On Sunday, October 7, more than 35,000 runners will be lining up in Grant Park on the start line of the 43rd Chicago Marathon. The 2020 race was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, so for many runners, this has been a race they’ve been waiting a long time for.
If you’re local to the race, the runners wind through 29 neighborhoods, so the chances are they’ll be coming somewhere near you to go out and cheer from the sidewalk. If you’re not nearby, however, there’s still plenty of ways to track your runner from the comfort of your couch.
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The Chicago Marathon starts with the men’s wheelchair race at 7:20 a.m. CDT. The women’s wheelchair race starts at 7:21 a.m., then the mass participation waves begin from 7:30 a.m. You can’t spectate in Grant Park, which is near the start and finish lines, but spectators are allowed along the route, although race organizers are encouraging them to wear face masks.
How to track a runner at the Chicago Marathon
The easiest way to track a specific runner taking part in the Chicago Marathon is to download the official race app, which is available on iOS and Android for free. To track a runner, simply head to the tracking section of the app ‘tracking’ section of the app, where you will be able to search for them by name, or bib number. There is no limit to the number of spectators tracking one runner, so get the whole family involved.
To add a runner, click the plus (+) symbol above their bib number. It will then display a tick if you have added the runner successfully. On Sunday, you will be able to see your runner’s live progress on the course. The tracking will capture your runner's time every 5K, halfway, and when they cross the finish line.
From the app, you’ll be able to see your runner’s pace and splits, their expected finish time, and their expected finish time of day, based on when they started running. You’ll also be able to share their bib number with family and friends, view their race photos, and create a cheer card for your runner.
The app also has a number of other extras to keep you entertained on race day, including elite runner profiles, an interactive map, and weather updates.
If you accidentally add the wrong runner to your tracking, you can swipe left to delete them.
How to turn push notifications on or off
If you want to be updated with notifications about your runners’ progress through the 26.2-mile race, you can turn push notifications on in the settings section of the app. You can also customize which side of the screen the countdown widget sits, and change the three quick links on the app homepage.
Other ways to track Chicago Marathon runners
There's one drawback of the official Chicago Marathon app — with thousands of people using it on race day, it can sometimes be a little glitchy. There are other ways out there to track your runner, both by their running watch or fitness tracker and with certain running apps.
Firstly, if your runner is wearing a Garmin running watch, and carrying their smartphone, they can turn on Live Track via their Garmin Connect app on their phone. This allows runners to share their live location with friends and family via email, Facebook, or Twitter. The downside here is that it also relies on a phone GPS signal, so might be temperamental on race day and won't be an option for runners leaving their phone in their kit bag. The Garmin Forerunner 245 LTE also has live tracking, and can relay a runner's position without needing a phone.
If your runner has an Apple Watch SE or an Apple Watch Series 3 or later, they will be able to share their live location with you before setting off. To do this, they'll need to add you in the Find People app on the Apple Watch and tap share my location. Once they've chosen you as a friend, you'll be able to see their location for one hour, until the end of the day, or indefinitely (depending on which option they chose - we'd recommend the middle one). This too will require them to carry a smartphone with them, unless they have a cellular version of Apple's Watch.
Another app that works with most modern Garmin running watches and Apple Watches newer than the Apple Watch Series 3 is Strava Beacon. Strava Beacon allows runners to send a live tracking link to three different contacts. This is usually a safety feature on the app but comes in handy on race day — check out our full Strava app review here.