1. Chicago Marathon
The marathon will take place this year on October 11. Presented by Bank of America, the event typically draws 1 million spectators, more than 33,000 runners, and $10 million for various causes.
2. Arlington Million
The annual Arlington Million—acknowledged as one of the world’s most prestigious horse races—draws around 32,000 visitors to the suburban racetrack each year. The event is broadcast on national television. This year’s race will be held in August.
3. Race to Mackinac
Now in its 101st year, the Race to Mackinac sees approximately 500 boats race from Navy Pier to Mackinac Island, Michigan. The Chicago Yacht Club presents the event, which it bills as the world’s longest freshwater race at 289.4 nautical miles. This year’s happening takes place July 18.
4. Bike the Drive
On May 24, some 20,000 bicyclists wheeled down Lake Shore Drive for Chicago’s annual (and aptly named) Bike the Drive. Each year the cyclists make their way down a 30-mile stretch that starts at 57th Street and ends at Hollywood Avenue.
5. Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure
More than 10,000 participants take part in Chicago’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. American Idol’s Kimberly Locke entertained the crowd last year, and the event raised $1.85 million. The 2009 race will take place in Grant Park on September 26.
6. AIDS Run & Walk Chicago
The 2009 AIDS Run & Walk, which covers a 5K route through Grant Park and benefits the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, is expected to draw more than 7,000 participants and raise more than $500,000. The event is set for October 3.
7. Run for Their Lives
Montrose Beach hosts the annual Run for Their Lives, an 8K run/4K walk, which benefits Pets Are Worth Saving. The 2008 event, one of the city’s largest pet-friendly happenings, attracted 3,000 participants, raised $450,000, and featured a post-race pet fashion show. This year’s race is scheduled for late September.
8. Law Enforcement Torch Run’s Polar Plunge
The 2009 Polar Plunge—in which sponsored athletes jump into frigid waters to benefit the Special Olympics—will take place February 27 to March 21 in 17 locations throughout the city and suburbs. Last year’s event drew 2,600 plungers and raised about $845,000.
9. Chicago Criterium
Launched in 2008, the Chicago Criterium is a series of bike races held in a closed-circuit loop marked by high-speed turns. The race will return to Grant Park on July 26 this year. It is expected to draw around 1,000 participants and 25,000 spectators.
10. Mayor Daley’s Holiday Sports Festival
The mayor’s gathering is scheduled to take place on December 27 and 28. The free-admission event, held at McCormick Place, features indoor climbing walls and skateboarding ramps, as well as table tennis and volleyball tournaments.