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Summer Marathon Training

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June 7 to October 10, 2021

  • Saturday/Sunday - Long Runs

  • Wednesday - Track Workouts


Group training program targeting the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, and other fall marathons


Chicago (Downtown, Montrose Beach, Lincoln Park), Darien, Libertyville, Niles, Oak Forest, Schaumburg, Wheaton

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The marathon is challenging, but CARA's "Power of the Group" will provide you the support, community, and accountability you need to successfully reach the finish line.

As Chicago's premier group training program, we have helped tens of thousands of runners successfully complete their goals. Whether you're a newcomer or experienced runner, our program provides training plans that meet you where you're at.

You will never have to go it alone. Your pace group leaders and fellow participants will give you the Power of the Group that has led CARA runners to the finish line more than any other program in Chicagoland running.

Your training program is led by CARA coaches who have national certifications and years of proven coaching success long before we bring them into CARA.​

Program Details

Program Benefits:

  • 18-week training plan with five options (Novice, Novice II, Intermediate, Advanced, and Run/Walk)

  • Additional 6-week pre-season training guide to prepare you for the season

  • Training guide and weekly education newsletters

  • New! - Video guided marathon tailored strength training plan

  • Marathon Kick-Off Clinic and Final Miles Clinic

  • Group training long Runs (Saturday & Sunday options) led by group leaders for 7:30 to 11:30 pace/per mile run, and 12:00 to 13:00 pace/per mile run/walk (Pace Group Offerings By Site: HERE)

  • Coach led track workouts (Wednesday's)

  • Hydration support at training runs, including water and Gatorade Endurance

  • Ready to Run 20 Miler entry included

  • Included access to the Marathon VIP Experience on Bank of America Chicago Marathon race day

  • Private toilet access at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon start corrals

  • RushPT Injury Hotline

  • CARA Training Tech Tank and Ready to Run 20 Miler Finishers Shirt


Target Race/s:

  • Bank of America Chicago Marathon

  • Training plan adjustments are available for other fall marathons by request

Group Long Run Locations

CARA training group long runs are offered at locations throughout the city and suburbs. Participants have access to all locations through the season and are not restricted to only their primary registration choice. (Click location maps for google map)

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Chicago - Downtown

Monroe Harbor

Saturday's 6:00 a.m.

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Chicago - Lincoln Park

Diversey Harbor

Saturday's 6:00 a.m.

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Chicago - Montrose

Montrose Beach

Saturday's 6:00 a.m.

Saturday's 6:30 a.m.

Sunday's 6:30 a.m.

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Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve

Saturday's 7:00 a.m.

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Old School Forest Preserve

Saturday's 6:45 a.m.

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Bunker Hill Forest Preserve

Saturday's 7:00 a.m.

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Oak Forest

Yankee Woods

Saturday's 6:50 a.m.

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Busse Woods Forest Preserve

Saturday's 6:30 a.m.

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IL Prarie Path  / Mariano's

Saturday's 6:15 a.m.

Pace Group Offerings By Site HERE.

Group Track Workout Locations

CARA training group track workouts are offered at locations throughout the city and suburbs. Participants have access to all locations through the season.


Program Fees & Registration

Group Training: $219

  • Save $35 - 2021 CARA Supporter Level Members (Individual, Family, Student)

  • Save $35 - Returner Discount (Return participants from 2018, 2019, or 2020)

  • Member and returner discounts may be combined.

  • Free / Discounted - Charity Runners (CARA partner charity team runners receive free or discounted training. Runners must request their team's code from their team leader.)


Returners discount is for participants who have completed the program any of the following years - 2018, 2019, or 2020. Please e-mail for a program returner discount.

Members receive discount by logging in with membership username/password during registration.


Online registration payments are subject to a service fee by our registration provider. To avoid online payment fees, send a check for the amount owed to CARA, 1100 W. Cermak Rd. #231, Chicago, IL 60608. Provide full name, e-mail, phone number and note that check is for summer marathon training program fees. CARA will then contact to complete registration.


FAQ / Policies

When and where is packet pick-up?

Packet Pickup Locations:

Fleet Feet Old Town

  • 1706 N. Wells St, Chicago
  • May 23 - June 20
  • All Business Hours

Fleet Feet Lincoln Square

  • 4762 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago
  • May 23 - June 20
  • All Business Hours

Fleet Feet South Loop

  • 150 W. Roosevelt Rd., Chicago
  • May 23 - June 20
  • All Business Hours

Fleet Feet Deerfield

  • 800 Waukegan Rd., Deerfield
  • May 23 - June 20
  • All Business Hours

Fleet Feet Elmhurst

  • 124 E. Schiller St., Elmhurst
  • May 23 - June 20
  • All Business Hours

Peak Running Burr Ridge

  • 555 Village Center Dr., Burr Ridge
  • May 23 - June 20
  • All Business Hours

Xtra Mile Running Schaumburg

  • 31 W. Schaumburg Rd., Schaumburg
  • May 23 - June 20
  • All Business Hours

Running for Kicks Palos Heights

  • 7158 W. 127th St., Palos Heights
  • June 5 (10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.)
  • June 6 (11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)

Can my packet be mailed?

