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Chicago Marathon Spectators' Guide: Where to Watch, Cheer For The Runners

By  Chloe Riley Casey Cora Serena Dai and Lizzie Schiffman Tufano | October 11, 2013 7:52am | Updated on October 11, 2013 4:05pm

 There are plenty of places around the city to cheer the 45,000 marathoners running Sunday.
There are plenty of places around the city to cheer the 45,000 marathoners running Sunday.
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David Banks/Getty Images

CHICAGO — The Chicago Marathon is Sunday and we've scoped out the best celebrations, parties and viewing locations to cheer on the 45,000 racers.


Here's what we found:

Before Mile 1

The race starts at Columbus Drive and Monroe Street, but this is racers' territory, and spectators won't have access to the area around the starting line. The first wave of wheelchair racers will set off from the starting line at 7:15 a.m., with the final group of runners leaving at 8 a.m.

Park Grill at Millennium Park is hosting a marathon buffet breakfast and viewing party from 8 a.m. to noon. Tickets for the event, where you can watch the race on big screens, cost $18.

The first mile of the race can be best viewed on the stretch of Grand Avenue between Columbus and State Street. For a birds-eye view, look over Grand from Michigan Avenue.

Mile 4.5 and Mile 10.5

In addition to opening its Old Town store at 1620 N. Wells St. at 7 a.m., Fleet Feet Sports is sponsoring a rally station at North Avenue and Wells replete with a stage featuring an Elvis impersonator. Mark Colpoys, a Fleet Feet executive, said the location is an ideal viewing area, as runners can be caught running north on LaSalle before returning 6 miles later coming east on North Avenue and turning onto Wells.

Mile 8

The Boystown stretch of the race is guaranteed to be festive with lots of music, dancing and drag queens — some decked out in cheerleading outfits. Several restaurants and bars along Broadway are planning to open early, offering specials and prime patio seating.

Mile 14

A race staple, Charity Block Party on Adams Street near Loomis Street on the Near West Side is the official cheer area for charities and those who are running for them. Each charity has a specific cheer zone. Of course, there's a DJ.

Mile 16.5

The marathon has its roots in Greece, so naturally Chicago's Greektown is a good place to head to. The National Hellenic Museum, 333 S. Halsted St., will offer free admission from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, inviting spectators to watch the race from its rooftop terrace.

Mile 17.5

Connecting 4 Communities, a nonprofit focused on the University Village area, is setting up its cheer station on Taylor near Morgan. Racers are expected to come through from about 8:20 a.m. to 1 p.m. The organization promises a DJ playing Top 40 hits, Michael Jackson, Motown and "upbeat and funky stuff."

Just down the street, groove to "Rocky" theme music near the University Village Association at 1453 W. Taylor St., where a DJ will play Frank Sinatra and Italian music as well as rock 'n' roll. The association will also hand out little American and Italian flags to wave at runners.

Mile 19

The Pilsen stretch of the race along 18th Street between Ashland and Halsted has a reputation for being among the most festive, with Mexican music along the milelong stretch.

Area business leaders don't have an official party planned for the neighborhood, but some businesses are opening early and offering specials for the crowds. Dia De Los Tamales, 939 W. 18th St., which opened earlier this year after reaching its Kickstarter goal, will open at 8 a.m. with a breakfast tamale — ham and cheese topped with scrambled eggs — specially made for the race. The furniture store Modern Cooperative, 1215 W. 18th St., is handing out free mimosas and Bloody Marys starting at 9 a.m. until they run out.

Mile 21.5

In Chinatown, runners will first encounter an aid station manned by local civic leaders at 29th Street and Wentworth Avenue. Then, they'll be motivated by cheering sections made up of local business leaders as they approach the neighborhood's iconic pagoda at Cermak Road and Wentworth, where they'll be met by dancers in a 90-foot dragon costume, and an amplified sound system will pump out live and recorded Chinese cultural music.

Mile 27

After-parties will take place all over town, though the race's official party will take place at Grant Park's Butler Field. Between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., racers and spectators can attend the 27th Mile Post-Race Party. Anyone with a race bib is entitled to a free 312 Urban Wheat Ale.

Just wait until after the race is over.