2014 Chicago Marathon Registration

Now, I’m not going to fool myself into thinking most people–or, perhaps, anyone–genuinely cares about my opinion on the Chicago Marathon going to lottery in 2014. But I have opinions and I have a captive audience (that would be you, reader), so since you can’t be all, “Actually, I have…this…thing…anywhere but here…gottagobye,” like someone in real life (to my face, at least), let’s get to this, shall we?


The fact that the marathon is using a lottery system this year should not be a surprise to anyone, and because of that, no one has whining privileges, so stop. Marathon registration, for all intents and purposes, went to lottery last year.

“But it’s not fair!” you say. “Why must this all be left up to chance?!” Because you, probably-not-speedy-runner (which means you’re like me!), are looking to run in one of the World Marathon Majors. For those of us back-of-the-packers, it’s an enormous privilege–a privilege I think many of us forget–to be able to participate in a race like this at all. Is there any other sport where Joe Schmoe Nobodies get to compete in the same event at the same time as the top athletes in that sport? Does Travis the Tennis Aficionado get to compete in the U.S. Open just because he hits the Waveland courts every single day as soon as they put the nets up, because he’s dedicated, because it’s his passion, because he cares? No.

“But running isn’t tennis!” you counter. “Yeah, there are professionals who dedicate their entire lives to being at the top of this sport, just like there are professionals who do the same with tennis, but running is inherently different! It’s for the people!” Fortunately, the Chicago Marathon is not the only marathon, just like the U.S. Open is not the only venue in which anyone can play tennis. Do you need a fall marathon? Consider Fox Valley, Milwaukee, Prairie State, IndianapolisGrand Rapids, Detroit, or Naperville.

“But it’s not the same,” you say. “None of those will be like Chicago.” All right, I’ll give you that. If your heart is set on a top tier event, yes, Chicago is your only local option. Again, though, it’s a privilege, not a right, for you to run Chicago. The Bank of America does not owe you anything (well…maybe they do, in a financial transparency and morality sense. But they certainly don’t owe you a marathon entry just by virtue of being you, you special daisy.). Not one World Marathon Major race (Boston, Berlin, New York, Tokyo, Chicago, London) has guaranteed open registration. With the exception of Boston, all of these races have some sort of lottery procedure in place (with Tokyo’s being slightly different than the others). If you want to run a World Marathon Major, take a number, buddy: so does everyone else.


“Fine, you have a point,” you say, swayed by my eloquent arguing. “But what about Chicago’s time standards, huh? You can’t argue that they’re fair.” The fact that Chicago did not employ any sort of age grouping on time standards is odd, yes. Boston and New York both use age to determine qualifying standards. However, Chicago’s standards are both enormously generous compared to Boston and New York, and skew towards Chicago’s main demographic. A spreadsheet:

Screen shot 2014-01-17 at 11.14.21 AM

In the above breakdown, the yellow highlighted boxes represent slightly more than half of all Chicago finishers in their respective genders. The orange highlighted boxes show either the equivalent (for Boston) or closest-without-going-over (for New York) qualifying standards. What this means: the qualifying time for Chicago for the majority of Chicago’s male runners is either five to ten minutes slower than a BQ and and 30 to 25 minutes slower than a New York qualifying time. The qualifying time for Chicago for the majority of Chicago’s female runners is ten minutes slower than Boston and 35 minutes slower than New York. While the lack of age grading may be unfortunate for older runners (and, I imagine, will change in the future), it’s wonderful for the majority of Chicago marathon runners. Additionally, I imagine the legacy program caters much more to older runners than younger runners. The older you are, the more likely it is you’ve run five Chicago Marathons in the past ten  years, simply because you’ve had more opportunities to run more Chicagos. Does it make up for the lack of age grading? Maybe not, but I think it softens the blow a little. Not fast? Not a legacy? Then sign up through a charity.

“But I don’t want to raise $1,000 minimum!” you whine. “I don’t have those resources. I have other charities I care more about than any of the options Chicago will offer. I’d rather raise money for that charity.” Well, then I guess you have a decision to make. What’s more important to you: your charity or the Chicago Marathon? If it’s your charity, I would once again refer you to another fall marathon, or encourage you to take your chances with the lottery. If, however, your primary concern is running the 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, then pick one of the marathon’s charities and go for it. You have 36 weeks between now and the week before the Chicago Marathon. If you set aside $28 of your own money every week between now and then, you’ll have “fundraised” your $1,000 without asking anyone for a single penny.

