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Chicago River Swim

Sunday, September 22, 2024

Participant Experience


— NOBODY ALIVE TODAY HAS EXPERIENCED WHAT YOU'RE ABOUT TO DO

Get ready. You're about to be the center of attention for thousands of onlookers!

The Chicago River Swim will offer a small group of athletes a once-in-a-lifetime experience to swim among Chicago’s famous skyscrapers and under its iconic bridges. The mile-long, looped course will be entirely set along the newly-rebuilt Chicago Riverwalk, with an epic finish at the River Theater under the Clark Street Bridge. More detail is included below.


APPLICATION PROCESS
| APRIL 2 - APRIL 28
Due to anticipated demand, a special application process is now open set the field of 500 swimmers (review Applicant Requirements). Applications will close Sunday, April 28 at 11:59 PM CT. Applications will be reviewed and a drawing process will be held in early May. Submitting multiple applications will not increase chances of gaining entry. Duplicate applications will be screened.


PARTICIPANT SELECTION
| MAY 6 - MAY 12
Selected participants will be notified of their entry via email the week of May 6. Those selected to participate will have 72 hours to complete an additional registration process, pay the registration fee (including a US Master Swim license if necessary), agree to fundraise on behalf of ALS, and agree to attend the mandatory Packet Pick-Up and Athlete Briefing on event weekend. After 72 hours, additional names will be drawn to replace unresponsive selectees. This process will continue until the field of 500 swimmers is filled. 


PREPARATION PHASE | MAY 13 - SEPTEMBER 19
Once the 500 swimmers are enrolled, fundraising support will begin. Staff will guide participants to create their fundraising pages and provide tools to hit their goals. Participants are responsible for fundraising either $1,500 (2-mile swim) or $1,000 (1-mile swim) by September 8 to support collaborative ALS research at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and local learn-to-swim initiatives.

Additionally, participants will be introduced to local swim coaches and training opportunities through Open Water Swim CHICAGO to physically prepare and build community as the big weekend draws near.


PACKET PICK-UP
| SEPTEMBER 20-21
On Friday or Saturday of event weekend, all swimmers must visit Packet Pick-Up at the Westin River North, as well as attend a mandatory Athlete Briefing. Swim caps, timing chips, and personal swim buoys will be issued, along with an amazing swag bag (including a plush bathrobe, pictured at right). Tours of the event venue will be provided.


THE CHICAGO RIVER SWIM
| SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 22
Early on Sunday, September 22, all participants will report to the Finish Venue on the Riverwalk, check-in aboard an 84' Wendella vessel, grab a snack, use the restrooms, check any non-swim gear, listen to final safety instructions, and queue-up for the start of their swim.

Long Course: The 250 long-course swimmers will be staged in one of five start waves, predetermined by estimated pace. The first wave of 50 participants will cross a timing mat, enter the water (feet first), advance 70 feet to the swim start buoys, and release on a starter’s horn. Once the first group begins, the next wave will enter the water and repeat the process. Waves will begin every 3 minutes. The final wave will begin at 6:57 AM. All swimmers must complete their event by 9:00 AM or risk being pulled from the water.

Upon their start, swimmers will proceed east and make their way to the first turnaround beyond the State Street Bridge. Swimmers will then head west to the second turnaround point at Wolf Point. Swimmers will follow normal rules of traffic, staying to the right of the buoy line (buoys will be on their left) through the entire course. Kayaks, paddle boards, and other watercraft will ensure swimmers remain on course and provide aid as needed.

Like other open water swims or triathlons, participants are allowed to take small breaks along the way, but must continue to make forward progress or will be pulled from the event. Lifeguard boats, kayaks, SUPs, jet skis, and other watercraft will patrol the entire waterway while land-based spotters watch from above.

The long-course swimmers will complete two full loops before passing by the River Theater and finishing under the Clark Street Bridge. From there, event staff will direct them to the Swim Exit area near the Tiny Tapp. Finish hydration, towels, snacks, fresh water showers, and medical support will be provided at the Swim Exit area. Participants will return to the Wendella vessel to retrieve their personal belongings. Private security will control access points between the Swim Exit and the Wendella vessel.

Short Course: While the long-course swimmers are in the water, the 250 short-course swimmers will check-in aboard the same Wendella vessel docked near the City Winery. Participants will grab a snack, use the restrooms, and check their non-swim gear. Because the Swim Exit area (near Tiny Tapp) will be in use by the long course swimmers, the short course swimmers will remain on-board and start their event directly from the vessel’s starboard side. A final safety briefing will be hosted prior to the start.

Due to space limitations, the short-course athletes will begin in a time-trial format. Two swimmers will approach a doorway on the lower deck, cross a timing mat, and jump (feet first) 3 feet into the water. This process will repeat every ~5 seconds. The final short-course swimmers will enter the water by 8:15 AM. All swimmers must complete their event by 9:00 AM or risk being pulled from the water.

Short-course swimmers will proceed 70 feet north, then turn right (east) to enter the main section of the course. They will complete one full loop before passing by the River Theater and finishing under the Clark Street Bridge. From there, event staff will direct them to the Swim Exit area in front of the Tiny Tapp. Finish hydration, towels, snacks, fresh water showers, and medical support will be provided at the Swim Exit area. Participants will return to the Wendella vessel to retrieve their personal belongings. Private security will control access points between the Swim Exit and the Wendella vessel.


FINISH FESTIVAL
| SUNDAY, SEP 22: 7:00 AM - 1:00 PM

After finishing their swim, swimmers can join fellow participants and admiring fans for the Finish Festival on Chicago’s famous Riverwalk. The Finish Festival will include lively music, special guest appearances, an awards ceremony, and other promotional opportunities. Finisher swag, food, adult beverages, and swim results will be available throughout the morning.

Spectators are encouraged to view the Chicago River Swim from pre-determined Spectating Zones or the expansive River Theater, located between the LaSalle Street and Clark Street Bridges. More spectator details are forthcoming.

The Finish Festival will conclude at 1:00 PM.

 

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