Yes, you may select packet mailing for a fee during registration. To add packet mailing later, login to your participant account and add option.

What training level is needed to participate?

CARA has a proven record of serving beginning runners, and long-time runners alike. Before starting our Novice Plan, we recommend that you can complete 3-4 runs per week, including at least one run of 6 miles at a pace of at least 13 minutes per mile. A 6-week pre-season training guide will be provided to assist in your preparations for the beginning of the training program.

What is the program's weather policy?

We will run/walk rain or shine. However, if there is lightning or other hazardous weather we will cancel or postpone. Our full weather policy and weather alerts are HERE.

Can I cancel my registration?

Participants may choose to voluntarily exit the program by the date two weeks prior to the start date of the program (May 23, 2021). Those who exit may receive a full credit of fees paid towards any single future CARA program or event of any kind of equal or lesser value. Credit valid through the end of the following calendar year. To exit the program, e-mail No refunds will be issued for any reason, including injury, illness, change in availability, or changes to target race.

The program will continue regardless of changes to target race. Should their be changes to the Bank of America Chicago Marathon that affect mass participation, the program will continue, and CARA make adjustments to support program participants end of season goals.

Can I enter the program after the start date?

Yes, participants are welcomed to enter the program late. The deadline for registration is 4 weeks prior to the program's end date. Fees are not prorated for late entry.

Is there a CARA member discount?

Yes, a 15% member discount is applicable to CARA Supporter Level members (Individual, Family or Student packages) with an active membership for the program year. Registrations for this program without a member discount include Supporter Level membership. Please allow up to 14 days for activation of memberships received during program regisrtation. We reccomend joining or renewing prior to program registration to allow for immediate member benefits and discounts.

Learn more about CARA Supporter Level member benefits and join/renew HERE.

How old do I need to be to participate?

Runners must be 18 years or older to participate in group training.

May I run with a pet at training runs?

No, participants may not run with pets at training runs.

May I run with a stroller at training runs?

No, participants may not run with strollers at training runs?

Are there discounts for charity runners?

Yes. Members of Team CARA (CARA's charity team) receive free training through CARA when fundraising for the target race or other pre-approved race. CARA's charity team leader will provide a special discount code to team members. Learn more HERE. CARA partners with nearly 50 different local and national charities. Members of any charity team should contact their charity's team leader to see if their charity has partnered with CARA to receive free or discounted training program fees and if so, to receive instruction to register for free or discounted training rates. Team's not currently partnered with CARA may reach out to As part of our mission, CARA provides over $65,000 in subsidized training for charity team runners each year. A special discount code is needed for charity team discounts.

Is there an past-participant discount?

Yes. A $35 program returner discount is for past participants of the previous three seasons (2018, 2019, and 2020). E-mail to request your returners discount code beginning March 1.

Can I participate at multiple locations and with multiple pace groups?

Yes, during registration participants are asked to select a training location and training pace group. However, participants may participate at and or visit any site and with any pace group. No notification to CARA is needed to change locations or pace groups.



CARA training programs rely on dedicated volunteer site coordinators, group leaders, and coaches to support program participants, and provide a safe and enjoyable experience for all.


Site coordinators are recruited from experienced program group leaders. Those interested in becoming a site coordinator now, or in the future as openings are available, should contact CARA Director of Training Tim Bradley (

Group leaders are the backbone of CARA training programs. Group leaders keep runners safe, organized, on-pace, and motivated during training runs. Those interested becoming a group leader can learn more HERE.

Coaches are needed to support CARA track workouts. Experienced coaches may be tabbed with leading a workout, where others can assist with workout organization and timing while learning. Those interested in becoming a coach or assistant coach should contact CARA Director of Training Tim Bradley (​

Hydration Volunteers are needed to support hydration stations at training locations. Volunteers may volunteer for a single date, or a season. Interested volunteers can check out opportunities on our volunteer page.

COVID-19 Safety

Participation expectations are as follows:

  • Participants are expected to wear a mask or face covering when gathering pre- or post-run until they are two weeks post full vaccination for COVID19. Per CDC guidance, fully vaccinated participants are not required to wear a mask or face covering while gathering pre or post-run.

  • Do not participate if you are feeling sick or ill, and or have a fever, or if you are unvaccinated and have been in contact with someone unrecovered from COVID-19.

  • Persons from high-risk groups for COVID-19 complications should consult their physician before participating.

  • Participants are encouraged to avoid traditional forms of physical contact (handshakes, high-fives, hugs, partner stretching, etc.), as well as close group gathering (group pictures, etc.).

  • Do not spit or blow nose while running in the group.

  • Do not share personal items, such as hydration, energy gels, towels, etc.

  • Participants may be required to exit programs/events temporarily or permanently should their actions not meet expectations and or they are creating risk for themselves or others.