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Researching the Chicago Marathon


The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is fast approaching. On October 9th, 2016, I’ll not only participate in my fourth marathon, but I’ll also be visiting Chicago for the first time. As a racer, I have pored over the current course map. As a researcher, I wanted to learn more about Chicago and the history of its marathon. The information on the marathon’s website is a great starting point, but the research materials at The New York Public Library have helped me appreciate the city and its race.

Most runners who are interested in or will run the Chicago Marathon have two main resources to read: One is the Chicago Marathon website where runners register, and the other is the World Marathon Majors' website, since the Chicago Marathon is one of the six World Marathon Majors—joining the Tokyo, London, Boston, Berlin, and NYC marathons as one of the largest and most renowned races in the world.

Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division

Research map items from the Map Division.
Research items from the Map Division.


I’ve discovered almost every inch of NYC by running 70 miles per week training for the Chicago Marathon; I practically memorized the course map for the NYC marathon. But studying the course map for the Chicago Marathon is difficult because it’s hard to visualize a place I have not been to before. Besides studying the current course map, I was interested to see what maps and places of interest I could find from the time of the first Chicago Marathon. I researched “maps chicago 1970s 1977” in the NYPL catalog since the first Chicago Marathon, known back then as the Mayor Daley Marathon, was held on September 25th, 1977. I limited my search to maps and found the following items in the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division.

Chicago & Vicinity circa 1978
Chicago & Vicinity circa 1978
Call Number 80-3253

The first map I looked at was from Chicago & Vicinity circa 1978. What was exciting about this map was the “What to See in Chicago and Vicinity” section that outline places of interest to visit. There were lots of places to check out back then, such as the McCormick Place-On-The-Lake which, in 1978, was “the city’s new exposition center, which replaces the former building destroyed by fire…”, the Shedd Aquarium, or the Field Museum of Natural History.

What to see In Chicago and Vicinity
What to see in Chicago and Vicinity
Chicago & Vicinity circa 1978
Call Number 80-3253


Chicago & Vicinity circa 1978
Chicago & Vicinity circa 1978
Call Number 80-3253

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), beginning operation in 1974, was still in its early stages during the first Chicago Marathon. This map of the RTA system from 1978 was helpful to see the commuting lines and how marathoners back then commuted back home or the the airport after the marathon. Not much has changed from the current current RTA map.

Map from the Regional Transportation Authority
RTA Chicago circa 1978
Call Number 82-3045

The final resource I discovered was from Cushman & Wakefield, a real estate company, with information about buildings and areas of interest for planning construction. It provided information about the Sears tower and how it would be completed by 1974 (actually completed in 1973), information about the Mid-Continental Plaza, and information on the John Hancock Center. On the back of this item was a map of current, new, and proposed office buildings.

Cushman and Wakefield poster
Cushman & Wakefield in Chicago, 1970
Call Number 95-337
Cushman and Wakefield map
Cushman & Wakefield in Chicago, 1970
Call Number 95-337

Articles & Databases

Articles & Databases offers thousands of research materials. I was interested to see if I could find any newspaper articles about the first Chicago Marathon, or the Mayor Daley Marathon as it was known back then. I checked the Proquest Historical Newspapers database, accessible at NYPL branches, and found “First Daley Marathon Shows a Dash of Politics” by William Robbins from the New York Times. The article was written on September 26th, 1977 and mentioned Dan Cloeter, the 25-year-old winner with a time of 2 hours 17 minutes 52 seconds, and the other 5000 runners who participated in the marathon. The focus, however, was on the political atmosphere in Chicago at the time. Richard J. Daley served as mayor of Chicago for 21 years until his death in office in 1976. Daley’s “unabashed joy and pride in Chicago” was one reason why the first marathon was named the Daley Marathon.

General Research Division

After reading the New York Times article I wanted to learn more about Mayor Richard J. Daley. There are many books about Daley and the Chicago Marathon at NYPL, but the following two items are from the General Research Division.

American Pharaoh
American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley His Battle for Chicago and the Nation by Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor
Call Number JFE 00-8182


The Chicago Marathon
The Chicago Marathon by Andrew Suozzo
Call Number JFE 06-12551

I got a chance to check out and read a few passages from The Chicago Marathon and found the historic information fascinating: Andrew Suozzo covers the history of the Chicago Marathon starting from its grassroots foundation from local clubs and the initial political obstacle it faced. Later, the focus shifts from Mayor Bilandic honoring the first marathon to the late Mayor Daley, to the stories behind the elite male and female runners who broke world records on the course.










The Library offers many more resources than what I listed above, and I encourage anyone interested in finding out more information about the Chicago Marathon, or any marathon, to research and talk to librarians. Knowing more about the history of Chicago and the Chicago Marathon gives me a better appreciation for the upcoming race. Afterwards, I’ll make sure to make a stop at one of the Chicago Public Library’s branches as well.

Public Library, Chicago, Ill.
Public Library, Chicago, Ill.
NYPL Digital Collections


Works Cited

By WILLIAM ROBBINS Special to The New York Times. "First Daley Marathon shows a Dash of Politics." New York Times (1923-Current file), New York, N.Y., 1977.,

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. "Public Library, Chicago, Ill." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1898 - 1931.


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