CHICAGO, Sept. 30 /PRNewswire/ — In preparation of its 31st running, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon has unveiled its plans for the 2008 race to be held on Sunday, Oct. 12. With the arrival of new title sponsor Bank of America and its long-term vision for the race, a new theme, several improvements and new programs will be introduced to enhance the event experience for runners, spectators and the greater Chicago community.

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Since assuming the title sponsorship of the Chicago Marathon following its completed acquisition of LaSalle Bank, Bank of America has set its focus on continuing the race's steeped tradition, offering the very best running experience to participants and giving back to the community that has generously supported the race for three decades. This commitment is reflected in the 2008 race theme, 29 Neighborhoods, 1 World Class Race, which acknowledges the vibrancy of Chicago's rich neighborhoods and the people who support every runner along his or her marathon journey.

"Our support in producing the Bank of America Chicago Marathon mirrors the same principles that we apply to our daily business practices," said Bank of America Illinois Market President David Rudis. "Participants of the Marathon commit to months of preparation, so we show the same commitment to them by working diligently with our city partners and all 29 neighborhoods to produce a world-class race. It was with that end goal in mind that we focused our efforts for the 2008 event."

Strengthening the Runner Experience

The 45,000 registered participants will benefit directly from the operational improvements made to the 2008 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Race organizers have initiated a significant number of modifications focused on increasing supplies and participant support and enhancing advance and on-site communications to both runners and volunteers.

An increased number of 20 Aid Stations will dot the course spaced approximately 1 to 2 miles apart, compared to 15 Aid Stations in 2007. Each Aid Station will be equipped with licensed medical professionals and equipment, hydration supplies including Hinckley Springs(R) water and Gatorade(R), and restroom facilities. An additional medical tent will be located near the 26-mile mark while the main medical tent remains near the finish line.

As a leader in the marathon industry and as part of the World Marathon Majors Series, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is taking full advantage of the opportunity to serve as an educational leader for runners. Recognizing that approximately 40 percent of its running field consists of first-time marathoners, the Chicago Marathon has increased its efforts not only to help prepare them for a marathon distance, but for the Chicago race specifically.

Through the registration process, electronic and print communications, speaking engagements and its partnership with local broadcaster NBC5, the Marathon has educated participants throughout the year on the vital importance of complete training for an endurance race. A proper marathon training regime includes everything from completing a physical and obtaining the consent of a physician to committing to a proven marathon training program to familiarizing oneself to the sport of road racing and specifically the procedures and design of the Chicago Marathon.

Operationally, organizers of the race have made several enhancements and additions to the way it will function on race day in order to provide the maximum amount of support to runners. The most innovative and visual result has been the introduction of a first-of-its-kind Event Alert System (EAS). Designed to provide runners, spectators and volunteers with the most up-to-date course conditions, the EAS indicates the anticipated course conditions via a color reading during the week leading up to the race and on race day.

Ranging from Low (green) to Moderate (yellow) to High (red) to Extreme (black), the EAS reading is communicated in advance of the race via Web site, electronic communications and at the two-day Bank of America Health & Fitness Expo where all participants must pick up race day essentials. On race day, visual and audio communication channels will continue to depict the current course conditions in Grant Park where the race's start and finish are staged and at each of the 20 Aid Stations along the 26.2-mile course.

In addition to the EAS color-coded reading, a series of preparation tips from the race Medical Director will inform runners on how to prepare for the conditions of the day whether they be warm, cold, moderate, wet or windy.

"We learned a lot from the experience of the 2007 race," said Executive Race Director Carey Pinkowski of Chicago Event Management, now in his 19th year overseeing the event. "The improvements and additions for 2008 will strengthen this race by providing a stronger runner support system and offering insight to our road racing peers who can benefit from our experience and the new practices that we are putting into place."

