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Meet Our 2020 Summer Marathon Training Site Coordinators!

Get to know our site coordinators for 2020 Summer Marathon Training! CARA site coordinators are member volunteers who lead each training site. They are encouraging, experienced, and are among CARA's most impactful member leaders.


Betsy Balgooyen Keller, Chicago - Downtown

Betsy has been running since she was 10! Although she won’t share what year that was, she joined CARA 20 years ago. She joined when she was training for a marathon and stayed because she found a community!

She has been helping new marathoners “overcome the voice in their head that told them they can’t do this” as a CARA Marathon Training Site Coordinator since 2004. Having once run two marathons in ONE weekend, she certainly knows how to subdue that voice!

When asked what she values most about her role with CARA’s Marathon Training Program, she explains, “making the group training runs go smoothly, helping group leaders connect with their groups and helping foster a supportive running community for everyone to accomplish their goals.”


Brian Cloutier, Chicago - Lincoln Park

Brian joined CARA in 2014 after running for more than a decade so he’d have a group to train with. “Knowing that others are counting on me keeps me accountable and motivates me to continue training,” he says.

Being able to help others achieve their running goals is what he values most about his role as a Marathon Training Site Coordinator, a position he’s held since 2018. One of the greatest things he’s witnessed a participant do is completely change their lifestyle, moving from relatively inactive to completely changing their outlook and priorities, and becoming a much happier person overall.

He’s looking forward to reconnecting with friends from past programs and making new friends this year! In addition to running, Brian has completed multiple Ironman Triathlons!


Brett Geschke, Chicago - Lincoln Park

Brett joins the CARA Marathon Training Program as a site coordinator this year after completing his first marathon training with us last year. While he may be rather new to running, CARA, and marathoning, Brett ran the 2019 Chicago Marathon, his first, in 3:33!

When asked what inspired him as a participant of the CARA training program last year, Brett talked about seeing a fellow marathon "newbie" grow from sincerely doubting his ability to finishing the Chicago Marathon, to gaining the needed confidence along the way. “Really revealed the Power Of The Group!” he said.

He’s looking forward to getting back out there, meeting new runners, seeing familiar faces from 2019 CARA summer marathon training and improving with his pace group over the course of the summer. Brett’s experience will be a valuable asset to the group he will be coordinating in Lincoln Park.


Darren DeMatoff, Chicago - Montrose (Sunday, 6:30 a.m.)

“Sharing my love of running, and having others fall in love with it makes me so happy,” Darren said when asked what he values most in his role as a CARA Marathon Training Site Coordinator. “The personal satisfaction that each runner experiences through training is truly inspiring.” Although Darren is quite inspiring himself, running marathons in his 50s more than an hour faster than he did in his 20s! Darren joined CARA 25 years ago because in taking on the challenge of his first marathon he recognized he couldn’t do it alone. CARA training got him to numerous marathon finishes including a Boston Qualifier. Darren knows first-hand how the support and camaraderie of CARA training make all the difference in the world. “I have seen our runners fall in love, get married, get promotions or new jobs; I have watched people overcome illness and deal with loss of family members. The power of the group provides the support and structure for truly remarkable things to occur in our participants' lives!”


Jacob Gaddie, Chicago - Montrose (Saturday 6:30 a.m.)

Jacob has been running for eight years and a CARA member for six. Like many, he too joined for Summer Marathon training. He has been a CARA Marathon Training Site Coordinator since 2019. For Jacob, it’s all about giving back.

“CARA has become a community for me, and being able to be a community in return for other people is very important,” he explains. “Being able to be with the other runners, especially now in the state of things. Seeing people smile, and feel the accomplishment of long runs is what I’m looking forward to the most.” Jacob says the greatest part about CARA training is supporting each other. He loves seeing new runners return the following year and are able to share their experiences with the new crop of beginners.


David Rovani, Chicago - Montrose (Saturday 6:00 a.m.)

When asked about what he values most as a CARA Marathon Training Site Coordinator, a position he’s held since 2018, David said, “watching runners grow from week-to-week and season-to-season; hearing about their triumphs and setbacks; getting to be a part of their journey.” David started running nine years ago and joined CARA a year later because as a non-profit, CARA was an organization that gives back to the community. He counts among his most noteworthy running accomplishments placing 2nd in his age-group at the 2018 Run Mahomet Half Marathon! He is looking forward to training this year in particular because he’s really missed having people to talk with and run alongside during long runs. Every year he treasures being a part of everyone’s glorious achievement of crossing the marathon finish line.


Jim Murphy, Darien

Jim is a veteran runner and marathoner, having competed the 1977 and ‘78 Chicago Marathons. He joined CARA in 2005 when he decided to go back to serious running after a long break and wanted support.

