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Registered dietitians agree: To support sustained energy levels, don’t skimp on breakfast, and load up on a combo of proteins and complex carbs like oats, brown rice, or quinoa alongside healthy fats throughout the day. A trusty water bottle and a snack stash will be your friends.
As for what to wear, both Campbell and Velasco are clear on one fact: Chicago weather can be unpredictable. They recommend bringing a sweater, poncho, hat, and the old standby—sunscreen—to make sure you’re prepared for anything. Supportive footwear (like Campbell’s personal fave Nike Pegasus 40) and comfortable ‘fits (rep Chicago with the 2023 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Official Collection) are also a must to make sure you can move around with ease.
The average marathon finish time is between 4.5 and 5 hours, which means you’ll likely be spending at least that long on the course—so you’ll need to come prepared.
“Spectating is a sport also,” Campbell says. “So eat breakfast, bring snacks, and stay hydrated because you could be on the course for a long time, especially if you’re planning to go to multiple sites to cheer on a runner.”
BE PREPARED + FUELED
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Showing your pride by making signs and calling runners by name goes that extra step to ensure runners feel the love. “I love to see spectators with encouraging signs or funny ones with puns,” Campbell says. “It’s an amazing feeling to cheer for runners, especially if they have their name on their bib or shirt. Cheering for runners by name lets them know you see them and you care enough to be on the course to encourage them to the finish line. It makes a huge difference when self-doubt creeps in to hear someone say, ‘Hey Jamie…keep going.’”
And if you really want to go the extra mile, try handing out snacks. Take it from Velasco and Campbell, who count pretzels, gummies, and pickles as favorites when they’re out on the course. Snack game and cheer game strong.
Marathoners train for months to prepare for the big day, and sometimes all it takes is the support of the crowd to give them that extra push. “The time and commitment they have endured for the last 16 weeks is showcased on this incredible day,” Velasco says. “All of the races I’ve ever done have been so memorable for me when I have a random stranger cheer me on and tell me I can do it. So cheer loud, because you never know the impact it might have.”
GIVE IT YOUR ALL—JUST LIKE THE RUNNERS
The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is here, and it’s a celebration of the runners and communities who all lean on each other. Don’t just take our word for it though—two Chicago cheer zone veterans (and 2023 runners!) are sharing what they love about the marathon, and their advice for spectators who want to see what all the hype is about.
“The whole city comes out to cheer for you.”
“The vibes and energy in Chicago are unmatched!
It’s something you have to experience yourself.”
- jamie campbell, Gumbofit captain
- manuel velasco, Tortugas run club member
Want to get in on the action? Consider this your roadmap to cheering on the marathoners as they reach their goals, with race-day tips for staying energized, comfy, and present for all of the inspiration, courtesy of Nike Chicago. With intel from our runners, we’re serving up the ultimate insider guide to marathon season—Chicago style.
Her biggest piece of advice for spectators who want to add their voice to the cheers: Plan ahead. “Coordinate in advance which side of the street you will be located, and get there early if it’s a more popular spot,” Campbell says. “Track [runners] on the marathon app, especially if you plan to visit multiple locations. Research in advance how you will get to the cheer zones with street closures and public transportation reroutes.”
In all, there are four official cheer zones, located at the 8K marker, mile 13.1, mile 15, and mile 26, but there are dozens of other community cheer zones throughout the 26.2-mile course. If you’re hoping to stop at multiple cheer zones, check out
this map and this list of Chicago Transit Authority stations to help you plan your route. And remember that Divvy bikes are a great option for getting around in a pinch.
Not sure which cheer zones to hit up? Velasco says Pilsen—at mile 19—is a must. “The people really show out and have pop-up tents, DJs, bandas, dancing, and food,” he says. “It’s a whole party, and the runners I saw pass by couldn’t help but smile and feel motivated to push for those last [seven] miles.”
One thing that’s true about the Chicago Marathon? It’s all about the cheer zones. Whether you’re already part of a beloved run club or need to find the right spot to match your brand of cheer, you’ll find a feeling of electricity in Chicago like no other marathon.
“There is no comparison,” Campbell says. “Chicago shuts it down! Literally, major streets are shut down for hours, which makes you feel like a celebrity. The Chicago run crews, cheer zones, and the whole city comes out to cheer for you.”
FIND YOUR CHEER ZONE
Nike Running Block Party
The ultimate celebration of running and community through music, food, friends, and, of course, cheering!
Find out how to sign up and join in on the fun by clicking here.