program allows you to secure a spot in the race while raising funds for a charitable organization of your choice.

Charity entries provide a win-win situation, as you not only get the opportunity to participate in the marathon but also make a positive impact on the lives of others. Many charities have partnerships with the Chicago Marathon and offer guaranteed entries to runners who commit to raising a certain fundraising amount.

To secure a charity entry, you’ll need to choose a charity that resonates with your values and register with their team. Each charity has its own fundraising requirements, which can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. It’s important to fully understand the fundraising commitment before committing to a charity entry.

Once you’re registered with a charity, you’ll receive guidance and support in setting up an online fundraising page and reaching out to your network for donations. Many charities provide resources, fundraising tips, and even training plans to help you succeed in both your fundraising and marathon journey.

Raising funds for a charitable organization adds a meaningful purpose to your marathon experience. It allows you to generate awareness and support for a cause that you deeply care about. Knowing that you’re making a difference while running the marathon can provide an added level of motivation and fulfillment.

Remember, charity entries are sought after, and spaces may be limited. Be sure to plan ahead and secure your spot early by reaching out to the charity of your choice. Research the different charities associated with the Chicago Marathon and select one that aligns with your personal values and goals.

Participating in the Chicago Marathon through a charity entry is not only a chance to achieve your marathon aspirations but also an opportunity to contribute to the greater good. It allows you to make a lasting impact on the lives of others while experiencing the thrill and excitement of one of the most prestigious marathons in the world.


Legacy Entry

The Chicago Marathon honors the commitment and dedication of its runners through its legacy entry program. Legacy entry offers a special opportunity for participants who have completed the Chicago Marathon multiple times in the past. It recognizes and rewards the loyalty of runners who have made the race a part of their annual tradition.

To qualify for a legacy entry, runners must have completed the Chicago Marathon for five or more consecutive years. This means running and finishing the race each year without a break. Once the eligibility criteria are met, runners are granted a guaranteed entry into the race.

The legacy entry system is a way for the Chicago Marathon to pay tribute to the enduring spirit of its participants. It allows them to continue their streak and be part of the marathon family year after year.

Legacy runners receive special perks and recognition for their commitment to the event. These can include a dedicated registration process, exclusive race day amenities, and commemorative items to mark their achievement.

The legacy entry program is a coveted opportunity for many runners who have developed a deep connection to the Chicago Marathon. It offers a sense of belonging and a chance to celebrate their dedication to the race with fellow legacy runners.

If you’re a legacy runner, be sure to check the eligibility requirements and registration process outlined by the Chicago Marathon. Ensure that you meet the criteria and follow the instructions provided to secure your guaranteed entry through the legacy entry program.

Being a legacy runner is a testament to not only your physical endurance but also your unwavering commitment to the Chicago Marathon. It allows you to continue your marathon journey and be an integral part of the event’s rich history and tradition.


International Entry

The Chicago Marathon is a global event, attracting participants from all corners of the world. For international runners eager to experience the thrill of this iconic race, the international entry program provides a means to secure a spot in the marathon.

The international entry program opens up a limited number of guaranteed entries for runners who reside outside of the United States. It offers an opportunity for international participants to join the diverse community of runners in Chicago and be part of the marathon’s international presence.

Securing an international entry requires following a specific registration process, which may differ from the process for local runners. It’s important to thoroughly review the guidelines and instructions provided by the Chicago Marathon regarding international entry requirements and deadlines.

Some international entries may be available through tour companies or agencies that specialize in organizing travel packages for international participants. These packages often include race registration, accommodation, logistical support, and sometimes even training programs tailored for international runners.

If you’re an international runner seeking to participate in the Chicago Marathon, consider exploring the international entry program and any associated tour packages. They can simplify the registration process and provide additional support for your travel and race experience.

Participating in a marathon abroad can be a truly enriching experience. It allows you to immerse yourself in a new culture, connect with fellow runners from around the world, and explore the vibrant city of Chicago. The international entry program opens the door for international runners to create unforgettable memories and forge lifelong bonds with other participants.

When applying for an international entry, ensure that you have a valid passport and familiarize yourself with any required travel documentation, visa requirements, and health regulations for entering the United States. It’s also recommended to plan your travel and accommodations well in advance to secure the best options.

International entry provides an incredible opportunity to unite runners from different countries in the pursuit of their marathon dreams. It offers a chance to experience the vibrant energy and camaraderie of the Chicago Marathon while representing your home country and celebrating the beauty of international connections.