As a CARA Marathon Training Site Coordinator for over a decade, he’s seen hundreds of runners improve physical and mental health. About this year’s program, Jim explained, “the pandemic has shortened the training season and people have been under a lot of stress. This year the return to mental and physical health is more important than ever, so the program is also more important than ever.” Jim’s most noteworthy running accomplishments include completing the hilly 56-mile "Comrades Marathon" in South Africa in 2012, in 10:46:36 and also qualifying twice for the Boston Marathon. He is looking forward to providing a quality, well-organized program and sharing in the success of the runners, especially the first-timers.


Chris Muender, Libertyville

Chris loves working with first-time marathoners. “There is nothing better than sharing in their joy as they navigate the training and reach their goals,” she says. “I believe the biggest achievement for a first-time marathoner is to get to the start line injury-free so that they are able to enjoy every step of their marathon. This experience makes first-timers, life long marathoners!”

Chris, a long time runner, joined CARA 12 years ago after struggling through a few years of marathon training on her own. She appreciated the structure and tools that CARA provided. One of her marathon journeys took her to Boston in 2014, the year after the bombings. She says it was great to see Bostonians not only embrace their marathon as they always do, but reclaim the finish line that year! Now she’s looking forward to getting back to running as a community. "Long-distance running is a lot more fun when you can run with your friends.”


Keith Kijek, Niles

Keith ran his first marathon in 2004 (when he joined CARA training!), but has been running long distance since high school. This will be his 13th year as a CARA Marathon Training Site Coordinator.

Keith shares one of his favorite running memories, “crossing the finish line of my first marathon, seeing my group leader in the finish area and the two of us hugging without caring that we were blocking the people behind us as we shared the moment.”

He became a Marathon Training Site Coordinator because he loves seeing people reach their goal of finishing a marathon and the self-confidence that creates. He knows this year is not going to be anything close to normal, but he is ready for whatever it holds.


Beth Levy, Niles Initially, Beth, a long time runner, joined CARA in the 80s for the race and retail discounts, although she continues to be a member because “of the great work CARA does for our running community.”

This will be Beth’s eighth year as a CARA Marathon Training Site Coordinator. What keeps her coming back? The people and the friendships!

When asked about the greatest things she’s seen runners achieve, she says, “There are too many great things to list: the friendships made, goals met, personal records, confidence gained, resilience found.”

She is looking forward to another great training season and her favorite part of her role: “helping our runners.”


Joe Werner, Oak Forest

Joe is another long-time CARA member who joined to train for a marathon. He has been running since 1995, a CARA member since 1999, and a MArathon Training Site Coordinator since 2002.

Runners in Oak Forest are in good hands with Joe! Not only does he have decades of experience as a runner and marathoner, but among his most worthy accomplishments as a runner he includes, “pacing a couple of friends to a Boston Qualifier.”

While Joe is helping runners through marathon training and increasing their self-esteem by reaching their goals, the part he loves the most about his role with CARA is “the support I get from runners.”


Alice Henry, Schaumburg

Although Alice has been running for more than 25 years, she joined CARA two years ago and this will be her first year coordinating a Marathon Training Site. She loves watching people finish their first marathon and then decide to do it again!

“I love the group support that I receive from CARA. It's a very good organization to be a part of that helps many reach their goals," says Alice. “And I love how CARA supports charities while providing many fun events that are accessible to many people in different communities.” She’s very proud that being a past CARA group leader gave her the confidence to pace the Chicago Athlete 20 miler in 2019. Alice enjoys sharing her marathon training experiences and helping people reach their goals of finishing. She’s anticipating seeing old friends, making new ones, and being part of CARA’s great support system.


Mendy Springer, Schaumburg

Mendy, a fairly new runner, really embraces CARA’s motto “The Power of the Group.” It’s why she joined two years ago. She trained with us and completed her first marathon last year.

As a Marathon Training Site Coordinator, she hopes to inspire and support other runners in their goals much the same way she was. She is looking forward to getting to know everyone and seeing them gain confidence as runners.

“The Power of the Group run is amazing. Last year I ran with several other people, like myself, who were new and working to build mileage,” she said when discussing her CARA Marathon training experience. “We never thought we would make it through all of those double-digit runs but we did!! The support and friendships were what got us through.”


Jim Laubsted, Wheaton

Jim’s most noteworthy running accomplishment was battling with Olympian Craig Virgin on route to a 10k personal record. Don’t believe it? It’s all in the book Virgin Territory: The Story of Craig Virgin, America's Renaissance Runner by Randy Sharer (p. 119-120).

Jim is a 48-year running veteran who joined CARA 17 years ago because CARA is an advocate for the running community. He has been a Marathon Training Site Coordinator since 2005 and loves his role in helping runners achieve their goals and making new running friends.

He’s seen many runners accomplish what they thought wasn't possible. He’s looking forward to another training season, completing another marathon, and connecting once again with running friends.


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