Where to watch the Chicago Marathon
New East Side—Starting/Finishing Line, Mile 1 & 26:
Wanna help your runner start the race off right with a familiar face in the crowd? Then Columbus Drive is where you need to be. The thoroughfare is the beginning and end of the race, so expect overwhelming crowds and loud cheering. Best bet is to get there early, in hopes of a clear view from the public bleachers, available at the starting and finishing lines.
Near North Side—Mile 4 & 11:
On the LaSalle Street two-mile stretch, spectators begin to see runners break away from the pack on a quick straightaway.
Lincoln Park—Mile 6 & 9:
Around 8:30am, as runners begin to penetrate the northern neighborhoods, spectators can get a bit more rowdy. It won’t be hard to find a bar and a Bloody Mary while watching or maybe (try to) slip your runner a cup of beer; Lincoln Park is a prime marathon party spot.
Wrigleyville/Lakeview—Mile 7 & 8:
The celebration continues as runners reach the northernmost region of the race. Watchers can get a real block-party feel at these mile markers, complete with booze, music and costumes. If you’re lucky, you might get a glimpse of the Frontrunners/Frontwalkers Club male cheerleaders, who are decked out every year with matching skirts and pom-poms.
River North—Mile 12:
Another lively location for viewers to watch, cheer and listen. The Moody Bible Institute and WBMI radio station host a musical cheering station at mile marker 12.
West Loop—Mile 13–16:
After crossing the Chicago River, runners make their way west toward into Chicago’s Greek neighborhood. In this area, spectators can line both Adams and Jackson Streets while sampling traditional Greek delicacies from restaurants and shops.
Little Italy—Mile 17 & 18:
This quintessential Italian neighborhood has a variety of restaurants for viewers to grab a bite to eat—but nothing like the crowd on the North Side. The main reason to stop and watch from this neighborhood is the DJ set inspired by Italian-themed music to keep marathon watchers’ and runners’ blood pumping.
Pilsen—Mile 19 & 20:
As runners make their way through Chicago’s largest Latino neighborhood, spectators can hear traditional music and check out colorful murals. Grab a drink at Simone’s, located at the 19th mile marker—the lively, relatively new neighborhood bar/eatery is always popping with cheering viewers.
Chinatown—Mile 21 & 22:
This popular viewing point is known for having Chinese-inspired snacks, music and dragon-costumed dancers to keep observers entertained. Colorful red visuals throughout the neighborhood may bring runners a bit of good fortune; red symbolizes good luck in Chinese culture.
As runners hit 35th Street and they need the extra motivation from the cheering crowd, this mile marker often has vacant viewing areas for onlookers. At this point, the race has thinned out and it’s easier for viewers to spot their favorite runners.
The race turns back north, up Michigan Avenue, and the spectatorship tends to be sparse. Help runners get through the last two miles of the race while experiencing some live Chicago blues.
South Loop—Mile 25:
In the last leg of the race, crowds begin to get much larger again, with a cheering section that lasts until the finish line. Jump into the mess of the observers, but bring a megaphone if you want to be heard.
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