Once runners have met their finish line goals, Bank of America has organized a celebration worthy of those accomplishments. Just beyond the finish line in Butler Field (Jackson Blvd. and Columbus Dr.) the Bank of America 27th Mile post-race party will welcome runners, their families and friends for an afternoon of live music, food and beverages from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Enhancing the Spectator Experience

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon annually draws approximately 1.5 million spectators to the course. New for spectators in 2008 are several course locations that will provide support for cheering and viewing the race, while also celebrating Chicago's rich ethnic heritage.

Title sponsor Bank of America will host four Cheer Zones for spectators on the north, west and south sides of the course in Lakeview East, Old Town, West Loop Gate and Chinatown. Each Cheer Zone will distribute thunder sticks and rally cards to support cheering efforts while offering music and restroom facilities to provide a comfortable and entertaining atmosphere. Event sponsors Nike(R) and Energizer(R) will also organize festive areas for spectators while 10 McDonald's restaurants will serve as Runner Update Centers where fans can receive up-to-date information on their favorite runners' locations via the electronic timing system.

Bank of America customers are entitled to VIP treatment in the way of finish line seating and a premium seating area at the Bank of America 27th Mile. By visiting the Bank of America Customer Appreciation Zone at the Health & Fitness Expo (Friday, Oct. 10 and Saturday, Oct. 11), bank customers will receive access to the finish line seating area, entry to the 27th Mile VIP area and an all-day CTA pass good for getting around the race course to cheer on runners, including the Bank of America Cheer Zones and finish line area.

For the spectators at home, the race will be broadcast live on NBC5 and online at For improved viewing of the championship race, the elite athletes will start five minutes in advance of the mass field for the first time in race history. Race day competition will begin with the wheelchair and hand cycle divisions at 7:50 a.m. followed by the elites at 7:55 a.m. and the open field at 8 a.m.

Impacting the Community Experience

Giving back to the community that graciously and enthusiastically embraces the race each fall is a priority for organizers of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Through their participation in the Marathon, more than 110 non-profit organizations are organizing teams with goals to eclipse $12 million in funds raised for a variety of community causes. With less than a month until race day, participating charities have recruited more than 6,800 runners to fundraise on behalf of their causes with that number expected to grow in the next few weeks.

As a special tribute to U.S. military veterans, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon will host a small field of veterans wounded in the line of duty as they compete in a first-ever hand cycle division. While the Chicago Marathon has long featured a field of competitive push rim wheelchair athletes, this is the first time it will introduce hand cycles as a special service to the wounded men and women of the U.S. military.

By educating and encouraging health and fitness among Chicago's youth, the race will continue its efforts with the Chicago Park District by sponsoring the Cross Country CityWide Championships. Three regional competitions are currently underway this month set to conclude with a championship competition on Saturday, Oct. 11, one day before the Marathon, at Chicago's Burnham Park. Initial plans are also underway to develop an expanded youth running program in 2009 with support from Bank of America.

Bank of America Chicago Marathon

The 2008 Bank of America Chicago Marathon will start and finish in Chicago's Grant Park beginning with the wheelchair race at 7:50 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 12. Registration opened to the public on Feb. 1 and closed in record time on April 23 when the participant capacity of 45,000 was reached. In advance of the race, a two-day Health & Fitness Expo will be held at McCormick Place on Friday, Oct. 10 and Saturday, Oct. 11. In its 31st year, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon annually attracts 45,000 runners, 1.5 million spectators and 125,000 Expo visitors and generates more than $10 million for affiliated charities. The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is one of the five races that comprise the World Marathon Majors. More information on the race and how to get involved is available at

Bank of America

Bank of America is one of the world's largest financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small and middle market businesses and large corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management and other financial and risk-management products and services. The company provides unmatched convenience in the United States, serving more than 59 million consumer and small business relationships with more than 6,100 retail banking offices, more than 18,500 ATMs and award-winning online banking with more than 25 million active users. Bank of America offers industry leading support to more than 4 million small business owners through a suite of innovative, easy-to-use online products and services. The company serves clients in more than 150 countries and has relationships with 99 percent of the U.S. Fortune 500 companies and 83 percent of the Fortune Global 500. Bank of America Corporation stock (NYSE: BAC) is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.


SOURCE Bank of America