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Chicago Marathon runners may notice some course changes this year

Chicago Marathon runners might notice small tweaks to the course in 2022
Chicago Marathon runners might notice small tweaks to the course in 2022 02:05

CHICAGO (CBS) – Let the stretching and carbo-loading begin.

Chicago Marathon runners are lacing up and getting ready to head out for their big race on Sunday.

Bib-pickup began on Thursday for a run that CBS 2's Lauren Victory learned will look different this year in more ways than one.

Organizers said they're always making tweaks to the course. One of the big changes this year includes participants running down Wentworth, all the way until 33rd Street. Racers are cutting east and heading down 26th street to Michigan Avenue.

Previously, cruising down Wentworth took runners along the Dan Ryan. They'd pass under viaducts in an area that often struggled to attract spectators.

"That was probably the most challenging part of the marathon where you start thinking and your head gets into it," said second-time marathoner Dana Leonard, who is raising money for breast cancer research. "It was really quiet, the fans were kind of spaced out."

This year, the path takes racers down Michigan Avenue in Bronzeville.

Organizers said they felt it was more aesthetically pleasing to both the runners and fans with a nice view of trees, a park and some homes and businesses.

The route change is welcome news to the family that owns Lisa's Tea Shop on Wentworth. For years, the street in front of their business was shut down for hours because of the race.

"We do have a parking spot," said Phillip Dai, the corporation owner of Lisa Herbal. "By closing the streets, no cars can come in so this way it does have more access to people."

Other changes to the course include a stretch along Wacker to eliminate a bit of an incline runners used to encounter near the river.

Repeat racers may also notice a small tweak in Pilsen that had to be made to keep the distance an accurate 26.2 miles.

Chicago Marathon allows runners to register as non-binary for first time 02:55

Another less obvious change: the ability for racers to register as non-binary. That means they don't have to compete as female or male.

"It just allows me to focus on my race and focus on my relationship with running as opposed to considering all these other factors around genders," said Cal Calamia, a non-binary runner from Grayslake.

Calamia is both encouraged and disappointed with the new non-binary option. We asked Chicago Marathon Executive Director Carey Pinkowski why the change wasn't better publicized.

Victory: "What's your response to criticism that the addition of the non-binary division was done too quietly?"

Pinkowski: "Well, I think it's our first year. I mean, it's a process."

Pinkowski promised conversations about inclusivity will continue for future races.

"Five years from now, people are going to say, 'Wow, this is amazing. Remember the first year we did it?' And now look where we are," he said.

Calamia hopes that progress involves a separate category of race results for non-binary competitors. Such a category won't be used for the race this year.

"For me, it's about the feeling of, I cross the finish line and I'm like, 'What place did I get?'" Calamia said.

CBS 2 was told non-binary runners will be acknowledged for awards if they win within their age division.

Another change along the course: cheer zones are back. Marathon organizers are expecting spectator levels to be closer to pre-pandemic levels.

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