Illinois: A Marathon Option for Everyone


With the official start of summer just around the corner, your preparations for the upcoming marathon season are likely in full swing. After all, Chicagoland and the surrounding area offers runners of all ages and experience levels an opportunity to compete on some of the United States’ most pristine, aesthetically pleasing tracks.

In fact, with so many choices available, you may be unsure which marathon is the best fit for you. Do you prefer smaller crowds, or do you thrive off of the energy of large crowds? Do you relish the challenge of hilly terrains, or are you in pursuit of a faster layout? No matter your preference, the greater Chicago area likely has an option for you.

Advocate Dreyer Fox Valley Marathon

SEP 22 |

Offering a flat, fast course that meanders through the Western suburbs of St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia, North Aurora, and Aurora, this marathon has steadily become one of Chicagoland’s most popular since its launch in 2010. Honored as a Top 25 Midwest Marathon by Chicago Athlete in 2011, participation for the Boston qualifier is expected to rise to 2,000 this year, with roughly 30 percent of participants looking to qualify for Boston 2014. Last year, 172 runners qualified for Boston 2013, and average race time was measured at 4:24. With plenty of shade and splendid views of waterfalls and towering pines and maples, the race will also provide participants a peaceful setting as they prepare for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, set to occur three weeks later. Registration is $125.

YMCA Stone Bridge Marathon

OCT 12 |

Hosted in Belvidere, the YMCA Stone Bridge Marathon will be limited to a maximum of 200 runners this year. Participants will encounter a variety of course conditions, running for nearly 10 miles on rolling country hills and 13 miles on Stone Bridge, a railroad bed made of crushed limestone. USATF certified and a Boston Marathon qualifying course, the Stone Bridge is generally flat and, for the most part, fast, as the average finishing time is four hours. Last year, winner Brett Addington finished with a time of 2:48:56. Registration is $80 until October 4, rising to $90 afterwards. Some proceeds will be donated to the Belvidere Family YMCA and Stateline Family YMCA’s Strong Kids Campaign, raising money for more than 2,100 community youths and families.

Prairie State Marathon

OCT 12 |

Located 40 minutes north of Chicago, Libertyville will once again be the site of the Prairie State Marathon, which is annually held one day before the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Certified by the USATF and a Boston qualifier, the marathon is expected to attract approximately 500 participants this year. A gorgeous nature run, the fast, flat course begins in the Independence Grove Forest Preserve, providing participants an opportunity to view northern Illinois’ natural beauty, from rivers and lakes to forests and prairie. Average finish time is roughly four hours; however, the course is open for 6.5 hours overall. Currently, registration is $75, but will rise to $80 after August 31. Some funds will be donated to Special Olympics Illinois.

Bank of America Chicago Marathon

OCT 13 |

Since its inception in 1977, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon has become one of the United States’ largest, best-attended marathons, attracting runners from all four corners of the world. With more than 1.7 million spectators and 45,000 participants expected, there is little wonder why the marathon has been established as a Chicago tradition. Well-known for its flat, fast course that winds throughout the city – 29 neighborhoods in all – beginning and ending at Grant Park, the marathon is one of the nation’s premier Boston qualifiers. In fact, last year, 3,776 participants qualified for the 2013 Boston Marathon. Although the event has sold out, interested participants can still enter the marathon through charity and international tour programs, which are available on the marathon’s official website.

Des Plaines River Trail Races Marathon

OCT 19 |

Recently certified by the USATF as a Boston qualifier, this marathon offers runners ideal weather conditions, with an average high of 60° F in mid-October, picturesque views, and a well-maintained track. With a maximum capacity of 250 participants, this year’s marathon will yet again be contested on Des Plaines River Trail, a fast, flat, and wide crushed gravel track, free of impediments like rocks and roots. Surrounded by the Des Plaines River, as well as bright hues of orange, red, and yellow, the marathon, now in its fourth year, is as renowned for its natural beauty as it is for its course conditions. Although participants are welcome to run from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., the marathon’s average finishing time is typically around 4.5 hours. Registration is $95.

Springfield Clinic Springfield Marathon

OCT 20 |

An inaugural race, the Springfield Clinic Springfield Marathon will host approximately 800 participants this fall. The marathon’s fast course runs along Lake Springfield, a 4,000 acre lake located three hours south of Chicago. Marathoners will face some elevation changes; however, the course will mostly be flat and will give runners the chance to go through the University of Illinois Springfield’s campus and experience beautiful fall foilage. Registration is $80 before July 1, $85 between July 1 and Sept. 1 and $95 until October 10. From each registration, $5 will be donated to at-risk children and animal rescue charities. The fee also includes food, entertainment, medals, tech shirts, and runners’ bags.

Edward Hospital Naperville Marathon

NOV 10 |

There is no doubt about it: the inaugural Edward Hospital Naperville Marathon is highly anticipated. Back in January, more than 1,700 participants registered for $105, with registration selling out in 14 hours. Interested runners can still get into the race through limited charity entries. Certified as a Boston qualifier, the marathon will begin at Naperville’s North Central College, eventually winding throughout downtown Naperville and into the DuPage County Forest Preserves and Naperville Park District, before concluding at North Central College. By offering runners a fast and flat course, as well as cooler weather conditions, the marathon should result in some low finishing times. However, participants will still have up to six hours to complete the marathon. After crossing the finish line, marathoners are invited to celebrate by enjoying Naperville’s wide array of restaurants, shops, and entertainment options.


Are you interested in receiving further information about each of these marathons? Perhaps you are searching for even more racing options? If so, please visit Chicago Athlete’s events calendar (, which is updated regularly to ensure your next racing experience is as successful and memorable as possible.