CARA Race Certification

CARA offers races the opportunity to achieve and assert their committment to excellence through its certification process

CARA has a long history of supporting and assisting races as they work to improve the running experience of their participants. This fulfills, as well, CARA’s mission to raise the standard of road racing for all runners.

CARA offers races the opportunity to achieve and assert their excellence through its certification process. By requiring races to adhere to its Best Practices Guidelines (formerly the CARA Standards), CARA is able to certify and promote races to its membership and the wider running community. Additionally, only certified races will be eligible for promotion and official affiliation opportunities with CARA.            



  • Race must adhere to all requirements outlined within the CARA’s Best Practice Guidelines (Do not apply for this certification prior to thoroughly reviewing these Guidelines. Race Directors must review annually as these are often updated);
  • Race must display on its web site its unique CARA Certified Race (or Emerging Race) logo and number, CARA Certified Race (or Emerging Race) statement and link to the Best Practices Guidelines explaining that the race has agreed to follow these guidelines. The race may use at its discretion the logo, number and statement on its printed materials and promotional materials;
  • Race must participate in the CARA Race Survey including sending a link to CARA’s online race survey to all participants within three days of event’s completion;
  • Race must respond in writing to CARA, within 30-days of request, to significant areas of concern brought up through survey results or participant feedback as related to CARA’s Best Practice Guidelines and/or CARA Certification Requirements;
  • E-Mail a link to race’s online results posting within 48 hours of race to;
  • Provide CARA upon request a 10x10 space or larger at your race site near the start, finish, sponsor or registration area for CARA to provide member services and promotion. [CARA will notify event if it will be in attendance at least 14-days prior to your event. Should you require more advanced notice please contact];
  • Provide CARA at least three complimentary race entries to be used at CARA’s discretion that are active until the close of online registration;
  • Provide CARA members with a discounted registration rate [minimum discount of 10%] that is active until the close of online registration.

Note:  Races seeking certification for the first time may only be awarded CARA Emerging Race status. Emerging Races will receive all benefits of CARA Certified Races, but may be promoted as a CARA Emerging Race.



Certification fees are as follows:

  • $250 – For races organized by a 501c3 not-for-profit organization, school group and or recognized not-for-profit running club [may require verification].
  • $350 – For all other race organizers.

Fees must be paid in full prior to certification approval. An invoice will be sent from CARA for fees owned after an initial review of certification requirements.

Events may have no outstanding balances with CARA at time of certification.

Certification must be renewed annually.

*Race Directors who attend a CARA Race Director clinic receive a $50 discount on certification fees.



  • Race will receive CARA Certified (or Emerging) Race endorsement including approval to include CARA Certified Race (or Emerging Race) logo, certification number, and statements on all event materials and web site;
  • Race will receive a one-time pre-event race director consultation (up to 60 minutes) with Director of Events on how to meet the CARA Best Practices Guidelines and CARA Green Race Standards (By phone or in-person at the CARA office);
  • Race will receive priority registration access to a CARA Race Director Clinic (held monthly beginning in 2017). 
  • Race will receive participant post-event survey results from CARA’s standardized survey to assist in evaluation of event and future planning;
  • Race will receive a year end report showing how its survey data compared to average scores from all CARA Certified and Emerging Races;
  • Race will be a designated as a qualifying race for CARA Participation Award requirements;
  • For events 10-miles and longer, race will be designated a qualifying race for CARA Long Distance Award requirements;
  • Race will be considered for inclusion in following year’s CARA Runners Choice Circuit and / or as a CARA Training Program Target Race;
  • Race will be included on CARA’s Featured Race Calendar (i.e. highlighted listing) providing it greater exposure over general race listings submitted to CARA’s race calendar; 
  • CARA will display race’s printed event materials (up to 8.5”x11” provided by race) at the CARA tent/booth at all CARA Runners Choice Circuit races and all other races it attends up to three months prior to event;
  • Highlighted listing in CARA members only discount code listing.
  • Race will be eligible for additional race promotion packages offered by CARA. CARA does not promote races that are not CARA Certified.

Application Process: 

  • Review the CARA’s Best Practice Guidelines. Insure that the race is committed to meeting all requirements. 
  • Print, complete and send the application to or mail to CARA, 549 W Randolph St., Ste #704, Chicago, IL 60661.
  • Send fees by check to the above address or pay be credit card HERE. After application and fees are received please allow for 14 days for applications to be processed. Invoices may be requested.
  • IMPORTANT: Races MUST not advertise in any way themselves as CARA Certified on current year's materials and web sites prior to approval.

Frequently Aasked Questions:

Q:  What is a CARA Certified Race?

A:  CARA Certified Races are ones which promise to adhere to CARA’s Best Practices Guidelines. These Guidelines embody the highest standards for execution of a road race. Races which follow these Guidelines are eligible for certification and promotion by CARA. These Guidelines may be found at, click on “Race” and choose “Race Director Information and Services”. 


Q:  Are there additional requirements to be a CARA Certified Race?

A:  Yes, races must have proof of liability insurance, hold an active USATF course certification, provide proof of timely race results, and respond to any serious issues reported to CARA from the event by participants and/or CARA membership. In the spirit of partnership CARA also expects Certified Races to provide CARA members a discounted entry rate and to help promote CARA by providing tent space and including materials in goody bags.


Q:  Can a race be CARA Certified if it does not meet all requirements?

A:  Races may request exceptions to some requirements. These requests will be reviewed on a case by case basis.


Q:  What is a CARA Emerging Race?

A:  For a race’s first year of certification they are endorsed as an “Emerging Race” while they show that they will follow the CARA’s Best Practices Guidelines.


Q:  How common are CARA Certified Races?

A:  In 2015, 91 races applied for and received CARA Certification ranging from small neighborhood runs to World Class events.


