Despite being challenged to come together in 2020, the year was not short on impact for the CARA community.
CARA stepped up as a national leader for running safety education and COVID19 group running guidelines. CARA’s group running plans were adopted by the Road Runners Club of America as a national framework for the safe return to group running for the RRCA’s 1,500 member clubs.
When the City of Chicago closed the Lakefront Trail and the 606, many of us experienced crowded neighborhood sidewalks limiting our ability to social distance and run safely. CARA developed a plan that led discussions on a safe reopening of our trails, and when we called upon our entire community of runners to strengthen our voice, Chicago’s trails reopened, sealing a victory for CARA’s advocacy mission.
As runners returned to the Lakefront Trail, CARA kept working for the running community. Our hydration stations served all runners with an adapted low contact and socially distanced plan through the summer and early fall.
Thousands of races were canceled this year, and none more important to our community than the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. CARA marathon training has long targeted the Chicago Marathon, but the program is about so much more than a race. It’s about community, the journey together, personal improvement, and how we support our nearly 50 charity partners. When the race was canceled, CARA training continued, and on what is traditionally Marathon weekend, CARA supported runners’ goals to complete 26.2 miles in small groups around the city and suburbs - many of whom continued to fundraise for their charities.
With Restore IL Guidelines providing a framework, CARA was able to develop adapted event operation plans to launch two new events. The Chi-Town Miles, presented by Physicians Immediate Care and the Autumn Trail Chase 5K at The Forge-Lemont Quarries not only began to bring us back together, they provided a promising outlook to future in-person events after starting the year with our new Honda Miles Per Hour Run at McCormick Place.
This year brought the stark reality of racial injustice and inequalities in our communities again to the forefront. As our CARA leadership reflected more deeply on our mission, we saw the need to do more to truly make running accessible for all, especially black and brown runners.
Our ‘Go Run program was designed specifically to make running more accessible in underserved communities. In the midst of COVID19, these free timed 5K and 1 Mile events resumed weekly in July under the State’s safety guidelines. ‘Go Run’s dedicated crew of leaders were able to bring the program to locations around Chicago, including Calumet, Columbus Douglass, Garfield, Humboldt, Jackson, Marquette, and Washington Parks on the city’s South and West sides.
Over recent months, CARA has been hard at work on plans to build on the foundation of the ‘Go Run program. A new CARA-based running group in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood is already developing under CARA leadership. This new group is a part of increased effort to provide greater opportunities to engage in group running within Chicago’s South and West sides, and particularly for black and brown runners who have long had limited opportunities.
This past year has been one of the most challenging in the history of our organization. So much has had to be overcome and sacrificed to achieve each and every one of our successes. This year had financial challenges, and certainly did not yield all-time highs in new members or participation levels. We were however, unwavering in our commitment to our mission, to our running community, and to achieving the impact CARA was founded for.
As we move into 2021, we will remain committed serving all runners, whether we are your typical running group or not. CARA members support a mission. It’s not just about what you get, it’s also about what you give. The vision of CARA members to serve the whole of the running community, not just ourselves, is one of the reasons our “Power of the Group” is so meaningful.
To all of our members, volunteers, and partners - thank you! Your dedication and hard work is what makes CARA a uniquely special organization that serves the entire running community.
All the best,