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Chicago Marathon
Logo for the Chicago Marathon, before new sponsor.
Date and location October
Chicago, United States
Race type road
Distance Marathon
Established 1977
Record 2:05:41 (M; 2009-10-11,Samuel Wanjiru); 2:17:18 (F; 2002-10-13, Paula Radcliffe)
Official site

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon (formerly the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon) is a major marathon held yearly in Chicago in Cook County, Illinois, United States. Alongside the Boston, New York, London and Berlin Marathons, it is one of the five World Marathon Majors.[1] The October 10, 2010 running will be the 33nd Anniversary running of the race.[2] It has been run every year since the September 25, 1977 running of the first race under the original name the Mayor Daley Marathon drew a field of 4200 runners.[3][4] It is among the fastest growing marathon road races in the world, due in part to its largely fast and flat course which facilitates the pursuit of personal records and world record performances.[5] The race has achieved its elite status among marathons by developing relationship with sponsors who provide prize money to lure elite runners who have produced American and world record performances.

There is no qualifying time to participate in the Chicago Marathon, but only runners who finish within 6½ hours are officially timed.[5] The race is limited to 45,000 runners on a first-come, first-served basis.[2] Although the race has limited registration, exceptions include elite runners and charity representatives. Increasingly, local (e.g., Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital), national (e.g., American Cancer Society) and global (e.g., Global Business Assist, British Red Cross, Asha for Education, World Vision) charities and humanitarian organizations encourage sponsored participation in the event as a means of fund raising.[6][7]

The 2008 marathon featured a new sponsor name in Bank of America, (as Bank of America acquired LaSalle Bank in 2007).[8] The 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon will take place on Sunday, October 10th, 2010. Registration for the 2010 race opened to the general public on Feb. 1st.[2]



The 2005 LaSalle Bank ABN Amro Chicago Marathon at Grand Avenue passing under Michigan Avenue (Chicago) along the Magnificent Mile.

The first marathon at the 1896 Games of the I Olympiad generated interest in the sport which led to similar races throughout most western countries and across the United States. While marathons sporadically occurred in New York City and St. Louis,[9] the Boston Marathon had established an annual marathon in 1897, soon to be followed by Chicago.[10] Beginning in 1905,[11] the Chicago Marathon (organized first by the Illinois Athletic Club 1905 to 1909, then sponsored by the Chicago Daily News after 1910) was held annually, with significant community and spectator support, until the early 1920s.[12]

First Chicago Marathon September 23, 1905. Louis Marks in the Lead.

The First Chicago Marathon was run on Saturday, September 23, 1905.[10] That first race began in Evanston and finished in front of a standing-room-only paying crowd at Washington Park race track. In a stunning upset, a reported 100,000 or more spectators watched Rhud Metzner come from behind to steal a late-race victory from the favored Louis Marks.[11] With that first race, the Chicago Marathon began an annual run of epic races that continued until the early 1920s on a revised course that largely resembles today's marathon route.[12] Over the years elite fields included Olympic champions, world records were continually sought, and the marathon continued to inspire Chicago communities and spectators until challenges of the early 1920s sidelined the event.[13]

It was not until the health consciousness of the 1960s that marathon growth gained traction in the eyes of the nation. Frank Shorter's 1972 Games of the XX Olympiad marathon victory represented the convergence of many middle-class American ideals.[14] Then the 1976 New York City Marathon, which was the first New York City Marathon to embrace the five borough course, popularized the big city marathon. As the New York marathon began to grow exponentially in the 1970s, the Chicago Marathon was established as a rival to the New York City Marathon.[3] By the mid 1980s, the Chicago Marathon was ensconced as one of the big four marathons.[15] During the mid 1980s, it was named America's Marathon/Chicago and opened up the way for appearance payments. Joan Benoit Samuelson described the Chicago Marathon's of the mid 1980s as "The World's Marathon".[16] The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is an open race with no qualifying time to participate.[5]

The founding location of the Chicago Marathon is at 214 West Erie in River North.
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The Modern Era Chicago Marathon was founded over the objection of Ed Kelly, Chicago Parks Superintendent who refused permission to run in the parks or along the Lake Michigan lakefront. With the help of Lee Flaherty, who operated out of Flair House in the Near North Side community area of Chicago,[17] Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley's support for the marathon was enlisted. Although Mayor Daley died, his successor Michael Anthony Bilandic approved the race and got Kelly on board. Michael Bilandic, a runner, and his wife actually passed out medals at the first marathon on September 25, 1977. Flaherty footed the bill for the first race, which had no sponsors. He again footed the bill in 1978 when the race was again called the Mayor Daley Marathon. In 1979, however, Beatrice Foods became the first race sponsor.

