One of the many ways to secure a spot in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is by meeting the established qualifying times.

As one of the Six World Marathon Majors, renowned for its fast and flat course that provides an optimal setting for setting both personal and world records, the Chicago Marathon draws over 40,000 participants each year.

This shows the competitiveness of securing a spot in this prestigious event, where you’ll have the opportunity to run alongside pros like Eliud Kipchoge.

To qualify for the Chicago Marathon, male participants must achieve qualifying times ranging from 3 hours and 5 minutes to 5 hours and 25 minutes, depending on their age bracket. For female participants, the qualifying times span from about 3 hours and 35 minutes to 6 hours and 10 minutes.

Therefore, it is very important to diligently prepare and strive to meet these challenging qualification times, if you aspire to participate in the Chicago Marathon.

Here are the qualifying times you need to meet according to your age bracket…

What Are The Qualifying Time Standards For Each Age Group?

By meeting the marathon’s qualifying criteria detailed below, you can confidently secure a guaranteed position in the Chicago Marathon as a time qualifier.

But here’s what you need to know…

  • For your application to be considered, you need to provide results records for a marathon completed within the qualifying window. Make sure to check the official Chicago Marathon website for the dates.
  • Your submitted finish time must align with the specific qualifying time standards for your division (men, women, or non-binary).
  • Please note that finish times from race distances other than a marathon, such as half marathons or 50K races, will not be taken into account.
  • To be considered verifiable, your finish time must be achieved on a certified course approved by entities like USA Track & Field (USATF), World Athletics, or similar governing associations. 
  • Finish times from non-certified races, or those influenced by weather or course conditions, will not be considered.
Age group Men Women Non-binary 
16 – 29 3:05:00 3:35:003:35:00 
30 – 39 3:10:00 3:40:00 3:40:00
40 – 493:20:00 3:50:00 3:50:00 
50 – 59 3:35:00 4:20:004:20:00
60 – 694:00:005:00:00 5:00:00 
70 – 79 4:30:00 5:55:00 5:55:00 
80 and Over5:25:00 6:10:006:10:00

Who Is Allowed To Participate In The Chicago Marathon?

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon only accepts participants who meet the following criteria:

  1. You must be 16 years of age or older on the day of the race.
  2. If you are between the ages of 16 and 17, obtaining permission from your parent or legal guardian during the application process is necessary.
  3. Completing the full 26.2-mile distance within six hours and 30 minutes (6:30:59) is a requirement, as the reopening of the marathon course is based on this time limit.
  4. Selling or transferring race entries/bib numbers is strictly prohibited to maintain the integrity of the event.
  5. All registration fees and ancillary purchases are nonrefundable.
  6. Be familiar with and adhere to the event rules for your own safety and well-being.
  7. You are responsible for collecting your own packet, including bib number and timing device, at the Abbott Health & Fitness Expo during the scheduled hours of operation.
  8. It is important to acknowledge that there is an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19, that is beyond the control of Event Organizers. It’s understood that COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can result in severe illness and even death, especially for senior citizens and individuals with underlying medical conditions.

How Much Does It Cost To Enter The Chicago Marathon

The entry fee is a reflection of the resources and expenses needed to orchestrate a world-class marathon. 

Every dollar collected through the registration process is reinvested into enhancing the event and ensuring an exceptional experience for all participants.

  • For U.S. residents, which includes individuals living in any of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, or other U.S. territories, the fee is set at $230 (USD).
  • For non-U.S. residents, the fee is slightly higher at $240 (USD).

As part of the application process, you are required to provide your credit card information. If your application is approved, the entry fee will be processed automatically.

Make sure to use a credit card with an expiration date of December of the current year or later when completing the application.

N.B: Please be aware that a processing fee is applied to all entry fees. 

Now that you are familiar with the qualifying times and the associated entry costs for securing a spot in the Chicago Marathon, let’s look into the strategies that can help you improve your speed and reduce your race times.

Let’s dive in…

How To Improve My Running Speed And Decrease My Race Times

Before we cover how you can run faster, let’s first have a look you could be doing wrong…

8 Things You’re Doing Wrong That Are Affecting Your Running Speed

  1. Doing All Your Training Runs At The Same Pace
  2. Running Your Easy Runs Too Fast Or Too Hard
  3. Your Training Is Inconsistent
  4. How Much You Are Training
  5. Training Too Much
  6. Wrong Nutritional Intake 
  7. You Don’t Have The Physical Strength To Sustain The Running
  8. Not Getting Enough Good Quality Sleep

Doing All Your Training Runs At The Same Pace

Vary your training speeds instead of always running at the same pace. 