Wheelchair Entry

The Chicago Marathon is committed to promoting inclusivity and providing opportunities for individuals with disabilities to participate in the race. For wheelchair athletes, the wheelchair entry program offers a dedicated entry process and race experience tailored to their needs.

The wheelchair entry program allows individuals using wheelchairs to compete in the Chicago Marathon as wheelchair athletes. The program ensures that proper accommodations and support are in place to facilitate their participation and ensure a safe and rewarding race experience.

To qualify for the wheelchair entry program, athletes must meet the established eligibility criteria specified by the Chicago Marathon. This may include having a documented disability that requires the use of a wheelchair, as well as meeting certain performance standards.

Wheelchair athletes participating in the Chicago Marathon are classified into different categories based on their abilities and wheelchair type. It’s important to understand the specific category requirements and guidelines outlined by the race organizers to ensure proper classification and fair competition.

The Chicago Marathon provides a separate start time and course for wheelchair athletes to ensure their safety and allow for an optimal race experience. The course is designed to be accessible and allow wheelchair athletes to navigate through the city’s streets with ease.

Wheelchair athletes can also benefit from the support of volunteer handlers who run alongside them to provide assistance, if needed. These handlers assist athletes with technical aspects, such as navigating turns or maneuvering over ramps, to help them maintain their momentum throughout the race.

The wheelchair entry program at the Chicago Marathon not only provides an opportunity for wheelchair athletes to showcase their skills and compete but also helps to raise awareness about the importance of inclusivity in sports. It highlights the abilities and achievements of individuals with disabilities and promotes a more inclusive and diverse running community.

If you’re a wheelchair athlete interested in participating in the Chicago Marathon, it’s important to review the guidelines and requirements provided by the race organizers for the wheelchair entry program. Familiarize yourself with the registration process, eligibility criteria, and any additional support or accommodations that may be available to ensure a successful and enjoyable race experience.

Participating in the Chicago Marathon as a wheelchair athlete is not only a testament to your athleticism and determination, but also an opportunity to inspire others and be part of a community that celebrates the strength and resilience of individuals of all abilities.


Age Group Entry

The Chicago Marathon recognizes and celebrates the achievements of runners across various age groups through its age group entry program. This program allows participants to compete against others in their respective age categories and compete for age-specific awards.

Age group entry ensures fair competition and provides an opportunity for runners to showcase their abilities within their age bracket. It encourages healthy competition and fosters a sense of camaraderie among participants of similar ages.

The age group divisions in the Chicago Marathon typically range from 18-24 years old and continue in five-year increments thereafter. Each age group has specific qualifying times and registration requirements that must be met to secure an entry.

To qualify for age group entry, runners must meet the designated age and performance standards specified by the Chicago Marathon. These standards vary depending on the age category and are subject to change each year. It’s essential to consult the official race guidelines to ensure you meet the necessary criteria for your age group.

Age group entry allows runners to measure their performance against others in their same age category and strive for age-specific accolades. The sense of competition within the age group divisions adds an extra layer of motivation and excitement to the race experience.

Age group awards are presented to the top finishers in each age category during the post-race celebration. These awards provide a sense of pride and recognition for the hard work and dedication put into training and competing in the Chicago Marathon.

Age group entry is a unique opportunity for runners to compete at a level that is comparable to their peers in terms of both age and performance. It offers a chance to challenge personal records, achieve new milestones, and form connections with fellow runners of similar ages and abilities.

If you’re interested in participating in the Chicago Marathon through age group entry, be sure to review the age group standards and registration process outlined by the race organizers. Understand the qualifying times and any additional requirements specific to your age group to ensure eligibility and a smooth entry process.

The age group entry program at the Chicago Marathon celebrates the diversity and accomplishments of runners across different age categories. It provides a platform for individuals to showcase their talent, push their limits, and be part of a vibrant and inclusive running community.


Tour Group Entry

The Chicago Marathon offers a unique entry option for those looking for a seamless race experience and support throughout their journey – the tour group entry. This entry program allows participants to join organized tour groups that handle various aspects of their race preparations, travel arrangements, and accommodations.

Joining a tour group for the Chicago Marathon provides runners with a convenient and hassle-free way to navigate the logistics of the race. Tour groups handle tasks such as race registration, hotel accommodations, transportation, and sometimes even guided tours of the city.

By opting for a tour group entry, participants can focus more on their training and race preparation without the added stress of coordinating travel arrangements. It saves time and effort, allowing runners to fully immerse themselves in the excitement and anticipation leading up to the event.

Tour groups often have established relationships with race organizers and local vendors, ensuring access to preferred accommodations and exclusive benefits. They also provide a supportive community of like-minded runners, providing opportunities for camaraderie and shared experiences.

