Meet Stephanie & Mark

Read the story of the CARA couple, Stephanie and Mark, from start to finish!

As many of you know, two Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) members, Stephanie Reinhart and Mark Jockel, married during the 2015 Chicago Marathon. The CARA family played a major match-making role in getting these two together! Below is their story, as told by them!

Mark has been a longtime participant in the CARA summer marathon program and does his long runs in the Montrose 8:00 minute/mile pace group, while Stephanie joined CARA's summer marathon program in 2013 to improve her time after running her first marathon in 2012. Group leaders Bob Belusko and Marty Koutsky convinced Stephanie that she was fast enough to train with the 8:00 minute/mile group, so she joined them and soon met Mark.

Stephanie: Mark and I got to know each other over the course of many Saturday morning long runs, and by the Ready to Run 20 miler, we had become good friends. After finishing the 20 miles and enjoying my post-run massage and Lagunitas Runners High-P-A, I was ready for brunch and headed for the bus.

Mark: Stephanie ran faster than the group did and by the time the rest of us arrived, she had finished her beer and said she was getting ready to leave. I had only had one sip of my beer, but I abandoned it and seized the opportunity to spend some one on one time with her.

On that bus ride, they talked about their love for travel, and Stephanie told Mark how much she wanted to see polar bears someday.

Their group leaders from that summer, Bob, Marty, Jackie Budziak, and Alina Carrillo, began to conspire behind the scenes. Their efforts did not go unnoticed.

Mark: Bob made sure the two of us always ended up sitting next to each other at brunch. He tried to be subtle about it, but we figured out what he was doing.

Three weeks after the Ready to Run 20 miler, Stephanie ran the Chicago Marathon in a personal best 3:24:15. Two weeks after that, Mark ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 3:36:15, 50 seconds shy of his personal best.

Following their respective marathons, Stephanie and Mark continued to run with each other and other CARA runners. They started dating in December 2013 and were engaged a year later.

Stephanie: I mentioned to a colleague that I wanted a small wedding at City Hall, but Mark wanted a bigger wedding that all of our friends and family could attend. My colleague suggested that we get married during the Chicago Marathon. I thought it was a great idea.

Mark: When she told me, at first I was hesitant and wondered how that would work. About a day later, I went for a run with CARA members Jackie, Alina, and Bob and ran (no pun intended) the marathon wedding idea past them. They thought it was a great idea that fit us perfectly.

Several other running friends expressed their approval, and within a week, the plan was set. Stephanie and Mark registered for the Chicago Marathon and didn’t look back.

Stephanie: Over the next several months, I trained for Ironman Wisconsin, and Mark trained for Chicago. Our heavy training schedules didn’t leave us with much time to plan a wedding, but our CARA friends pitched in to help.

Mark: Every Wednesday, I ran with Jackie, Alina, and Bob, and they had so many good ideas that we used. Jackie and her fiancé Jeff Gilbert also met through CARA, and they’re getting married in November. Alina is getting married next year. We bounced a lot of ideas off each other while we ran. And at one of our Saturday morning post-run brunches, Jeff came up with the idea of having a friend hand us a bouquet before we crossed the finish line. I thought it was brilliant. 

CARA group leader Carl Renaghan, who mans the Chicago Marathon’s final approach to the finish line, not only made that idea come to life, but he also arranged for the DJ on the corner of Michigan and Roosevelt to announce the newlyweds to the cheering crowd.

CARA marathon program group leader Maureen Daly was also instrumental in the couple’s wedding preparations.

Stephanie: Maureen spent hours with me coming up with ideas for the race bags we gave our guests, and a few days before the wedding, she helped me put them all together.

The Friday evening before the Chicago Marathon, Stephanie and Mark hosted a pasta dinner for their rehearsal dinner. In attendance were all of their group leaders from the summer of 2013 and several other CARA friends. And on Sunday, October 11, their CARA family cheered on Stephanie and Mark as they were married at mile 8 and celebrated with the happy couple at their reception that evening.

Stephanie: Mark and I would never have met without CARA, and we are so grateful to CARA for bringing us together (and for making us fast runners!).

Mark: As one of Stephanie’s friends told me, who knew that the secret to finding the perfect girl wasn’t staying up late and going to bars, but getting up early on Saturday mornings and going for a run?

Later this year, the couple will head north to the sub-Arctic to walk among polar bears for their honeymoon, fulfilling the wish Stephanie shared with Mark after the 20 miler two years ago. Here’s to many more miles for another happy CARA couple!