Q:  Is there a fee to be a CARA Certified Races?

A:  Yes, fees range from $250 to $350 depending on the organizing entities not-for-profit status.


Q:  What is the different between CARA Certification and USATF Certification?

A:  CARA’s certification is an operational certification promoting quality, safe and well-organized events; while USATF’s certification is only a certification that the race course itself is accurately measured.


Q:  How does CARA determine if a race follows the Best Practices Guidelines?

A:  CARA requires races to provide a standardize survey, created by CARA, to its participants. The CARA Race Committee, Board, Staff and Membership also regularly review and provide feedback on local events. The CARA Race Committee meets monthly to discuss local races as well. The Race Committee is made up of a wide range of runners and race directors from many different local running clubs.


Q:  What happens if a race falls short of requirements?

A:  CARA discusses the shortcomings and works with the race to determine solutions.  Our goal is always to help a race to get better. If a race is willing to get better we will continue to work with it. If the race is not willing to work to improve, or continues to make mistakes, the race will no longer be certified by CARA.


Q:  What benefits does CARA provide Certified Races?

A:  CARA provides an endorsement with logo to display so participants know the race is CARA Certified, an opportunity for a consultation to discuss how to meet the Best Practices Guidelines, a post-event survey to provide to participants, event promotion and inclusion in CARA awards programs that honor CARA members who participate in Certified Races are some of the benefits.


Q:  How do I list my race on CARA’s web site?

A:  Go to, click on “Race” and choose “Race Calendar”.  There you will see a link to submit your race. Listing your race for the basic calendar is free.


Q:  How do I get my race on CARA’s Featured Race Calendar?

A:  The Featured Calendar is for CARA events and is also included as a benefit CARA Certified Races (New in 2017).


Q:  Does CARA offer additional promotional opportunities for races?

A:  Yes, CARA will customize promotion around your needs to help grow your race. Certified Races receive promotional benefits, and CARA offers additional opportunities at below market rate to its Certified Races. Contact for details.


Q:  How does a race become a CARA Runners’ Choice Circuit Race?

A:  In late fall each year the CARA Race Committee reviews and evaluates all CARA Certified race participant surveys. The Race Committee also conducts a survey to CARA membership about local racing. This data is used to choose the schedule of races. Factors that are considered are CARA Certification status, history of successfully meeting CARA’s Best Practices Guidelines, date of race, location of race, distance of race, and runner satisfaction with the race. Once the top races are identified the committee works to create a schedule that is runner friendly and includes races that are balanced between the city and the suburbs.


Q:  Who competes in the CARA Runners’ Choice Circuit Race?

A:  Runners of all levels and nearly every major running club in Chicagoland. CARA offers competition from youth to elite and Clydesdale to Club. Circuit Races draw the areas most dedicated racers. Nearly 4,000 runners scored points in the 2015 circuit.


Q:  How does CARA encourage local race participation?

A:  CARA provided nearly 300 awards, both participation and competitive based, annually to runners who participated in local races. This includes Circuit Awards, Participation Awards Long Distance Awards and the Marathon Incentive Program.


Q:  Why is “Road Race Services” important to CARA?

A:  CARA was founded in 1978 to help improve the Chicago Marathon (then called the Mayor Daly Marathon). CARA’s founders stepped up to become the voice of Chicago running. Nearly 40 years later CARA has become the nation’s third-largest running club.  CARA and the Bank of America Chicago Marathon have become great partners for local running and the Chicago Marathon is one of the World’s finest races. CARA remains committed to its roots to promote the CARA’s Best Practices Guidelines and help Chicago area runners find the most well operated races in the nation here at home.


Q:  Does CARA sponsor local races?

A:  CARA typically does not financially sponsor local races. The organization does its best to support local races in many other ways.

Big River Race Management (BRRM) is the official timing partner of the Chicago Area Runners Association and official timer of CARA's Wintrust Lakefront 10 Miler & 5K. Staying on the cutting edge of technology, BRRM has adopted the ChronoTrack Live RaceCasting services which feature online registration, onsite registration, dynamic race check-in, mobile results, real-time online results, mobile and social media athlete updates, onsite results, athlete photography and athlete video. Big River Race Management is proud to call themselves the Midwest's premier race timing and event management company.

Race Roster, the official registration partner of CARA, is a cloud based registration platform for endurance events serving event organizers and their participants. Race Roster will help you increase registration, boost donations and attract sponsors. You’ll receive access to ongoing reporting and support from event creation to completion. Race Roster's customizable platform can help you accomplish all your event goals. 

As a supporter of CARA local initiatives please contact Colin Castein and let him know how he can help you with your event.

Email:,  Phone: 1-888-749-3028 Ext 704

CARA Race Director Clinics FREE

Please join the Chicago Area Runners Association for one of our monthly Race Director Clinics. These clinics are aimed at both new and experienced race directors who are looking to increase their skills, better understand the CARA Best Practices Guidelines as well as network with fellow event, running club and charity organization leaders.

Each clinic date will follow the same agenda and each will feature a unique guest speaker making each clinic a new opportunity for learning. Additionally, time will be set aside at each clinic for active dialog and we look forward to learning from you as well as sharing some of our experiences! 

Learn More!

Rocked the 13.1

"I want to thank CARA for helping me train for the Chicago RocknRoll half. Your Saturday morning long runs were such a large part of my training and I was blessed to have a great group leader and group members. I was not only motivated by CARA, but I looked forward to every Saturday 6am run! I don't know what I'm going to do without them! I never thought I could run (no stops) an entire 13.1 miles but with your help I proved myself wrong. I paced at 9:20 today :) and I can't wait to beat that the next time around! Running has changed my life, and I thank CARA for that!"
-Jenny R.