12 Ways to Qualify For the Chicago Marathon

Every way to to qualify for the Chicago Marathon

For athletes who long for the starting line but can’t meet the Bank of America Chicago Marathon qualifying times, here are all the ways to obtain an entry.

We continue our series of world-class marathon qualifying methods from Boston Marathon qualifying methods, New York City Marathon qualifying methods, London Marathon qualifying methods, and Kona Ironman qualifying methods.

When is the Chicago Marathon

The 2024 Bank of America Chicago Marathon will be held on Sunday, October 13, 2024, at 7:20am. Over 47,000 athletes will take part in the event.

Chicago Marathon Entry fee

The financial commitment to run the 2024 Bank of America Chicago Marathon is not cheap but common to other World Marathon Majors.

For U.S. residents, the entry fee is $240, while international participants have an entry fee of $250, with a processing fee added to both.

All the Ways to Qualify For the Chicago Marathon

Runners participating in the Chicago Marathon. Some qualified by the Chicago Marathon qualifying times method.

1 – Chicago Marathon Qualifying Times By Age and Gender

The Chicago Marathon has a similar age and gender-specific qualifying times as the other World Marathon Majors.

If you meet these time qualifications, you have a guaranteed Chicago Marathon entry.

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

To qualify using this method, your time must be on a USATF-certified marathon course and your time has to be within the qualifying window (typically within the previous calendar year).

The qualifying race distances are only for the marathon distance on a certified course. A half-marathon time will not count.

Review the details at https://www.chicagomarathon.com/apply/.

2 – Chicago Marathon Charity Program Entries

Smiling children that you could help by fundraising for a charity in the Chicago Marathon.

Want to show the world how awesome you are AND run the Chicago Marathon?

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon charity program entries are a fantastic way to get entered into the race and to help less fortunate groups. By committing to raise funds for one of the over 200 official charity teams, runners can secure their guaranteed Bank of America Chicago Marathon entry while contributing to a greater cause through the Chicago Marathon Charity Program.

This commitment comes with mandatory fundraising minimums, typically between $1,250 to $2,500, and may or may not include the entry fee.

Fundraising minimums increase the longer you wait to sign up (usually around mid-November), so don’t delay!

More than 10,000 runners qualify to run through this program each year.

3 – International Tour Group Program

An International Tour Group typically provides hotels, meals, excursions, and guaranteed race entry. These are usually meant for runners who reside outside of the United States, but that is not always a requirement.

One well-known tour operator is Marathon Tours. For under $2,000, you get a three-night package, with meals and a guaranteed race entry. Airline fees are separate.

By joining an official tour partner, you eliminate the uncertainty of the lottery and get kind of a VIP experience as well.

Go here to see a list of running tour operators in your country.

4 – Bank of America Chicago Distance Series

The Bank of America Chicago Distance Series presents a great way to earn a place on the Chicago Marathon starting line.

By completing a series of three races in one year runners earn themselves guaranteed entry into the next year’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The Bank of America Chicago Distance races are the Shamrock Shuffle 8K (March), Chicago 13.1 (June), and the Chicago Marathon (October).

Participating in the Chicago Distance Series represents a commitment to the core of Chicago’s running community. If you can race all three races, it’s a great formula for entry. Each race fills up quickly so don’t wait too long.

5 – The Bank of America Chicago Marathon Lottery

Pick me!

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon lottery system provides a spark of hope for the majority of runners competing for a place in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The non-guaranteed entry drawing is the wildcard of marathon registration, with approximately 53% of applicants historically gaining entry through the lottery.

The application window opens in mid-to-late October and closes at the end of November. Notifications of entry status are typically sent by early December.

Application Tips

For those who have faced rejection in the past, there is a silver lining; previous non-selection may slightly tilt the odds in your favor for the current year.

Timing is also key; submitting your application as soon as possible can sometimes provide a statistical advantage, so mark your calendar and ready your details for when the application window opens.

6 – Para Athletics Program

para-athlete competing at the Chicago Marathon

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon prides itself on being an event for all, and this includes athletes with disabilities who have access to both guaranteed and non-guaranteed entry routes. Para-athletes must meet specific criteria, including:

  • Having one of the ten impairments recognized by World Para Athletics
  • Providing necessary documentation from a physician

If you feel you fit this criteria, there is a special form to fill out that you email in to register.

7 – Duo Team Participant

Duo team competitors racing through the Chicago Marathon qualifying times

A duo team participant is an athlete who is pushing a permanently disabled person in a competition wheelchair. If this is you, you need to register with a special form.

NOTE – The duo team division does not give out awards or prize money. Competing in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is the reward.

8 – Be a Guide Runner

A guide runner leads a blind athlete in the Boston marathon
Photo credit: United In Stride

Visually impaired runners need guides to help them through the race. This could be you and it won’t even cost you registration fees to run the race.

If you already know a blind runner that you’d like to guide, great! But if not, United in Stride is an organization that offers a free online community where visually impaired runners and guides can connect with each other.

What better way to have an awesome race than to help someone else in their journey?

Read more about the Bank of America Chicago Marathon’s rules regarding guide runners.

9 – Cancellation From Last Year

If you had to cancel your entry from last year (or the race had to cancel your entry), you are guaranteed an entry for the following year’s race. This includes pregnancy cancellations for women.

You still have to pay new registration fees, and this is only good the following year from your cancellation race.

NOTE – This does not apply to charity or international tour group entrants though. Sorry.

More details are here.

10 – Legacy Runner Entry

Can you mark the Bank of America Chicago Marathon completed at least five times within the previous ten years? If so then you can get a guaranteed entry.

Chicago Marathon finishes prior to (older than) ten years ago will not count.

There is an option to specify that you are a legacy runner during the normal registration process.

11 – Get an Entry From Your Bank of America Friend

When your company sponsors a World Marathon Major, they typically get a few entries to give to their employees and friends. So if you know anyone in the corporate office of Bank of America, please mention my name.

12 – Road to the Majors – Half Marathon Journey

Have you already completed 3, 4, or 5 of the World Marathon Majors?

The Global Run club has special virtual half marathon races you can complete to earn an entry into a special lottery to get into the Chicago Marathon.

There are six virtual races, and they cost $45 each. They are in March, April, May, August, September, and October.

Get more information at https://app.abbottwmmglobalrunclub.com/en/challenges.


Whether you aim to secure a guaranteed spot or cast your hopes into the lottery, whether you run on behalf of a charity or as a proud para-athlete, the Chicago Marathon has many ways to get to the start line.

So take the leap, commit to the training, and perhaps we’ll see you on the streets of Chicago!.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the time limit to complete the Chicago Marathon?

You have six hours and thirty minutes to complete the Chicago Marathon, so make sure to maintain a steady pace to finish within the official time limit.

Can international runners secure a guaranteed entry?

Yes, international runners can secure a guaranteed entry by purchasing a travel package that includes entry to the marathon through an official tour partner.

What are the payment options for the entry fee?

You can pay the entry fee using a credit card that has an expiration date beyond December of the current year.

Are there specific entry options for para-athletes?

Yes, the Chicago Marathon offers specific entry options for para-athletes, including both guaranteed and non-guaranteed entry options. Time standards and documentation are required.

Does the Chicago Marathon offer any divisions for non-binary athletes?

Yes, the Chicago Marathon offers a non-binary division for race registrations, promoting inclusivity and representation at the event.

How many runners participate in the Chicago Marathon?

Over 47,000.

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