The Best Running Routes & Races in Chicago According to Runners

Running is one of the best ways to experience any city. Chicago is no exception. The Windy City made Arris Composite’s list of Best Cities to Run in the thirteenth position. Chicago holds one of the most exceptional scores for percentage of residents within walking distance to a park (98%) but fell lower in the rankings because of the annual inches of precipitation and rainfall. With proximity to parks, access to lakefront paths, and the diversity of neighborhood architectures and histories – Chicago runs are one of a kind.

In this article, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about running in Chicago including history, running routes in Chicago, the best races to participate in, and local running stores and communities. Whether you’re living in Chicago year round or just visiting, here’s a low down on the best places for Chicago runs and best races and specialty running stores in the Windy City.

Photo by Mary West on Unsplash

The History of Chicago Runs

Chicago has a rich history of running events. The first Chicago Marathon was held in 1977 and, today, is one of the world’s largest marathons with over 40,000 runners participating annually. The Chicago Marathon is one of the Abbott World Marathon Majors alongside other legendary races like the Boston and Berlin Marathons.

The first female runner to complete the Chicago Marathon was Joan Benoit Samuelson. Samuelson has left an imprint on women’s running as she also won the gold medal in the first women’s Olympic marathon in 1984.

Chicago is also home to the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle, the largest 8K in the United States, and the Bank of America Chicago 13.1, Chicago’s newest half marathon through the west side of Chicago.

CARA, the Chicago Area Runners Association, is the most popular running club in Chicago and one of the largest in the United States.

Credit: Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Chicago Runs: The Most Popular Races

The Marathon: Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 8, 2023

One of the six World Marathon Majors and attracts over 40,000 runners from around the world. The course is best known for being flat and fast and the course takes runners through Chicago’s most famous landmarks. 


The Half Marathon: Bank of America Chicago 13.1 on June 4, 2023

The newest half marathon in Chicago. The course takes runners through the newly popular westside neighborhood with loops around Humboldt, Garfield, and Douglass Park.


The 8K: The Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle

Now the most popular 8K in the United States with over 16,000 runners participating annually. The race follows a popular loop from Millennium Park and around West Loop and River North.


photoiva | Shutterstock

Running in Chicago: Running Routes

Chicago runs offer a variety of options for runners along both lakefront trails and city neighborhoods. Here are the best places to run in Chicago that should make it into your training routine from our friends at Great Runs. They’ve researched Chicago’s best running trails and urban running routes:

  1. Lakefront Trail: a 19-mile paved path that runs along the shore of Lake Michigan. The trail offers views of both the lake and the city skyline. The path is well-maintained and for runners offers water fountains and restrooms. 
  2. Lincoln Park: A large urban park located in the heart of Chicago with 1,200 acres of green space, ponds, and walking and bike paths. The paths offer views of gardens as well as Lake Michigan.
  3. The 606: A 2.7-mile elevated trail through four Chicago neighborhoods. The trail offers a unique running experience with views of both public art installations as well as the Chicago skyline.
  4. Jackson Park: A historic park on the South Side of Chicago with 500 acres of green space, lagoons and bike paths.
  5. Humboldt Park: A 219-acre park on the West Side of Chicago. The park has paved trails through wooded areas with shade which makes it a great option for summer months. 
Fleet Feet Chicago

Chicago Runs: Specialty Running Stores

There’s a few specialty running stores in Chicago that offer shoe consultations for runners. If just getting started, an expert opinion on whether you need a regular or structured shoe, will save you from injury later on. Here are three of those running stores.

  1. Fleet Feet Chicago (Locations Vary): One of the most popular specialty running stores with locations around the country and four in Chicago. Fleet Feet also hosts group runs and training programs. The retailer has over 800 reviews with a 4.8-star rating on Google.
  2. Running Excels (10328 S Western Ave, Chicago IL): A family-owned specialty running store in the Beverly neighborhood on the SouthSide of Chicago. They also offer training programs and group runs for all types of fitness levels. The retailer has over 400 Google reviews with an aggregate 4.8-star rating.
  3. Last Lap Corner Store (330 E 51st Street, Chicago IL) A black-owned and LatinX-owned South side based running store.

This content was produced in partnership with the Bank of America Chicago 13.1.

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