Choosing a tour group that specializes in marathon travel ensures that you have access to the necessary support and expertise throughout your journey. They can offer training advice, race-day strategies, and personalized guidance to help you achieve your marathon goals.

While tour groups may have additional costs beyond the race entry fee, they provide convenience, peace of mind, and a tailored experience. It’s important to review the details and inclusions of each tour group to ensure they meet your specific needs and preferences.

Joining a tour group for the Chicago Marathon is an excellent choice for runners who prefer to have their race experience curated and organized. It allows you to focus solely on your training, soak in the atmosphere of the event, and make lasting memories with fellow runners from around the world.

When considering a tour group entry, thoroughly research different options and read reviews or testimonials from past participants. Ensure that the tour group you choose aligns with your preferences and provides the level of support and services you desire.

Participating in the Chicago Marathon through a tour group entry can enhance your overall race experience and make it a truly memorable adventure. It offers not only the opportunity to run a world-class marathon but also the chance to embrace a hassle-free journey and connect with a vibrant community of fellow runners.


Guaranteed Entry

If you’re looking for a surefire way to secure a spot in the Chicago Marathon, a guaranteed entry is the most reliable option. While other entry methods like the lottery or qualifying times have an element of uncertainty, a guaranteed entry provides a guaranteed slot for the race.

There are several avenues to obtain a guaranteed entry for the Chicago Marathon. These include options such as running for an official charity partner, being a legacy runner, or participating through select tour groups. Each of these methods guarantees your spot in the race, removing the uncertainty and competing against other participants for entries.

Running for an official charity partner is a popular way to guarantee entry into the Chicago Marathon. By raising funds for a designated charity, you not only secure your place in the race but also contribute to a worthy cause. Charity partners often have a set fundraising goal that runners must meet to secure their entry.

Legacy entry is another guaranteed entry option. If you have completed the Chicago Marathon for a consecutive number of years, usually five or more, you qualify for a legacy entry. Legacy runners are rewarded for their loyalty and commitment to the event, ensuring their continued participation year after year.

Participating through select tour groups is also a way to obtain a guaranteed entry. These tour groups secure a limited number of entries for their participants, offering a comprehensive package that includes not only race registration but also accommodations, travel arrangements, and additional support throughout the entire race experience.

Securing a guaranteed entry not only eliminates the uncertainty of the entry process but also provides peace of mind and allows you to plan your training and travel with confidence. It ensures that you can fully commit to preparing for the race and look forward to the experience without the worry of waiting for lottery results or meeting qualifying standards.

However, it’s important to note that guaranteed entries often require fulfillment of certain requirements or commitments, such as meeting fundraising goals or adhering to specific tour group guidelines. Be sure to carefully review and understand the terms and conditions associated with the chosen guaranteed entry method.

Whether it’s running for a charity, being a legacy runner, or choosing a select tour group, a guaranteed entry offers a straightforward pathway to participating in the Chicago Marathon. Consider which option aligns with your goals and preferences to secure your spot and embark on an incredible journey to conquer the iconic streets of Chicago.


Automatic Entry

Automatic entry provides a streamlined process for certain individuals to participate in the Chicago Marathon without having to go through the traditional entry methods. It offers a convenient and guaranteed way to secure a spot in the race for specific groups of participants.

One example of automatic entry is for participants who deferred their entry from a previous year. If you were registered for a previous Chicago Marathon but were unable to participate, you may be eligible to defer your entry to a future race. This allows you to secure a spot without having to go through the regular registration process again.

Another automatic entry category is granted to individuals who have completed a certain number of consecutive Chicago Marathons, typically 10 or more. These participants are recognized as “Ten Year Club” members and are granted automatic entry to subsequent races.

Participants who have achieved elite status through their performance in previous marathons may also receive automatic entry into the Chicago Marathon. Elite runners are those who have demonstrated outstanding speed and have achieved specific qualifying times determined by the race organizers.

In addition, members of the media who have been granted official media credentials may receive automatic entry to cover the event. This allows media personnel to have firsthand experience and provide comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Marathon.

Automatic entry provides a valuable opportunity for these specific groups of participants to bypass the traditional registration process and secure their spot directly. It recognizes their previous achievements, contributions, or roles in the event, ensuring their continued participation and involvement.

If you fall into one of the automatic entry categories, be sure to carefully review the requirements and guidelines specified by the Chicago Marathon. Understand the specific conditions for eligibility and follow the necessary procedures to claim your automatic entry.