This is where the 80/20 rule comes in: spend about 80% of your training time doing easier, slower runs, and reserve only around 20% for faster, more intense runs.

If you consistently run at the same speed, your improvement might hit a wall. 

So, by changing up your training routine and following the 80/20 rule, you can keep making progress and become a better runner.

Running Your Easy Runs Too Fast Or Too Hard

The reason we recommend taking it easy during your easy runs is that when you run too hard, your muscles feel a lot of stress. 

This stress can cause more damage to your muscles, and it takes a longer time for your body to heal from it. This longer recovery time can affect how well you run in your next session.

By running at a comfortable pace, you still get all the good benefits for your body, but you recover faster for your next run. 

Here’s a tip: Slowing down your easy runs can actually help your body work better in terms of using energy and getting more fit (aerobic capacity).

When your body gets better at using energy, you can bounce back faster after a run. This also helps your body use fuel in a smarter way, making your running more efficient.

Your Training Is Inconsistent

Consistency plays a key role in how much you improve over time. 

Just like steadily putting money into a savings account, small efforts in your training build up to significant results. 

Imagine it as a fitness investment.

To really make progress, it’s important to stick to your training plan as closely as possible. This means not only giving your best during workout days but also understanding that rest is an essential part of the plan. 

In fact, proper rest and recovery are like their own training sessions – they’re that important!

So, aim for a consistent approach in your training. Just like tending to a garden little by little, your dedication over time will lead to lasting improvements in your fitness journey.

How Much You Are Training

The frequency of your training sessions plays a significant role.

When you run more frequently, your body’s aerobic capacity gets stronger. This improved aerobic capacity translates to an enhancement in your running speed over time.

It’s worth noting that there’s a delicate balance here. You want to strike the right chord between training sufficiently and not overdoing it. 

Pushing too hard can lead to burnout or injuries, which is why finding the optimal training level is essential for steady progress. 

Remember, a gradual and measured approach is often more effective in the long run.

Training Too Much

A common pitfall is overdoing the volume of your workouts. This can lead to a constant feeling of tiredness.

However, it’s important to shift away from this approach.

Not every training session directly boosts your fitness. Instead, it’s during the recovery period that your body adapts and gets better.

Here’s the key: The most beneficial workout is the one you recover from properly. That’s where the real progress happens. 

So, it’s not just about the intensity of the workout, but also about allowing your body enough time to recover and adapt. 

This cycle of challenging workouts followed by adequate recovery is what ultimately leads to improved fitness and performance.

Wrong Nutritional Intake

Understanding the importance of proper fueling is crucial. 

If you’re not providing enough fuel to your body or if you’re choosing the wrong types of food, it can seriously affect how well your body recovers and the energy you have for your training.

You need to make sure you’re eating enough of the right stuff. That means a balance of healthy fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and essential vitamins. 

But it’s not just about what you eat, it’s also about when you eat. 

Consuming these nutrients at the right times, especially in relation to your workouts, is like giving your body the perfect tools to perform well.

Find out when the correct time is to consume nutritious food in this video

You Don’t Have The Physical Strength To Sustain The Running.

Strength training is an absolute game-changer.

When you do any kind of exercise, especially running, your muscles need to work together by contracting. If they aren’t strong enough, you won’t be able to do this effectively, which can slow down your progress in becoming faster.

What’s really interesting is that studies have shown that incorporating strength training can have a significant impact on your running performance, potentially boosting it by up to 5%.

Making sure you do the correct strength training is important. The good news is we’ve created a free strength training plan for runners that you can download by clicking here.

Not Getting Enough Good Quality Sleep

We understand life can get pretty hectic, but consistent and adequate sleep is key. 

If you’re just getting a full 8 hours of sleep on one night of the week and then skimping on the rest, it won’t do much good. 

Instead, try to add 30-60 minutes more sleep each night compared to your usual routine, and aim to maintain this pattern as consistently as possible.

Here’s why it matters: Quality sleep is like magic for your body. It helps repair and build muscles, and it keeps your hormones in check. All of this has a direct impact on how well you perform when you’re out running.

Think of sleep as an essential part of your training routine. By taking care of your sleep, you’re giving your body the chance to perform at its best. 

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of how to fix slow running, let’s take a deeper dive into how you can rev up your speed!

4 Steps to Run Faster: Simple Tips for Better Performance

Step 1: Prioritize Recovery

It’s a common misconception that the benefits of exercise only happen while you’re active. 

In reality, the real magic happens during recovery. 

Getting fitter and faster doesn’t occur while you’re running; it’s the recovery time that matters.

