CHICAGO - Organizers of the 42nd Chicago Marathon rolled out the red carpet Thursday for the thousands of runners who are beginning to roll into the city for this weekend's race, including a group of men who have competed in every single Chicago Marathon since 1977.
Crews continue to set the stage in Grant Park, erecting fences and bleachers for Sunday’s running of the 42nd annual Chicago Marathon.
The numbers are staggering: 45,000 runners from over 100 countries and all 50 states, 1.7 million spectators and an economic impact for the city estimated at more than $370-million dollars.
"It's spread across the city. It benefits the tourism sector, hotels, the food industry, all the Chicago businesses...and it's not just downtown,” said Paul Lambert.
This year's marathon will follow a familiar route, starting in Grant Park, north to Boystown, south on Damen past the United Center, then winding through Pilsen, Chinatown and Bronzeville before ending where it started.
Race director Carey Pinkowski says there is a lot on the line this year.
"It's an Olympic year. We have a lot of athletes that are coming from around the world that are looking for an Olympic qualifying time. So there's definitely some races within the race,” Pinkowski said.
Ron Williams, George Mueller, Henry Kozlowski and Randy Burke have run every single Chicago Marathon since it started in 1977 –- 41 in total -- and they'll be running again on Sunday.
"It's become our life. It's a big part of our life every year and we plan around it,” Mueller said.
"It's kind of keeping me from turning into a couch potato,” Kozlowski said.
Parking along the route will be banned and cars will be towed starting at 1 a.m. Sunday morning. Then, all the streets on the course will be shut down at 7 a.m.