2020 remains an unpredictable year, and many of Chicago’s anticipated large-scale events were postponed, ultimately canceled, or reimagined to fit the needs of our current climate. The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is considered the 4th largest marathon in the city. This year the marathon focused its attention on creating a virtual experience. We spoke to Race Director Carey Pinkowski, Jahmal Cole, founder of My Block, My Hood, My City, and cardio enthusiast about the changes runners and supporters can expect this year.
Chicago Defender: As the director, what led the committee to turn the traditional run into a weeklong virtual event?
Carey Pinkowski: The decision to cancel the 2020 Bank of America Chicago Marathon and all race weekend activities was made in partnership with the City of Chicago in July. When we knew the event could not move forward as planned, our team set out to create a virtual experience for everyone who would have taken part in the in-person event.
CD: What creative measures has BOA taken to engage people virtually?
CP: We’re offering a virtual marathon for those who had signed up for the in-person race, but also making shorter distances from the mile to the half marathon available for free for everyone from novice runners to veteran marathoners.
Outside of the run, we are encouraging everyone to cheer on runners virtually, support event charity partners, and share stories that highlight the individuals and communities that have made the Chicago Marathon the event it is today.
We are hoping to bring the spirit and celebration of the Chicago Marathon to runners around the world!
CD: What exactly will happen each day of the event?
CP: Throughout the week, Bank of America Chicago Marathon Virtual Experience participants will be completing runs in their communities worldwide. Runners can download a personalized event bib number and their official finish tape to run through on the event website.
We are also excited to debut the Abbott Health & Fitness Virtual Expo. Much like our in-person Expo, the virtual marketplace will feature more than 25 exhibitors, offering everyone the opportunity to explore the latest in running footwear, apparel, nutrition, and technology.
The Abbott Health & Fitness Virtual Expo will also have daily programming that features familiar faces, including some elite athletes and everyday runners.
CD: What are some of the difficulties and triumphs of planning a virtual event?
CP: The triumph is knowing runners are planning to bring the spirit of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon to life in every corner of the world. Their commitment is a reminder that the impact of the event reaches far beyond Chicago.
The difficulty is the heartbreak of not being able to host the in-person event. I have had the honor of being the Executive Race Director of the Chicago Marathon for more than 30 years. The race is a tradition runners around the world. While we cannot replace the experience, we are grateful that we can virtually remain connected with our runners.
Chicago Defender: How does participating in this panel align with your mission to bridge gaps between Chicago communities?
Jahmal Cole: We are all about bringing in’s Chicagoans together. The greatest asset that this city has is its diversity. When you come to volunteer with My Block My Hood My City, you have the opportunity to spend a Saturday morning with families from all over the city. Running can and does have that same effect.
CD: How can runs for health and wellness become more accessible to all Chicagoans?
JC: We have to do more than people expect. We started a run club called “Blockfit Running Club,” where we meet up and run in different neighborhoods every weekend. Its simple groups like that that can create a community centered around fitness. There is no need for expensive sign-up or exclusivity; let us organize and get people involved.
CD: What advice would you give people interested in improving their health and wellness with running, but are afraid/lack resources to start?
JC: Start with the simple things because it helps you develop the muscle it takes to take on bigger challenges. If you start walking your block, then gradually push yourself to a jog; trust me, you will get there. I believe that one’s own home and community is the perfect place to start. When you wake up and start your day with a jog around your neighborhood, it will be the first victory of the day!
For more information on how to support this year’s run or participate virtually, visit https://www.chicagomarathon.com/