The energy of the families and friends at the annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon is what makes it a world-class event for the 45,000 runners as they travel around the city. With a little planning you can have fun and cheer on your favorite runner without feeling like you ran a marathon yourself.
Getting runners’ attention
Plan in advance with your favorite runners to let them know where youll be. A good rule of thumb is get there 20 minutes before they think they will make it to the pre-determined mile marker and expect them to be 20 minutes later than they said. That way there are no missed opportunities.
Wear bright colors! At big races my wife always makes brightly colored shirts for our entire family to wear.
Create signs with images of a runners head or body (nothing will grab a runners attention quicker than their 3-foot head looking at them from the crowd.)
You may be planning to bring kids to the race, which can be a great time or a disaster. Here are a few locations that are great for kids and will help you navigate the 26.2-mile course and be in the right spot at the right time.
Near the start
Grant Park on race morning is jammed full of people and can be a bit intimidating for little ones. The Bean–just north of the start–is a great place to hang out, but an even better option is Lincoln Park Zoo. The course goes right by the zoo, which is a great place to cheer, have some fun and still make it to the finish line for hugs and pictures. Plenty of sunscreen, water and foldable, light strollers are good to have on hand.
The Fleet Feet Mile, corner of North and Wells
A stage with Elvis singing, tons of great energy and an aid station make this area a great place to hang out and to cheer on your runner. Bring your fake sideburns and join in on a Chicago tradition.
Right after mile 13, many of the charities set up mini-cheering section/aid stations. It is just a little past the halfway mark, when runners’ bodies may start to hurt. Being there with a sign, a cheer and even a hug is the kind of fuel that will light a runner’s fire for the next 13 miles. Having a few baby wipes to share with your favorite runner is also an awesome thing.
If you take the Red Line to Chinatown, you can get there quickly and be there for your runner. It also is another opportunity to have a lot of fun along the way. Chinatown has its own unique cheering section, complete with a Chinese dragon and drums. It will be tight, but you can hit Chinatown and make it back to Grant Park before your runner does.