Evans Cheruiyot follows the pace car during his 2008 victory.

In the early years the Chicago Marathon was held in August.[18] It has from its inception with 4200 runners and 2128 finishers been one of the nation's largest marathons. The 2000 running was second only to New York.[19] The 1979 and 1980 events, however, continued to be gatherings of amateur runners. By 1982, the race finally had sufficient prize money to attract world class athletes. The 1982 was the first with world class times such as the 2:10:59 by Greg Meyer, the last American-born male to win the race.[14] By 1983, the Chicago Marathon had achieved its status as one of America's most important marathons. In 1984, Beatrice raised the purse to $250,000 ($50,000 more than New York's).[14] The race had become a legitimate rival to New York and continues to vie for top runners. The 1985 race was spectacular with Steve Jones breaking his own course record (2 seconds short of the world record) and Joan Benoit Samuelson the 1984 Olympic Champion, two-time defending Chicago Marathon Champion and Olympic Bronze Medalist, Rosa Mota and the fourth place Olympic finisher and world record setting Ingrid Kristiansen. Benoit set a record that stood nearly a generation. At that time, it was considered the premier marathon in the United States, if not the world.[20] Although 1986 had 40 world-class runners among the 8000 participants the times paled in comparison.[21] Beatrice dropped out as a sponsor in 1987, but Heileman Brewing Company sponsored the 1988 Old Style Chicago Marathon.[22] The race resulted in three women who had been passed over for the 1988 Games of the XXIV Olympiad placing in the top positions.[23] In 1991, Heileman discontinued its sponsorship and both the prize money and performances waned.[24] 1992 again had no sponsorship, but 1993 brought new sponsor LaSalle Bank.[25] In 1994, the race became the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon.[26] In 1996, LaSalle Bank purchased the Chicago Marathon.[27] In 1998, the race began using transponder timing.[28] In 2001, when Catherine Ndereba broke the women's world record marathon time, both the men's and women's then-current world records had been set at the Chicago Marathon.[29] For 2008, the race was sponsored by Bank of America following the purchase of LaSalle Bank from ABN Amro to Bank of America, and the new title will be in use. [30]

2007 Chicago Marathon temperatures.

The 2007 race made history with the first ever CEO Marathon Challenge. The race featured a special competition among the CEOs, presidents, company owners and c-suite executives of companies with at least $5 million in annual gross revenue ($2.5 million for women).[31] The 2007 race also made history for having three (men's, women's & men's wheelchair) of its four races decided in the final 100 meters in a day of record setting heat.[32] The race was partially shut down early (after three and a half hours) as temperatures rose to an unseasonably hot 88 degrees, which surpassed both the temperature records for the Chicago Marathon and official Chicago records for October 7th.[33] One runner died, over 30 were hospitalized, and over 400 others sought medical attention. Marathon owner and sponsor Bank of America, which had just acquired LaSalle Bank, has denied culpability. Similar hot conditions have been experienced in other city centre races. In London in 2003 The British 10K also had extremely hot weather that affected many runners.[34][35]

Adriana Pirtea (right) had a deceptively comfortable lead over eventual 2007 women's winner Berhane Adere (background) in the final 300 meters.


Chicago Marathon start/finish

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon has grown significantly from its beginnings. In 1905, 20 runners registered for the first Chicago Marathon, 15 actually started the race, and 7 finished.[13] In 1995, 9000 people registered, and in 1999, over 29,000 people registered. The 2001 marathon run on October 7 reached its cap of 37,500, which was instituted after the 2000 race drew 33,171 runners,[36] just prior to the entry deadline on September 19.[37] In 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 it reached its cap of 40,000.[3][38] The October 10, 2004, October 9, 2005 and October 22, 2006 races reached their 40,000 entrant caps on August 16, July 14, and May 26 respectively.[38][39][40] On April 18, 2007, the 2007 race run on October 7 reached its cap of 45,000 entrants.[41] There was a late registration exemption whereby elite runners (marathon times of less than 2:31/3:01 or half marathon times of 1:11/1:21 for (men/women)) could register until September 1st even though the race had reached its registration cap in the spring.[42] The 40,000 registrants and 33,000 finishers in 2003 made the Chicago Marathon the third or fourth largest marathon depending on which metric (registrants or finishers) is used.[43]

2005 winner Felix Limo endures the heat of the 2007 race.
The 2007 Chicago Marathon with a registration
cap of 45,000 seems to have accommodated
about 50,000 registrants including exemptions.

