1. Bank of America Chicago Marathon
Around 45,000 participants from more than 100 countries are expected to register for the October 10 run, which follows a flat, 26.2-mile course through the city and draws 1.5 million spectators. Brands such as Energizer, Nike, and PowerBar sponsor “cheer zones” at key points throughout the race. The marathon is broadcast live on TV and radio, and online.
2. Arlington Million
Arlington Park, a Churchill Downs Company, hosts this event—reportedly the world’s first horse race to offer a million-dollar prize. Some 32,000 guests typically attend the prestigious affair, which is broadcast on national television and attracts sponsors such as Miller. The 2010 race is scheduled for August 21.
3. Bike the Drive
A fund-raiser for the Active Transportation Alliance, Bike the Drive will take place May 30. The morning event lets 20,000 cyclists pedal down a car-free 15-mile stretch of Lake Shore Drive. At this year’s post-ride festival, guests will find a pancake buffet, live entertainment, and family-friendly activities.
4. Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure
With backers such as Yoplait, Ford, and Re/Max, this year’s race will draw about 15,000 runners to Grant Park on September 25. In Lombard, an inaugural sister race will take place simultaneously and is expected to attract as many as 5,000 participants.
5. Mayor Daley’s Holiday Sports Festival
The Mayor’s Office of Special Events and Blue Cross and Blue Shield present this family-friendly happening, which began as a basketball tournament in 2000 and has expanded to include new activities each year. Held last year on December 27 and 28, the free-admission fest at McCormick Place offered chess tournaments, a Pepsi-sponsored dance party, and an appearance from astronaut Robert Satcher. Around 3,000 guests attended each day.
6. AIDS Run & Walk Chicago
Put on by the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, this year’s sporty benefit will cover a 5K route through Grant Park on October 2. The event typically draws some 7,000 participants and includes a Health and Fitness Village hosted by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
7. Law Enforcement Torch Run’s Polar Plunge
To participate in the Polar Plunge, an event that sees athletes jump into frigid waters to benefit the Special Olympics, each registrant must raise at least $75. Last year’s chilly gathering drew 3,600 divers, up from 2,600 in 2008. With Geico as a presenting sponsor, this year’s chilly festivities took place February 26 to March 20, in 17 locations throughout the city and suburbs.
8. Race to Mackinac
The Chicago Yacht Club presents the world’s largest freshwater race, in which 500 boats sail from Navy Pier to Michigan’s Mackinac Island. Now in its 102nd year, the event draws sponsors such as Lands’ End and Mount Gay Rum. This year’s race will take place in July.
9. Pets Are Worth Saving’s Run for Their Lives
One of the city’s largest animal-friendly affairs, this 8K run/4K walk lures about 3,000 dog lovers to Montrose Harbor each September. Highlights have included a Canine Carnival with doggie massages, an animal communicator, and a Howl-O-Ween contest for costumed pets.