One thing I am curious about is whether or not the Chicago Marathon will in some way reserve entries for CARA. Though some of you may not know this, CARA was originally formed as a reaction to the Chicago Marathon (which had the GALL to raise the entry fee to $10 in 1978. Lulz. It also had a start time of noon, which didn’t go over well, either.). The CARA founders felt that there was no one looking out for Chicago runners. Thus CARA was born, and for quite some time there were hard feelings between the Chicago Marathon and CARA. One of Carey Pinkowski’s major feats as race director for the Chicago Marathon, at least from a Chicago runner standpoint, was repairing that relationship, and I’m curious as to what will happen between CARA and the marathon as a result of the lottery. On the other hand, I imagine a fair number of CARA runners do fit that legacy bill, so perhaps this is all irrelevant.

So. There are my Thoughts.

On a slightly different note, can we please discuss the Chicago Women’s Half Marathon this year? I know it’s old news by this point, but MAN did Fleet Feet just kill it with the CWHM this year. Having the race run up the Magnificent Mile was, in and of itself, a genius enough move. BUT THEN to move the race to Labor Day weekend–can’t even handle it. That’s a 12 mile week for Chicago Marathon training. Previously, the race was two weeks into marathon training. Unless you’re a routine long distance runner, ain’t no way you’re ready to run a half marathon two weeks into marathon training. But when you schedule it for a 12 miler week? Man, they’re going to get every woman running the Chicago Marathon this year. Rock ‘n’ Roll is on a 7 miler week. Zooma is on a 10 miler week. The Chicago Half is on an 18 miler week. You wanna run a half that coincides nearly perfectly with marathon training? The Chicago Women’s Half has you covered.

I’m so rambly. I apologize 😛

16 thoughts on “2014 Chicago Marathon Registration

    • I thought about this after I posted, but I actually think this system might help CARA. Nearly every local charity offers training help through CARA and/or CES. If more people go the charity route this year than in past years, CARA and CES will probably see a huge influx of runners. But there will, of course, also be non-charity runners, and I don’t know how many past non-charity runners will just decide to skip Chicago in favor of some other marathon this year (though CARA does tailor training to other fall marathons as well, so maybe they’ll be totally unaffected).

  1. i’m not going to lie – i almost stopped reading because i am obvi not running chicago but then you persuaded me with your logic. seriously – it is so nice to read a logical response that counters all the emotional whining out there. your tennis example is spot on. thanks for the reminder that we are lucky to participate in this sport on the level that lotteries allow us to. now i’m going to go recommend that there be a lottery to play at augusta for the masters because…well this girl wants a chance to meet adam scott before she gets married.

  2. GREAT POST! I should have just linked to yours and moved on instead of writing my own post. I have the same question about CARA and the training programs but I figure that statistically the same number of people who want or need training will get in via lottery as they would just doing first come, first serve, you know? But I still wonder how CARA feels about this.

    You know what’s also funny? I admittedly didn’t know about why CARA was founded but I knew why my running club was founded. And ours was also founded because the founding members were pissed off at a local race (the Frank Lloyd Wright Races, if you must know). Had no idea we had that in common with CARA.

    • Hahaha I read your post like right after I published this, and I was like, “Wow…we pretty much said the EXACT same thing.” Great minds think alike!

      I thought about this later, and I think ultimately this might not be as bad for CARA as it seems at first glance, especially if people jump on the charity option. Most of the major charities offer training through CARA (or CES), and if more people sign up through that route, I bet CARA could see an increase in participants.

      Moral of the story: if you don’t like something going on in the running world, start your own running club. Haha. Apparently it seems to work!

  3. The new standards will just have to motivate us oldsters to get out of our La -Z-Boys and hit the track for some speedy mile repeats and plenty of 60 mile weeks. That way we can eek out some nail-biting 3:14’s! 🙂

  4. I LOVE THIS POST!! I was planning to do a post on it myself…haven’t gotten around to it yet, so probably closer to when registration will open. But yeah, maybe just copy and paste yours? LOL. I love that you created a little spread sheet too!! So perfect.

  5. Pingback: Picking a Charity for the 2014 Chicago Marathon | accidental intentions

  6. Pingback: Tuesday Things | accidental intentions

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