Automatic entry not only guarantees your spot in the Chicago Marathon but also provides a sense of recognition and accomplishment. It serves as a testament to your dedication, previous achievements, or unique roles in the marathon, allowing you to continue your journey and experience the excitement of the race once again.

However, it’s important to note that automatic entry may still require certain obligations or fulfillment of specific criteria. Be sure to familiarize yourself with any requirements, deadlines, or commitments associated with the automatic entry category you fall into.

Whether you have deferred your entry, achieved elite status, or are a member of the media, automatic entry offers a streamlined pathway to participate in the Chicago Marathon. Seize this opportunity and embark on another incredible journey to conquer the streets of Chicago and create new memories in this world-renowned race.


Tips for a Successful Application

Securing a spot in the Chicago Marathon can be a competitive process due to the high demand and limited number of entries available. To improve your chances of a successful application, consider the following tips:

  1. Be prepared: Before the registration period opens, familiarize yourself with the entry requirements, deadlines, and any specific criteria for the entry method you plan to use. Gather all necessary information and documents in advance to avoid any last-minute complications.
  2. Register early: Many entry methods, such as the lottery or charity entry, have limited spots available. To increase your chances, register as early as possible once the application period opens. Early registration also allows you to plan your training and schedule with certainty.
  3. Double-check your information: When completing your application, ensure that all your personal information is accurate and matches any supporting documentation you may need to provide. Mistakes or discrepancies could result in disqualification or delays in the application process.
  4. Review and follow guidelines: Carefully read and understand all the guidelines and instructions provided by the Chicago Marathon for your chosen entry method. Pay attention to any specific requirements, such as qualifying times, fundraising goals, or documentation, and make sure to meet all the criteria.
  5. Stay informed: Stay updated on the latest news and announcements from the Chicago Marathon. Follow official social media accounts, subscribe to newsletters, and regularly check the event’s official website for any updates, changes, or additional information that may affect your application.
  6. Document your qualifying times: If you’re applying through a qualifying time entry, make sure to keep track of your race results and have the necessary proof readily available. Official race certificates or results can help substantiate your qualifying time and increase your chances of acceptance.
  7. Research and choose charity partners or tour groups wisely: If you’re considering charity entry or joining a tour group, take the time to research various organizations or tour operators. Look for reputable and well-established groups that align with your values, provide adequate support, and have positive feedback from past participants.
  8. Plan for alternatives: In case your preferred entry method is not successful, it’s wise to have backup options in mind. Consider exploring additional entry pathways, such as legacy entry, international entry, or guaranteed entry through other means.
  9. Be patient and persistent: The application process can be competitive, and not everyone will secure a spot immediately. If you’re not successful in your first attempt, don’t get discouraged. Keep trying and consider applying again in future years, exploring different entry methods, or pursuing alternative avenues for entry.

Applying for the Chicago Marathon requires careful planning, attention to detail, and persistence. By following these tips, you can increase your chances of a successful application and enhance your overall experience in this iconic race.



The Chicago Marathon is an extraordinary event that attracts runners from all walks of life, offering an unforgettable experience along the city’s vibrant streets. From qualifying times to lottery registration, charity entry to legacy status, there are various paths that lead to securing a spot in this iconic race.

Training diligently and following a well-rounded training plan is essential for a successful marathon journey. Whether you’re aiming for a personal best or simply want to complete the race, consistent training, proper nutrition, and recovery techniques are key to a strong race performance.

Qualifying times provide a goal for those looking to showcase their speed and endurance. The lottery registration process offers an element of chance and excitement, while charity entry allows participants to make a difference while pursuing their marathon dreams.

For legacy runners, the Chicago Marathon rewards loyalty and commitment, ensuring their continued participation as part of a storied tradition. International participants can experience the thrill of this global event through the international entry program, while wheelchair athletes showcase their abilities through the dedicated wheelchair entry category.

Age group entry fosters healthy competition among participants of similar ages, while tour group entry offers a customized and supported race experience. For those with automatic entry opportunities, eligibility through deferral, elite status, or media credentials guarantees a place in the race.

To increase your chances of a successful application, be prepared, register early, and follow the guidelines meticulously. Be patient, persistent, and consider alternative entry options if needed.

Regardless of how you secure your spot, participating in the Chicago Marathon is a remarkable achievement. It’s an opportunity to challenge yourself, set new goals, and create lifelong memories alongside thousands of fellow runners.

So, lace up your shoes, train hard, and pursue your dream of conquering the Chicago Marathon. Embrace the journey, enjoy the race, and savor the incredible moments that will stay with you long after you cross the finish line.