How do you create and nurture a running community? Well, visit www.gorunchicago.comsometime soon and you’ll see they have some good ideas! 

Go Run Chicago started three years ago as a joint initiative between CARA (Chicago Area Runners Association) and the Chicago Park District. Go Run Chicago is a weekly community run (or walk) held at rotating park district sites every Saturday morning. With already more than 10,000 participants having crossed a finish line since Go Run Chicago’s inception, the 2019 schedule runs February through December.

The mission is to create community through group activity and volunteerism, especially in underserved neighborhoods that may not already have a base of running clubs and fun runs.

Here are some key points:

1) It’s FREE. Registration is required, the first time in a calendar year that one wants to participate. Register online or arrive Saturday morning before race time and register on site.

2) Locations: Warren Park, Humboldt Park, 63rd St Beach and the 4th Saturday of each month rotates between a large group of parks (see list on the website).

3) These are TIMED RUNS – technically not races, but opportunities to see how fast you’re running today and each time you participate. Your stats are available online should you wish to see them. Track your improvement or just enjoy the atmosphere of group competition without those pesky race fees. It will FEEL like a race, but it doesn’t carry any of the attendant anxiety or cost of one. 

4) Distance and speed options include: one mile or 5K (3.1 miles), at your preferred pace–be that walk, jog or run.

5) You don’t need to be a CARA member to participate.

6) You can volunteer AND run. Pre-run set-up assistance and other jobs make this easy. 

7) Families are encouraged to run. Strollers; you bet, although please line up in the back of the pack. Kids are welcomed to join in the fun (under 18, parental waiver required). Bring the dog? Sure, on leash, and also please line up in the back of the pack. Wheelchairs are included and encouraged, although the paths in some parks may have uneven stretches of pavement, so proceed with caution.

8) There are no medals or awards in Go Run Chicago, just the knowledge that you’re doing something potentially great – for your health, for your family, and for FUN. Did I mention the participation cost? Right; it’s free!

CARA and the Chicago Park District hope that Go Run Chicago will make the city’s parks more engaging, encourage neighborhood residents to an active lifestyle, bring people together in that shared activity, and even spark other runs and community engagement.  

Chicago is a great running city – there is so much evidence in the form of trails, clubs, training programs and races of all sizes and shapes. 

Hats off to CARA for growing the sport toward new communities. I’m encouraged by initiatives like Go Run Chicago that look to provide access for anyone and everyone to explore running. I wish it every success. 

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