December 28 to May 1, 2021

The Chicago Area Runners Association, CARA, is a non-profit organization committed to serving and advocating for the local running community. We are Chicagoland’s running club, providing accessible opportunities for all runners to train, race, learn, be social and volunteer. 

CARA, with over 10,000 members, is the nation’s third-largest running club, serving as the voice of local runners, as well as providing over 1,300 dates of programming and events per year. Learn more at


Winter months can be challenging, but CARA's "Power of the Group" will provide you the support, community, and accountability you need to successfully run through the winter, and reach your next start line ready to race.

As Chicago's premier group training program, we have helped tens of thousands of runners successfully complete their goals. Whether you're a newcomer or experienced runner, our program provides training plans that meet you where you're at.

You will never have to go it alone. Your pace group leaders and fellow participants will give you the Power of the Group that has led CARA runners to the finish line more than any other program in Chicagoland running.

Your training program is led by CARA coaches who have national certifications and years of proven coaching success long before we bring them into CARA.​

With winter and spring races uncertain, CARA training program runners will have the opportunity to run a 13.1 mile or 26.2 timed run at the end of the season.

Program Benefits:

  • 18-Week Training Plan with Half-Marathon and Marathon options

  • Group Training Long Runs and Track Workouts

  • NovaCare Injury Hotline

  • Winter Training Apparel Item

  • End of Season Timed Half-Marathon and Marathon



Gain security and enjoy camaraderie with our group long runs and track workouts.

  • Group Long Runs:

    • Long runs are led by friendly, knowledgeable, and experienced CARA Group Leaders, providing you pacing, and so much more!

    • We offer groups at each 30-second pace interval, from 7:30 to 11:30 mins/mile, plus 12:00 Run/Walk, 12:30 Run/Walk and 13:00 Run/Walk.​

  • Track Workouts:​

    • Track workouts are led by expert coaches there to guide and encourage you through your training. Workouts meet at local tracks or paved trails.

  • Hydration Support:​

    • Long runs and track workouts are supported by hydration stations serving Gatorade Endurance and water.

  • NovaCare Hotline:

    • Injuries don't need to derail your training. Gain access to CARA's exclusive Injury Hotline with Novacare Physical Therapist ready to support your injury questions.


Group Long Runs:​

*Morton Arb in Lisle requires a Morton Arb membership or a daily access fee to enter. CARA offers a subsidized Morton 1 annual membership to training program runners training at the Morton Arb for $35 (regularly $60). Membership may be purchased with training program registration.


Track Workouts:​

CARA provides runners around the world the opportunity enjoy the CARA training program through its virtual program. 

Learn more HERE.



CARA Director of Training and Head Coach Tim Bradley provides an 18-week training plan. Winter training program runners can choose between a Half-Marathon Plan or Marathon Plan:

  • Half-Marathon Options: Novice, Novice-II, Advanced, and Run/Walk

  • Marathon Options: Novice, Novice-II, Intermediate, Advanced, and Run/Walk


Training plans will be provided through our weekly info-packed e-newsletters, our private STRAVA group, and within our signature digital training guide. Program runners will also receive an included six-week pre-season training plan and guide.

CARA has a proven record of serving beginning runners, and long-time runners alike. Before starting our Novice Plan, we recommend that you can accomplish the following:

  • Half-Marathon Training: Able to complete 3-4 runs per week, including at least one of 4 miles.

  • Marathon Training: Able to complete 4 runs per week, including at least one of 6 miles.


CARA training will support you as you train for the target race of your choice, but with so many races being uncertain at this time, CARA will provide training program runners with an end of season timed 13.1-mile and 26.2-mile opportunity for you to accomplish the program goal no matter what! 


Each training site will have their own end of season run with an accurate course, course support, medical support, hydration, and timed results. Each training site will complete their end of season run on a separate date to allow for each to receive full-support.

  • Lincoln Park / Diversey Harbor (Chicago) - Saturday, May 1

  • Morton Arboretum (Lisle) - Sunday, May 2

Details may be adjusted as the end of season approaches. CARA reserves the right to combine training groups to a single location for end of season runs if participation levels are at a level where one location would provide the best experience.


Registration Fees

  • $160 - Non-Members

  • $136 - 2021 CARA Supporter Level Members (Save 15%)​


Fees include all program amenities, including the exclusive end of season 13.1 mile and 26.2-mile run.


COVID-19 Safety

CARA has extensive operational preparedness plans to meet all safety and gathering guidelines provided by state and local authorities. Our plans have been widely accepted and were adopted by the Road Runners Clubs of America as a national framework for a return to group running during COVID-19.

Participation expectations will be as follows:

  • Do not participate if you are feeling sick or ill, and or have a fever, or if you have been in contact with someone unrecovered from COVID-19.

  • Persons from high-risk groups for COVID-19 complications should consult their physician before participating.

  • Do not engage in traditional forms of physical contact (handshakes, high-fives, hugs, partner stretching, etc.).

  • Do not engage in close group pictures/selfies.

  • Do not spit or blow nose while running in the group. Must be away from others, and at least six feet away from others.

  • Do not share personal items, such as hydration, energy gels, towels, etc.

  • Participants must wear a mask or face covering while gathering pre- or post-run, and anytime they are within six feet of others. Runners may remove their face cover while running when they can maintain social distance.

  • Participants are expected to self carry personal hydration (bottles/packs), and to use hydration stations for refill only.

  • Participants must abide by local travel quarantine orders should they travel out-of-state during the program.

  • Participants may be required to exit the group temporarily or permanently should their actions not meet expectations and or they are creating risk for themselves or others.

Weather Policy

We will meet rain or shine. However, if there is lightning or other hazardous weather we will cancel or postpone. Our full weather policy is HERE.


Weather-related announcements will be made through the "weather" link at the top of or directly at


Packet Pick-Up

Schedule and details to be announced later. Tentative locations for in-person pick-up include:

  • Fleet Feet Sports Old Town

  • Fleet Feet Sports Elmhurst

Packet mailing is available during registration for a shipping and service fee.

Terms / Cancellation Policy

Participants in group training may voluntarily exit the program prior up to the first date of training (12/28/20) or the date their packet pick received (whichever comes first) and receive a full credit of fees paid towards any single CARA program or event of any kind of equal or lesser value. Must be used by the end of 2021.


Should the start of group runs be delayed due to COVID-19 by more than six weeks, CARA will provide the following options to paid registered participants to choose from:

  • Option 1: Full credit of fees toward any future CARA program or event. Must be used by the end of 2021. And a complimentary one-year extension of CARA Supporter Level membership, or

  • Option 2: Refund training program registration fee, minus $50.

Participants in virtual training may voluntarily exit the program prior up to the delivery of training plans (scheduled for 12/14/20) and receive a full credit of fees paid towards any single CARA program or event of any kind of equal or lesser value. Must be used by the end of 2021.


Other Terms / Details

  • Runners are welcome to join the program late, however, fees are not prorated for late entry.

  • No refunds will be issued for any reason, except where described in the cancellation policy.


General FAQ

Member Discount: Discount is applicable to 2021 CARA Supporter Level memberships (Individual, Family or Student package). 2020 members must renew to receive the discount.

Credit Card Fees: Online registrations paid with credit card are subject to a service fee by our registration provider. To avoid online credit card fees, send a check for the amount owed to CARA, 1100 W. Cermak Rd. #231, Chicago, IL 60608. Provide full name, e-mail, phone number and note that check is for winter training program fees. CARA will then contact to complete registration.


Age Minimum: Runners must be 18 years or older to participate in group training.


Volunteer Information


Volunteer to be a group leader? You are encouraged to apply. Group leaders must be active CARA Supporter Level Members to access the application. Learn more about group leading HERE.

Volunteer to serve at a hydration station. Email


Volunteer to assist at track workouts. Email

Questions / Contact




 Virtual Training Local Option: $105 (REGISTER) 

  • Save 15% - 2020 CARA Supporter Level Members

  • Includes access to the end of season 13.1 mile or 26.2 mile run


Virtual Training Out-of-Area Option: $80 (REGISTER)

  • Save 15% - 2020 CARA Supporter Level Members

​Program Benefits

  • Training Plan with Half-Marathon and Marathon Options

  • Weekly Training e-Newsletters

  • Access to private STRAVA group

  • NovaCare Injury Hotline

  • Exclusive End of Season Run!: (Included with Local Option)


© 2020 Chicago Area Runners Association.  For Questions /  Contact us at

Registered 501(c)(3). EIN: 36-3054942

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