Remember, it’s not about doing more all the time; it’s about how you recover. Neglecting recovery can leave you feeling tired and not refreshed, increasing your risk of injury.

How to Know if You’ve Recovered Enough:

  1. Check for stiffness or pain in your body. Muscle soreness can signal inadequate recovery.
  2. Monitor your resting heart rate every morning after you wake up and empty your bladder. Consistency is good; any increase over time might mean poor recovery.
  3. Consider using modern wearables like heart rate variability trackers. Monitoring your heart rate variability, especially while you sleep, can help you gauge your recovery status.

Step 2: Master Pacing

One of the biggest mistakes amateur athletes make is pushing too hard in every training session. 

To enhance your running, it’s crucial to slow down and run your slow and easy runs, as well as long runs, at the right pace.

Why is Pacing Important?

Proper pacing helps you stay in the right intensity “zone” for maximum efficiency. This is where your body becomes more effective, making you a better runner. 

The range of intensity is quite broad. On one end, you can opt for a faster pace, which brings more stress and load to your body. 

On the other end, you can choose a slower pace, resulting in significantly less stress on your body.

Maintaining the right pace during training is crucial because that’s when our body goes through the needed physiological changes. 

These changes happen in what we call “zones,” which are ranges of intensity. 

For instance, Zone 1 is usually for recovery, Zone 2 focuses on aerobic endurance, and Zone 3 relates to anaerobic threshold. When we talk about endurance training, we’re mainly concerned with Zone 2.

Now, within zone 2, there’s room for variation. You can aim for the upper end of Zone 2, but as you approach the boundary of Zone 3, you’re veering away from the intended workout and increasing the physical stress on your muscles. 

This results in more intense eccentric stress on your muscles. 

On the other hand, you can stick to the lower end of zone 2, which lessens the load of eccentric contraction and minimizes wear and tear on your body. 

Interestingly, choosing the lower end still grants you the same benefits as if you were pushing toward the upper end of the zone. 

It’s all about finding that balance for optimal gains.

How to Monitor Pacing

Use a simple tool – if you can comfortably chat with a running partner or even break into a song, you’re likely at the right pace. 

You should be able to breathe easily, have a light sweat, and feel like you could go a bit further.

Remember the 80/20 Rule:

The majority of your runs should be easy-paced, following the 80/20 principle. This way, the harder training sessions can truly be intense and effective.

Step 3: Strength Training 

I know this might sound repetitive, but trust us, Strength Training is a game-changer for your running journey.

Strength Training is like your running insurance against injuries.

Remember how running brings that repetitive strain to your muscles? Well, strength training is your ally here. 

It helps beef up the supporting structures around your joints, making those joints resilient and ready to handle the running load like a champ.

Strength training also amplifies your running performance.

Believe it or not, your running gets better even when you’re not running. How cool is that? It’s not a quick fix. Initially, it might make you a bit sore and take you out of your comfort zone. This is why not many people do strength training.

Now, when we say strength training, we’re talking about resistance training. 

It’s all about pushing your body against some form of resistance. This resistance can come from your body weight, weights, or those stretchy resistance bands.

Here’s a tip: Aim for one or two sessions of resistance training each week. That’s when you’ll notice the real running benefits stacking up.

Step 4: Consistency

Now, when we mention consistency, it’s not quite what you might initially think.

Take a moment to reflect on your running journey. Chances are, your best races have followed your most consistent training periods.

The kind of consistency we’re talking about here isn’t just about showing up every day. It’s about sticking to the right habits day in and day out, week after week, and month after month.

But here’s the key: To master this kind of consistency, you first have to follow the three steps we’ve covered correctly.

By getting these steps right, you set the stage for a series of successful training blocks. It’s like building on each past achievement to keep progressing.

Related: How To Run Faster Without Getting Tired


Shona is the former Head of Sport Science at the High-Performance Centre, University of Pretoria. She returned from Madrid, Spain, in 2013 where she completed her MBA in Sport Management with Universidad Europea de Madrid (Real Madrid FC). Shona’s current work and interest lies in endurance sport (running/triathlon) conditioning and sport science working with elite ultra-endurance athletes such as Caroline Wostmann (2015 Comrades & 2Oceans winner). Aside from football strength & conditioning, Shona’s other passion and expertise lies in endurance sport (running/triathlon) as well as Women in Sport. She has competed in 4 Half IronMan distance events and three 2Oceans Ultramarathons herself. She has also worked with other elite female athletes such as London 2012 bronze medallist in canoeing, Bridgitte Hartley.

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