Why Chicago Marathon is the Perfect Destination Race

Why you should choose Chicago Marathon as your next destination race. Plus, how to plan your weekend in the Windy City.

Chicago MarathonPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

Last year, I ran my first marathon, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. It was an incredible experience that I highly recommend for fellow runners. Here I’m sharing why it’s the perfect destination race for Canadian runners. Plus, how to plan your weekend for race day success and optimal recovery.

Why Chicago Marathon?

Well for starters, it’s one of the most renowned marathons in the world. Chicago is one of six marathons that make up the Abbott World Marathon Majors series. That means elite athletes are competing in this marathon for points based on finishing place, and are hoping to secure their spot as the world’s best. Last year at the 2018 Chicago Marathon, British runner Mo Farah won the men’s race with a time of 2:05:11; Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei won the women’s race in 2:18:35.

But it’s not only elites that run Chicago Marathon, or any marathon for that matter. (For the record, both Farah and Kosgei ran the marathon more than twice as fast as I did!) Among the 2018 runners were comedian Kevin Hart and Chicago Fire actress Miranda Rae Mayo. As well, the number of female runners at the Chicago Marathon has been rising steadily with women accounting for 47 percent of 2018 participants. (Don’t miss the 20 things every woman needs to know about running.) In total, 44, 571 runners finished the 2018 Chicago Marathon, an increase in the number of 2017 finishers.

The Windy City is known to be pretty flat with spectacular architecture and scenery. The marathon course is very similar: flat and fast with both the start and finish lines in Grant Park. The course also winds through 29 neighbourhoods where thousands of spectators come out to cheer. It’s a pretty empowering and emotional experience. The 2019 Bank of America Chicago Marathon takes place on October 13.

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Where to Stay

Book the JW Marriott Chicago for a luxurious and comfortable stay in perfect proximity to the marathon start line. Located at 151 West Adams Street, the JW Marriott is walking distance to attractions like the Art Institute of Chicago and Millennium Park, as well as Grant Park where the marathon start and finish lines are located. Oh, and don’t forget to make a massage appointment at the hotel’s serene spa for after the race!

What to See

Aside from a short shake-out run, you’ll want to stay off your feet as much as possible before the big day. But sitting in a hotel room isn’t any fun when you’re in a vibrant city like Chicago. Instead of a walking tour, book a leisurely tour that keeps you off your feet, like Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture River Tour. This 75-minute tour departs from Navy Pier’s Polk Bros Park or the northeast corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge. You’ll be able to see architectural gems like the Tribune Tower and Wrigley Building from a unique vantage point on the river.

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Hopefully you’re staying for a few days of sightseeing after the marathon, and if so, you’ll have plenty of time to hit multiple attractions included with the purchase of a Chicago CityPASS ticket. Included is admission to five of seven attractions: Shedd Aquarium; Skydeck Chicago; Field Museum; Adler Planetarium or the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Museum of Science and Industry or 360 Chicago Observation Deck.

Where to Eat

Before the race, fuel up with protein and complex carbs at Beatrix, a healthy yet hearty coffeehouse and restaurant with multiple locations in Chicago. Both Beatrix River North (519 N Clark St) and Beatrix Fulton Market (834 W Fulton Market) are a short 5-10 minute drive from the JW Marriott. Try the Prime Burger or House-Made Ricotta Ravioli with Heirloom Tomatoes.

After the Chicago Marathon, head to Blue Door Farm Stand in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighbourhood. The bright and welcoming farm-to-table restaurant has a cult following thanks to its Brussel Sprout & Kale Salad, but other noteworthy dishes include the Herb-Crusted Lamb Chops and the Smash Burger (try it topped with a fried egg or bacon).

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Where to Relax

The best gift you can give yourself after rocking the Chicago Marathon is a visit to Aire Ancient Baths Chicago. This incredible oasis is tucked away on a small street in the River West area. Located in a restored factory from 1902, you’ll descend stairs into the bathing area where six thermal baths of varying temperatures await. Each session is 90 minutes long, and you can rotate between the baths (including a salt-water pool called the flotarium) or lounge on heated marble stones where tea and water is served. There are also steam rooms of different intensities and with different aromatherapy fragrances (like lavender or eucalyptus), as well as plenty of pink Himalayan salt for a DIY body scrub.

Feeling super proud of your marathon performance? Indulge even more with a treatment at Aire like a massage or body wrap. Go on, you earned it.

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Where to Wander

Nearby Millennium Park is a beautiful place to explore (plus, you need that Instagram snap in front of Cloud Gate, aka The Bean). If you’re feeling strong and up for something active, check out the Maggie Daley Park Climbing Wall.

If you’re down with venturing a little further from your hotel (it all depends on how your legs are holding up post-race), go for a stroll or bike ride along The 606, a trail and park that spans 2.7 miles (4.3 km) along the Bloomingdales Trail. You can rent a Divvy Bike from a nearby Divvy Station at one of the trail’s entry/exit points.

Next, check out these 10 celeb-approved wellness hotspots in West Hollywood.