Running races are ideal opportunities to test your endurance, meet personal goals, and contribute to worthy causes. Illinois residents are fortunate to have several worthwhile marathons to participate in annually across the state. Here are our 17 favorite races.
What better way to raise funds to provide food, medical necessities, and shelter to animals than participate in the RunFurShelter 5K? The proceeds from this race also help purchase pet food for seniors who have difficulty feeding their pets. All levels of runners are welcome and special tie-dye t-shirts are provided to the first 100 participants who register.
If you’re looking for a scenic marathon in Illinois, Des Plaines River Trail Marathon is hard to beat. Situated along the beautiful Des Plaines River Trail, this special running course features a crushed gravel track on a flat terrain surrounded by lush forests and open wetlands. Run the half marathon, marathon, or 50-mile ultra marathon.
Known for its diverse course of lake front views and downtown Chicago culture, the Rock ‘N’ Roll 5K is a run that benefits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Participation supports the lifesaving work of this hospital, benefiting children with life-threatening illnesses. Participants receive a gear bag, t-shirt, finisher’s medal and certificate, and refreshments along the run. Live course entertainment and admission to the post-race concert are included for participants, as well.
The Quad Cities Marathon is a race benefiting two causes: Prostate cancer and children with life-threatening heart conditions. This 26.2-mile race is held in September each year and covers four cities, starting in downtown Moline. The flat course follows the Mississippi River for scenic river views.
One of the best-known marathons in southern Illinois is the Shawnee Marathon near Harrisburg. Held in October, this premier marathon is near the Shawnee National Forest and Garden of the Gods, making for a beautiful race in the fall. A full marathon and half marathon are available for runners.
If you’re bored of the traditional 5K races and not afraid to get dirty, the Mud Factor 5K Obstacle Run is worth attending. Held in Chicago, this ultra-fun obstacle run features water slides, mud crawls, huge wall climbs, and tunnels. Kids as young as four years old can participate and everyone receive prizes such as metals and bandanas.
The Screaming Pumpkin Marathon in Peoria is not just a race, but also a costume party. Featuring face painting, costume contests, and a spooky race, this marathon is a fall event worth checking out. Participants can run the 10K and marathon relay, then receive gifts such as t-shirts and medals for finishing.
Run through one of America’s most magnificent cities at the Bank of America Marathon. This marathon draws thousands of participants from all over the country and world each year, and has produced several world and national records. The flat course goes through nearly 30 Chicago neighborhoods and ends up in Grant Park.
Run for your favorite charity and give back to the community at the DuPage Human Race. This community event benefits over 70 non-profit local organizations to promote literacy, provide elderly services, support children’s programs, protect the environment, and other worthwhile causes. Cash and medals are awarded to female and male runners within various age groups.
Starved Rock Country Marathon is favorite in central Illinois. The course winds around the scenic Illinois River, through Ottawa neighborhoods, and into Starved Rock State Park. Runners can choose between the full or half marathon and take in views of rolling country hills and other natural wonders in the landscape.
Run for charities such as the National Kidney Foundation, Eastern Illinois Food Bank, or Breast Cancer Research Foundation when you participate in the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon. Choose from several races such as the marathon, half marathon, 10K, and 5K to name a few. All races start and end on the campus of the University of Illinois.
The Advocate Dreyer Fox Valley Marathon in St. Charles is an ideal race for first-time marathon runners. Located in suburban Chicagoland, this beautiful shaded course features three race destinations, frequent aid stations, and rewards for finishing. This marathon takes place in September when the weather is mild, and runners can participate in the marathon or half marathon.
The Foodie 5K is a race that help benefit the Northern Illinois Food Bank. For every dollar given, the food bank can give eight dollars of groceries to local families in need. Participants receive a long-sleeve shirt and two-dollar food truck voucher for after the run.
The Springfield Clinic presents an annual marathon on the country roads near Lake Springfield. Runners can also take on a Capital Challenge (Full, Half, or Mini) and receive the Capital Challenge Medal. Participants can experience the fall foliage around Lake Springfield and then take home several goodies.
Run through historic Peoria neighborhoods, fundraise for your favorite cause, and party afterwards at the PNC Bank Peoria Marathon. This 26.2-mile marathon finishes in the Carver arena, where the post-race party is held. Participants also receive a medal, t-shirt, and gear check.
The Insane Inflatable 5K is more about having fun than a monotonous running race. The entire course is on gigantic inflatable obstacles that have you sliding, jumping, and falling through the unique terrain. The focus of this un-timed 5K is having a great time with family and friends rather than competing with others.
With the theme of health and fitness, Presence Health Illinois 5K is part of a weekend event that includes the Health & Fitness Expo and several other races. The 5K course goes through the campus and loops around Urbana and into Champaign. Participants of the 5K are provided a goody bag and race shirt.