• CARAruns

Meet CARA Member Cheryl!

At CARA, it is our members and their diverse backgrounds and experiences who help shape the “Power of the Group”. We run together, no matter your race, religion, sexual orientation, or background.

In honor of Pride Month, we will be featuring inspiring stories from LGBTQ+ members of the CARA community. Get to know CARA member Cheryl Nitahara!

Tell us about your running journey! How did you start running?

I grew up playing many different sports, so I am pretty athletic. As I grew up I would run to warm up before I hit the weights or just run 3-4 miles. I never had any desire to run more than that. I met my wife in 2012 who was an avid runner and did 3 marathons before I met her. We started running together and that’s when it happened for me, I got the itch!

I did my first marathon in 2015 on my 50th birthday. I joined CARA’s Sunday running group and met so many good runners with lots of different experiences. I didn’t do too bad for my first marathon, and when I finished, I knew I could do a little better with more training. I did my second in 2017 because I didn’t get in the lottery for the Chicago Marathon in 2016. I trained a little more and not even thinking about it, I was 2 minutes away from qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I thought again, if I trained even harder I can easily knock off two minutes of my time.

In 2018, I ran the Chicago Marathon and knocked 10 minutes off my time and qualified for the Boston Marathon for the year of 2020.

What is your personal connection to CARA?

Running with CARA has been very important in my life. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2018. I needed to have chemotherapy for the next 5 months and surgery a couple of months after. If I wasn’t in the shape I was in, my treatment would have been so much worse. By the end of my last treatment, I could not run a mile, I could barely walk. I am so thankful that I joined CARA. Throughout my battle with cancer, my Sunday Montrose 9:30 running group was so supportive and encouraging, they were with me every step of the way. I will never forget the way they were there for me, the friendships that I made through CARA are life long. If anyone tells me they want to run a marathon, I always encourage them to train with CARA.

What role does running play in your life?

Running has played an important role in my life, it helps clear my mind, and it’s a stress reliever. Running is also very social, when I run with friends, it doesn’t feel like exercise. I am an emergency room nurse and thank goodness I am able to run while social distancing. I have been able to relieve so much stress and anxiety caused by taking care of COVID patients. I don’t think I could do it if I couldn’t run.

You have shown great strength in your comeback to running after being diagnosed with cancer. Can you tell us more about your return to running and how this has impacted you as a runner?

As I return to training, it has been more challenging than I thought, I was in such great shape before cancer. I have been slowly building up and getting back to a routine. I am looking forward to running with my group again on Sunday mornings, hopefully that will come soon. My biggest focus now is to just enjoy running and stay positive through this crazy time.

What does pride mean to you?

Pride to me means the ability to be myself to my family, friends, and co-workers. I bring my “whole self” to every situation. Years ago I told vague stories, used generic pronouns, and often hid parts of my life from others. It’s a huge weight off of my shoulders to be open to everyone and their acceptance has been so uplifting. I am very fortunate that everyone in my life is supportive of my six-year marriage to my wife, Lynda.

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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.

 

Proud member of the Road Runners Club of America.

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