How to Get Into the Chicago Marathon

Chicago Marathon Finisher

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The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is held every year on a Sunday in early October. It is one of the world's most popular marathons and is known for its flat, fast course. You can get into the Chicago Marathon through a guaranteed entry or by entering a lottery.

When to Apply

In order to get into the Chicago Marathon, you must apply during the application window. Applications open in late October of the year prior to the race and close at the end of November.

Basic requirements state that you must be at least 16 years old and have the ability to run the 26.2-mile course in six hours and 30 minutes. Parental permission is required for anyone under 18.

For example, applications for the 2019 Chicago Marathon opened on October 23, 2018, for guaranteed entry and on October 30, 2018, for non-guaranteed entry. The application period closed on November 29, 2018.

In 2019, the registration fee for the Chicago Marathon was $205 for U.S. residents. International runners were charged $230 for the event.

The 2020 Chicago Marathon—like other Abbott World Marathon Majors that year—was canceled. Runners were allowed to defer their 2020 entries to a Bank of America Chicago Marathon in 2021, 2022, or 2023.

Chicago Marathon Guaranteed Entry

There are several ways to get a guaranteed entry for the Chicago Marathon. This is the route that most participants take, including many first-time marathoners.

Charity Program

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon hosts thousands of runners who choose to make the experience more meaningful by running on behalf of a charity. Charity runners receive a marathon race entry in exchange for fundraising for a specific charity. These runners begin the training season with goals for a personal best in their marathon time as well as the amount of money they hope to raise.

Over 10,000 charity runners participate each year, and they represent more than 170 local, national, and global causes. The mandatory fundraising minimum is $1,250 before the deadline date and $1,750 after the drawing deadline date. However, some charities set their requirement higher than this minimum.

International Tour Program

International runners who opt to join an official Chicago Marathon international tour partner can guarantee their spot in the marathon at any time during the lottery entry period. Groups from 40 countries are eligible and it requires that you purchase a tour, which includes travel costs. 

Chicago Marathon Legacy Finisher

Runners who have finished the Chicago Marathon five or more times within the last 10 years can guarantee their spot at any time during the lottery entry period.

Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle

Every March, Bank of America sponsors the Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago. If you have participated in this 8K race four or more times in the past and have signed up for the race in the year of the marathon, you qualify for the Chicago Marathon.

Canceled Entry

The Chicago Marathon organizers understand that circumstances prevent some runners from participating. If you needed to cancel your entry in the previous year, you can enter the next year's race through this program. The only stipulation is that you properly followed the event cancellation policy.

Time Qualifier

In 2018, the race instituted new time qualifiers based on age and gender standards. The age bracket is determined by your age on race day.

In order to qualify for this program, you must have completed a course certified by USA Track and Field (USATF) between January 1 of the year prior to your application through the date of your application (for example, January 1, 2019, for applications submitted in October through November 2020 for the 2021 race).

The time qualifiers may be modified in the future, but the qualifying times for the 2019 race were:

Age Group Men Women
16 to 29 3:05:00 3:35:00
30 to 39 3:10:00 3:40:00
40 to 49 3:20:00 3:50:00
50 to 59 3:35:00 4:20:00
60 to 69 4:00:00 5:00:00
70 to 79 4:30:00 5:55:00
80 and over 5:25:00 6:10:00

Non-Guaranteed Entry

If you don't meet the requirements for any of the guaranteed entry programs, you can still apply for the lottery for a chance at an entry. You must apply during the announced application window. Notifications of acceptance to the marathon are typically sent the middle of December.

Women's Running reported that in 2018, about 70% of runners at the Chicago marathon gained entry to the race through the lottery.

The odds of getting into the Chicago Marathon through the lottery system will be different each year. It depends on the number of runners who were accepted through the guaranteed entry programs and the number of lottery applicants.

In 2015, for instance, Runner's World reported that about 53% of the 54,800 lottery applicants were accepted. Compared to other marathons, such as the New York City Marathon at around 18%, these are pretty good odds.

Finish Time Requirement

The event is open to runners and walkers who can maintain the pace to finish in 6 hours, 30 minutes. Course support is removed on a 15-minute per mile basis after the last start wave passes.

If you aren't at this pace, you will be required to move to the sidewalk because the street will be opened to traffic. Aid stations will also be closed down on that time schedule. If you're finishing past the time requirement, you may not receive an official finish time. The race reserves the right to remove slower racers from the course.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is the Chicago marathon?

The Chicago Marathon is 26.2 miles (or 42.195 kilometers).

How many runners are there in the Chicago marathon?

Nearly 35,000 participants are expected to take part in the 2021 Chicago Marathon. In 2019, approximately 45,000 runners ran in the marathon.

When is the Chicago marathon?

The Chicago marathon takes place every October. In 2021, the race will take place on Sunday, October 10, 2021.

How many miles is the Chicago marathon?

The Chicago Marathon is 26.2 miles.

How do you watch the Chicago marathon?

Visitors are able to watch the Chicago marathon in-person along the course route. The marathon is also broadcast every year on television on NBC 5 Chicago and online at

A Word From Verywell

The Chicago Marathon is a good choice for runners who are new to the marathon experience. If you want to apply, be sure to do so by the deadlines. The notifications are early enough so you can continue training for race day.

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2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bank of America Chicago Marathon. 2021 Application.

  2. Hetzel M. Chicago Marathon Lottery by the Numbers. Runner's World.