6 Best Running Clubs in Chicago

Whether you’re a beginner, elite, or competitive runner, joining a running club can help improve your performance while bonding with like-minded people. Running clubs can help you push yourself just a bit more, keep you accountable for your runs and workouts, and give you a sense of community. If you’re interested, consider joining any of these running clubs in the Chicago area.

Chicago Area Runners Association

Image via Flickr by gsregalado

The nonprofit Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) strives to support runners of all levels and ages to have high-quality race standards, running accessibility throughout Chicago, and top-notch training programs. With over 10,000 members, CARA is the nation’s third-largest running club and hosts several special running events throughout the year. Key events include the Lakefront 10 Miler & 5K, Ready to Run 20 Miler, and the Miler Per Hour Run. As a member of CARA, you can participate in educational clinics or charity training partnerships and train for the Chicago marathon and half-marathon.

If you would like help reaching your unique running goals, take advantage of one of CARA’s training programs. You won’t feel alone when trying to achieve your goals, as you always have mentorship and coaching to help you with the CARA Training motto — Power of the Group. CARA holds spring and winter marathon and half-marathon training programs as well as the Boston Performance training program. You can join the Chicago Area Runners Association and run with the group at several locations throughout Chicago.

City Striders

City Striders is a Chicago nonprofit running club that offers organized runs to help you stay on track for your running goals. When you run with the group at City Striders, not only will you benefit from the numerous health benefits running provides, but you can also achieve a sense of well-being, accomplishment, and camaraderie from this Chicago running club.

Clocktower Runners

If you’re looking for free marathon training in a fun and supportive atmosphere, join Clocktower Runners. During marathon training season, the club members meet every Saturday at 6:30 a.m. for formal pace group runs while following the marathon training schedule. For the rest of the year, you can meet every Saturday for organized runs that are designed to keep you healthy in a fun way.

The year-round Saturday morning runs start at 8 a.m. at the Waveland Clocktower on Chicago’s lakefront and generally, runners will cover a distance of 6 to 12 miles. Key benefits of joining the Clocktower Runners are free marathon training, certified running coaches to help you train safely and effectively, social activities, and running with an intimate group of committed runners.

Frontrunners Chicago

As part of the International Front Runners with hundreds of clubs around the world, Frontrunners Chicago is the premier running club that supports the LGBT community. Frontrunners Chicago became established in 1982 after the first Gay and Lesbian Pride Run. In 1989, walkers joined the runs, and this group became known as Frontwalkers Chicago. Frontrunners and Frontwalkers host the annual Proud to Run Chicago event that includes a 10K, 5K, and 2-mile event, so people of all running skill levels can participate.

The volunteer staff of Frontrunners and Frontwalkers are known for their festive and entertaining water station during the Chicago marathon. The team wears silly costumes, plays music, and hands out water to help motivate the marathon runners.

Throughout the year, rain or shine, the members meet at the Totem Pole located at Lake Shore Drive and Addison every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. and every Saturday at 9 a.m. to run or walk the various course distances that include a 3-mile, 4-mile, 5-mile, or 6-mile journey.

Venados Running Club

If you live in the Pilsen area of Chicago, you can join the Venados Running Club for organized group runs, races, and social events. This group of runners strives to help support fellow runners in a fun and positive manner while also helping you meet your running goals. Whether you’ve never run before or are an elite runner, you will enjoy the camaraderie and commitment to health that this running club provides.

If you’re just starting out or are recovering from an injury, you can participate in the family-friendly 1 Mile Club. Every Wednesday, join this part of the club for a simple run. This is a great way for the family to bond and for kids to learn the art of running in a safe manner. The Venados Run club organizes races for kids and has partnered with Marathon Kids to encourage children to get out and move in a fun way. Throughout the designated season, Marathon Kids walk, jog, or run 104.8 miles and receive awards for their accomplishments.

For weekly runs, the Venados Running Club meets on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. at various locations throughout the Pilsen area.

Evanston Running Club

Join the Evanston Running Club located just north of Chicago for organized runs, races, and social activities. The Evanston Running Club welcomes runners of all skill levels, from beginners to competitive runners.

If you just want to join a group for weekly runs to help stay fit, the Evanston Running Club offers several runs at various locations, times, and distances led by coaches and run leaders. You can get marathon and half-marathon training help with coaches who use the Hal Higdon training program for Novice 1 and Intermediate 2 levels. The Evanston Running Club offers helpful resources on their website, such as Map My Run and a Race Pace Calculator.

After any run, no matter which club you belong to, if you experience unusual foot pain, you should see a foot specialist to make sure you don’t do any harm to your feet.

Our team at Gurnee Podiatry & Sports Medicine Assoc. hopes you joined one of these Chicago area running clubs to get the most out of your running, jogging, and socializing experience. Which club is your favorite and why? Is there a special Chicago running club that we missed? If so, feel free to contact us and we’ll add your recommendation to our list.