CARA

History

CARA – 40th Anniversary: Running Through Time

The Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA), a non-profit organization, started in 1978 as a protest movement and running club. Rooted in seeing the world from a runner’s perspective, the founders of CARA emerged as the voice of a grassroots project that demanded high quality race standards, more opportunities for women to run and top notch training programs. Since then, CARA has championed the running movement across Chicagoland, functioning as an organization dedicated to running advocacy, runner education, youth running, training programs, a competitive race circuit and free park runs so that everyone can simply “Go Run.”

(Beginning in late-August 2018, as CARA celebrates its 40th year, come back each Thursday for highlights of CARA's storied history)

1977 - Inaugural Mayor Daley Marathon (now the Bank of America Chicago Marathon).  More than 4,200 runners pay the $5.00 registration fee to run, making it the largest “mega” marathon in the world at the time

1978 – CARA is incorporated. Sensing an advocacy void in the running community and outraged by the Chicago Marathon’s proposed noon start*, Bill Robinson, Sharon Mier, Erma Tranter and Noel Nequin gathered on Mier’s front porch and formed the Chicago Area Runner’s Association (CARA). They had three goals: organize more races, increase women’s participation and offer more support to existing races

*Between 500-2000 runners (depending on the sources) wear black armbands to protest the Chicago Marathon’s later start time (moved from noon to 10:30 a.m.) and the increase in the entry fee from $5 to $10. The slogan for the event becomes “10 o’clock too late, $10 too much.”

CARA founds and produces its first race: the Lakefront 10

CARA is responsible for development of the cinder jogging path in Lincoln Park (the 10 Mile path is extended to 17.5 by 1988)

CARA and Friends of the Park sponsor Fun Runs on alternate Sundays through the summer at seven historic parks (followed by a tour of the park)

  • Running Scene Perspective: the Chicago Marathon was 85 degrees (technical fabrics with “wicking” abilities did not exist); many road races did not start on time; courses were not always measured correctly; water was considered by some to be unnecessary; there was no race Circuit; there were few well-structured training programs; in spite of the running boom, runners were largely considered misanthropes and loners; marathons were unpopular, male-dominated and geared toward the serious runner; college athletes “retired” after college; prize money was frowned upon for amateur athletics; and women were mostly absent from the sport altogether

1979 - CARA starts its popular Runners’ Choice Race Circuit (results tracked from 1981-present) and publishes “CARA Tips on Road Racing” (the booklet discusses putting on a safe, high-quality road race and it is circulated nationally and internationally in Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, South Africa, Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia).

1980 – CARA founds and produces the first Shamrock Shuffle (now the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K); CARA puts on a Road Race seminar that attracts 136 attendees

1981 - CARA buys a Chronomix clock that it rents to races; annual membership costs $5.00; Bill Robinson starts a “Computer Task Force” to teach volunteers how to use a computer; CARA members receive CARA’s popular newsletter: Finish Line; CARA starts its first race certification program