Like most large marathons, the Chicago Marathon is entered by a small number of elite (mostly African) runners, and legions of middle-class and upper middle-class runners, predominantly male, Caucasian, and from affluent countries. The largest demographic description of marathoners is of young urban professionals who reflect traditionally middle-class values of discipline, planning, hard work and deferred gratification. The vast majority of runners are not competing in hopes of winning the marathon, but instead are in pursuit of success in competition against their own historical standards or planned goals. For many, success is completing the course with an officially timed result, which means completing the course before the official closing time of 6.5 hours. For others, success is completing the course at all even in 8 hours plus by reaching the closing chutes in times described as walking times.[5] The Chicago Marathon has never excluded women. Historically, however, the women's field has been smaller than the men's. This seems to be the result of historical sexism as the older age categories have large multiples of men to women, but the women are beginning to outnumber the men in the 20s age group of the field.[44] The following are statistics for last year's marathon:[4][32][35]

  • In the 2007 event, 74% of the registered runners were from outside of Illinois;
  • Runners represented all 50 states of the United States;
  • 7203 were international runners;
  • 120 countries were represented;
  • 41% of the registrants were female;
  • over 10,000 registrants chose not to run in the record temperatures;
  • 10934 did not finish (many were called after the course closed early for safety);
  • The prize money pool of $750,000 was the world's largest marathon prize pool.

Although entrants have registered on a first-come first-served basis and elite runners have an extended deadline, numerous official charities have additional late registration rights to award. The 2007 event had 85 charity partners. The 2006 event raised $9.2 million for charity.[6] Charity fundraising is now closely intertwined with the event as the runners now raise money for research, aid the suffering and heighten public awareness of different causes.[45] The marathon offers all registrants the opportunity to sign up to run with a charity partner. The marathon recognizes four levels of charities based on the number of participants recruited.[46] The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society required participants to raise $1400 to be a team member in 2004.[47] Children's Memorial Hospital only has a $500 requirement.[48] This program has existed since 2001:[49]

Year Charity
Charity Runner
Funds Raised
2001 7 NA NA
2002 14 1674 $2,950,000
2003 19 2527 $4,540,000
2004 29 2449 $4,740,000
2005 43 3000 $6,317,000
2006 60 5000 $9,500,000
2007 NA 7000 $10,100,000
2008 NA 7300 $10,000,000
2009[2][50] 123 8500 $10,000,000




  1. ^ "World Marathon Majors". World Marathon Majors. Retrieved 2009-04-22. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Bank of America Chicago Marathon Registration Opens Today". Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Retrieved 2010-03-05. 
  3. ^ a b c Suozzo, p. 6.
  4. ^ a b Karnes,Korey, "Running Wild," Chicago Social, October 2007, p. 68.
  5. ^ a b c d Suozzo, p. 10.
  6. ^ a b "Marathon raises record amount". Chicago Sun-Times. 2006-12-21. Retrieved 2009-10-29. 
  7. ^ "Team World Vision". Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  8. ^ "Bank of American Chicago Marathon Announces New Name, New Logo and Opening of 2008 Registration" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  9. ^ Suozzo, pp. 4-5"
  10. ^ a b Britt, pp. 7-9.
  11. ^ a b Britt, pp. 9-14.
  12. ^ a b Britt, pp. 15-22.
  13. ^ a b Britt, pp. 9-22.
  14. ^ a b c Suozzo, p. 22.
  15. ^ Treadwell, p. 188
  16. ^ Treadwell, p. 64.
  17. ^ Toomey, Shamus (2007-08-07). "Lee Flaherty".,CST-NWS-this07.article. Retrieved 2007-08-30. 
  18. ^ a b c d Ritter, Jim (2002-10-06). "How marathons can kill you". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2007-07-29. 
  19. ^ Suozzo. pp. 19-21.
  20. ^ Coat, Tom (1985-10-23). "New York City Marathon feels chill of Windy City times". Evening Tribune. Newsbank. Retrieved 2009-02-21. 
  21. ^ Suozzo, p. 23.
  22. ^ Suozzo, p. 24.
  23. ^ Suozzo, p. 25.
  24. ^ Suozzo, p. 28.
  25. ^ Suozzo, p. 29.
  26. ^ Suozzo, p. 30.
  27. ^ Suozzo, p. 31.
  28. ^ Suozzo, p. 33.
  29. ^ "Women's Marathon Record Falls Quickly Ndereba Tops Week-old Mark In Chicago". Akron Beacon Journal. Newsbank. 2001-10-08. Retrieved 2009-02-21. 
  30. ^ Chicago Athlete - Regional News Article
  31. ^ Caponi, Marianne (2007-07-10). "CEO MARATHON CHALLENGE TO TAKE PLACE AT THE 2007 LASALLE BANK CHICAGO MARATHON" (PDF). LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon. 
  32. ^ a b "Ivuti, Adere win LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon". LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon. 2007-10-07. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  33. ^ "Deadly Heat at Chicago Marathon, 300 Injured". Community Blog. 2007-10-07. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  34. ^ a b Wang, Andrew, Josh Noel, Shannon Ryan and Neil Milbert (2007-10-07). "One dead in heat-shortened marathon". Chicago Tribune.,0,7788754.story?coll=chi-newsap_il-hed. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  35. ^ a b Sylvan, Benjamin (2007-10-07). "Runner Dies in Hot Chicago Marathon". AP Sports/ Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  36. ^ "The Lasalle Bank Chicago Marathon Announces Registration Cap; Race will limit the field to 37,500 participants". Running Network. 2001-01-17. Retrieved 2007-07-26. 
  37. ^ "Marathon Hits 37,500 Cap on Final Day of Registration". Chicago Athlete. Running Network. 2001-09-24. Retrieved 2007-07-26. 
  38. ^ a b Lamppa, Ryan (2004-08-16). "LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon Reaches 40,000 Participant Cap". Cool Running. Cool Sports, Inc.. Retrieved 2007-07-26. 
  39. ^ Lamppa, Ryan (2005-07-14). "LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon Reaches 40,000 Participant Cap at Record Pace". Cool Running. Cool Sports, Inc.. Retrieved 2007-07-26. 
  40. ^ "The LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon raises $9.2 million for affiliated charities". Chicago Athlete. Running Network. 2006-12-19. Retrieved 2007-07-26. 
  41. ^ Caponi, Marianne (2007-04-18). "The 2007 Lasalle Bank Chicago Marathon Closes Registration: Race Reaches 45" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-07-26. 
  42. ^ "Registration". LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon. Retrieved 2007-10-06. 
  43. ^ Suozzo, p. 14.
  44. ^ Suozzo, pp. 12-13.
  45. ^ Suozzo, p. 12.
  46. ^ Suozzo, p. 126.
  47. ^ Suozzo, p. 131.
  48. ^ Suozzo, p. 208.
  49. ^ "2006 Charity Program Overview" (PDF). The LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon. 2006. Retrieved 2007-07-29. 
  50. ^ "Running through my head". Lake County Journal. 2009-10-12. Retrieved 2009-10-29. 
  51. ^ "Autopsy: Man who died in Chicago marathon had heart condition". Midland Daily News. 
  52. ^ Sweeney, Annie (2003-10-14). "Autopsy can't explain why young marathoner died". Chicago Sun-Times. FindArticles. Retrieved 2007-07-29. 
  53. ^ Znidar, Mark (2004-01-24). "Coach copes with wife's death". The Cincinnati Post (E. W. Scripps Company). Archived from the original on 2006-10-20. 
  54. ^ "Seattle man dies at Chicago Marathon". CNN/Sports Illustrated. 2001-10-07. Retrieved 2007-07-29. 
  55. ^ Smith, Bryan (2000-10-25). "Danny J. Towns, 45, enjoyed running". Chicago Sun-Times. publisher=FindArticles. Retrieved 2007-07-29. 
  56. ^ Henderson, Joe (December 1998). "Running Commentary:Two-Wheel Tragedy". Michigan Runner. Great Lakes Sports Publications, Inc.. Retrieved 2007-07-29. 


  • Britt, Raymond, "Chicago Marathon: Images of Sport", Arcadia Publishing, 2009, ISBN 978-0738577180.
  • Cooper, Pamela, "The American Marathon", Syracuse University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-8156-0520-X.
  • Suozzo, Andrew, "The Chicago Marathon", University of Illinois Press, 2006, ISBN 0-252-07421-1.
  • Treadwell, Sandy, "The World of Marathons", Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1987, ISBN 0-941434-98-2.

External links


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