How to Get Into the Chicago Marathon

Qualifying Times, Charity Program, and Lottery Entries

Chicago Marathon Finisher
Scott Olson/Getty Images

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 their lottery.

The Application Window

There are basic requirements to enter the Chicago Marathon: 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.

You also must apply during the application window. Applications for the race open in late October of the previous year and close at the end of November.

For example, applications for the 2018 Chicago Marathon opened on October 24, 2017, for guaranteed entry and on October 31, 2017, for non-guaranteed entry. The closure of the application period was November 30, 2017.

The registration fee for the Chicago Marathon is $195 for U.S. residents. International runners are charged $220 for the event.

Guaranteed Entry for the Chicago Marathon

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. They represent more than 170 local, national, and global causes.

The mandatory fundraising minimum is $1,000 before the deadline date and $1,500 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 upcoming race, 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, 2016, for applications submitted in October through November 2017 for the 2018 race.

The time qualifiers may be modified in the future, but the qualifying times for the 2018 race are:

Age GroupMenWomen
16 to 293:10:003:40:00
30 to 393:15:003:45:00
40 to 493:25:003:55:00
50 to 593:40:004:15:00
60 to 694:00:004:55:00
70 to 794:30:005:45:00
80 and over5:10:006:30:00

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.

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 percent of the 54,800 lottery applicants were accepted. Compared to other marathons, such as the New York City Marathon at around 18 percent, 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.

A Word From Verywell

The Chicago Marathon is a great event and a nice opportunity 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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Article Sources
  • Bank of American Chicago Marathon. Participant Information: Application. 2018.
  • Hetzel M. Chicago Marathon by the Numbers. Runner's World. 2015.
  • Plunkett M. Marathon Race Lotteries: Are the Odds Going to Be in Your Favor This Season? The Washington Post. 2015.