5 Tips for Chicago Marathon Spectators

Photo by  Marques Jackson  at 2018 Chicago Shakeout Art Run with Clif Bar. Register for 2019 Chicago Shakeout Art Run  here .

Photo by Marques Jackson at 2018 Chicago Shakeout Art Run with Clif Bar. Register for 2019 Chicago Shakeout Art Run here.

By Erica Agran, who is about to run her 50th marathon in Chicago!

Pro tip – use the el train and not the bus on marathon day. There are a lot of street closures and detours for the marathon. The spectator guide has a course map and transit stops with miles marked on them.

The Chicago Marathon is fast approaching! I’m running this year but have spectated nearly every year for the last ten. These tips are helpful for all marathons but I’ve included some Chicago specific information, too.

Top 5 Tips for Chicago Marathon Spectators:

Me and Carlee at 2018 Chicago Marathon.

Me and Carlee at 2018 Chicago Marathon.

1. Plan your spots and tell your runners where you’ll be. Don’t forget the Chicago Marathon is a huge race, so it’s important to tell them (and to know) where and what side of the street you’ll be on. It’s hard to cross the race so look at the map to see which side you’ll be on. Pick landmarks or cross streets and look at the course to tell your marathon runner which mile marker you’ll be near. Here’s the course map. I typically hit mile 13 and 20 or 25, depending on how fast my fastest runners are. It’s easy to do mile 6 and 9 then to head to the 20s via the el train, too.

2. Know your runner’s number. You can track your runner if you know his/her number. It can take 10 – 30 minutes for runners to cross the start line in some cases. If you track, you can better estimate when he or she will get to you. Do keep in mind that with so many runners, the alerts may be delayed, so keep an eye out around the expected pace. You can download the Chicago Marathon app on the race weekend.

My friend Lynn at Mile 22 in Chicago Marathon.

My friend Lynn at Mile 22 in Chicago Marathon.

3. Know what your runner(s) are wearing. The crowds are massive, so you have to know what to look for. Tell them what you’re wearing, too, so they can look for you. Even better, take a tip from my friend Carolyn’s book and carry a big helium balloon. I always see her from far away. She tells me what character she gets via text on race morning. Usually, it’s Tweety Bird!

4. Cheer for everyone. Bring a cowbell if you want to save your hands. Call out names/teams, tell people they look great and that they can do it. A caveat from my friend Jason, “never tell a walking runner he/she “looks good.” Shout other encouragement like “you can do it!” instead!

5. Unless you are near the finish, NEVER say “you’re almost there.” In my mind, .5 miles or less is “almost there.” Even better, only yell this if you can actually see the finish line. When someone yells this at Mile 10, or even 20, I want to punch them and hurl myself off of a bridge. Got that one? Good. It’s really important. In the Milwaukee Marathon a few years ago, I saw a sign at mile 20 that said, “You are NOT almost there.” That made me chuckle and it was very true.

Good luck to all Chicago Marathon runners this October 13 and thank you to all of the Chicago Marathon 2019 race spectators!

PS. Don’t forget to pick a place to meet at the end! It’s very crowded.

Erica Agran is the blogger behind Erica Finds. She’s an avid runner, traveler and healthy “finder” living in Chicago. She’s about to run her 50th marathon in Chicago and her 20th NYC Marathon. Check out her Instagram (@EricaAgran) for running inspiration, the best new healthy products and great views from her window. You can also follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Resources: Chicago Shakeout Art Run, Bank of Chicago Marathon Spectator Information, Back of America Chicago Marathon Course Map

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Photo by  Marques Jackson  at 2018 Chicago Shakeout Art Run.

Photo by Marques Jackson at 2018 Chicago Shakeout Art Run.