Summer Marathon (Chicago) Training

Enjoy CARA's "Power of the Group" on your marathon journey! CARA group training will provide you the support, community, and accountability you need to successfully reach the start line ready to race your fall marathon. 

The CARA program has helped tens of thousands of runners complete 26.2. Our popular 18-week program has long been Chicago's premier group training program, serving newcomers and experienced runners alike.

CARA runners enjoy access to training sites across the city and suburbs. With CARA training 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 gotten CARA runners to the finish line more than any other program in Chicagoland running. 


Program Dates:

June 8 to October 11, 2020 (18 Weeks)

Meeting Days / Times / Locations:

  • Group Long Runs (tentative):

    • Saturday's @ 6:00 a.m. at Lakeshore East Park (Chicago)

    • Saturday's @ 6:00 a.m. at Montrose Beach (Chicago)

    • Saturday's @ 6:00 a.m. at  Lincoln Park (Chicago)

    • Saturday's @ 6:15 a.m. at Wheaton Mariano's / Prairie Path (Wheaton)

    • Saturday's @ 6:30 a.m. at Montrose Beach (Chicago)

    • Saturday's @ 6:30 a.m. at Busse Woods Forest Preserve (Schaumburg)

    • Saturday's @ 6:45 a.m. at Old School Forest Preserve (Libertyville)

    • Saturday's @ 6:20 a.m. at Yankee Woods (Oak Forest)

    • Saturday's @ 7:00 a.m. at Bunker Hill Forest Preserve (Niles)

    • Saturday's @ 7:00 a.m. at Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve (Darien)

    • Sunday's @ 6:30 a.m. at Montrose Beach (Chicago)

  • Speed Training (tentative):

    • Wednesday's @ 6:00 a.m. at Lake Shore Park Track (Chicago)

    • Wednesday's @ 6:00 p.m. at Trinity Christian College Track (Palos Heights)

    • Wednesday's @ 6:30 p.m. at Downers Grove South High School (Downers Grove)

    • Wednesday's @ 6:30 p.m. at Ost Field Park Track (Palatine)

    • Wednesday's @ 6:30 p.m. at Montrose Beach Wilson Track (Chicago)

  • Weekday Group Runs:

    • Group Run Calendar HERE

  • Included Training Program Special Events:

  • Additional Special Events:

Program Benefits:

  • 18-Week Training Plan: CARA Director of Training and Coach Tim Bradley provides an 18-week training plan with novice, novice-II, intermediate, and advanced options so you can train at the level right for your fitness and lifestyle. You will have confidence knowing 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.

  • Group Training: Group long runs and speed training. Gain security and camaraderie with the support of a training program nearly three-times larger than any other Chicagoland training group. You'll never have to run alone with long run groups that are typically 10-50 runners at each pace depending on pace.

  • Pacer Led Runs: Weekend long runs will be led by friendly, knowledgeable, and experienced CARA Group Leaders, providing you pacing, and so much more! We offer groups at each 30-second pace interval, from 7:00 to 11:30 mins/mile, plus 12:00 Run/Walk, 12:30 Run/Walk and 13:00 Run/Walk.

  • Location: Train where you want and have the flexibility to train at different sites in the city and suburbs throughout the season. You are never locked into a single location.

  • NovaCare Hotline: Gain access to CARA's exclusive 24/7 Injury Hotline with Novacare Physical Therapist ready to support your injury questions.

  • Expertise: A weekly info-packed newsletter from CARA Director of Training Coach Bradley. 

  • Training Guide: A hard-copy training guide with your training schedule, and the information, education, and tips you need to successfully complete the program.

  • Hydration Support: Stations serving Gatorade Endurance and water during your group runs.

  • Gear: CARA runners receive a training tech shirt, plus Ready to Run 20 Miler finishers will receive an additional shirt to celebrate completing the program.

  • Ready to Run 20-Miler: Entry included ($80 additional value). It's not just a long run, its the largest and most well-supported 20-miler in Chicagoland. The only point-to-point 20-Miler in Chicago, 11-aid stations, post-race celebration, and much more! (Details)

  • VIP: Entry included ($60 additional value). On race day in Chicago, you will receive the VIP treatment with CARA's Michelob Ultra Marathon VIP Experience. Private indoor space near the start line in Chicago, private start corral toilets, private gear check, and a post-race celebration with beer, snacks, medal engraving, and more! 

  • Marathon Kick-Off Clinic: Access included to our marathon training kick-off clinic. CARA coaches and leading experts will get you ready for the marathon season with this event focused on the training plan and program you are about to take part in. (Details)


Important Dates:

  • May 30: Packet Pickup Begins (Details HERE)

  • May 30: Marathon Kick-Off 

  • June 8: Training plans begin

  • June 10: Group track workouts begin

  • June 13: Group long runs begin

  • Jan. 2: Group speedwork held Thursday due to Holiday

  • Jan 8: Group speed workouts begin on Wednesday's

  • June 28: Packet pickup ends (only mailing or office pick-up after 6/28)

  • July 11: CARA's Wintrust Lakefront 10 Miler. No group long runs at Montrose, Lincoln Park or Lake Shore East. Group long runs will be in action at all suburban sites and Montrose Sunday. Group training program runners receive 50% off registration for the Lakefront 10 Miler (validate credentials on the registration form). The scheduled long run for Nove I and Novice II is 10 Miles on July 11.

  • September 19: No group long runs.

  • September 20: Ready to Run 20 Miler (included with all group training registrations)

  • October 3/4: Final group long runs

  • October 7: Final group track workouts

  • October 11: Target Race

Rate Details:

  • Member discount ($35) is applicable to 2020 CARA Supporter Level memberships (Individual, Family or Student package). 2019 members must renew to receive the discount.

  • Registrations without a member discount include a 2020 CARA Supporter Level membership (Individual). Learn more about CARA Supporter Level member benefits.

  • *The program returner discount is for past participants of the previous three seasons (2017, 2018, and 2019). A special discount code will be emailed to all 2017, 2018, and 2019 participants on December 12, 2019. E-mail if you need to request your returners discount code and were a group training participant in 2017, 2018 and/or 2019 CARA Summer Marathon Training Program.

  • Members of CARA's charity team receive free training through CARA. CARA's charity team leader will provide a special discount code to team members. Learn more HERE.

  • 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. 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.

Credit Card Fees:

  • Online registrations paid with credit card are subject to a service fee by our registration provider. To avoid online credit card 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.

Terms / Details:

  • Race Registration: Program registration does not include entry or registration fees for marathon race.

  • Proration: Fees are not prorated for late entry.

  • Refunds: No refunds will be issued for any reason.

  • Credits / Deferrals: Participants may withdraw from the program prior to picking up the training program packet and prior to the first day of training (Monday, week of first group session) for any reason and receive a credit to any CARA program or event of equal or lesser value. Credit expires at the end of the next calendar year. Complete terms and conditions will be provided upon request.

  • Age Minimum: Runners must be 18 years or older to participate in group training.

Packet Pick-Up:

  • Locations / Dates HERE

  • A mailing option is also available for a service fee.

Group Leaders:

  • Volunteer to be a group leader? You are encouraged to apply. Group leaders must be active CARA members to access the application. Learn more about group leading HERE.

Weather Policy:

  • Please review CARA's weather policy HERE

Official Target Races: