Chicago-Based Boston Marathon Training Programs

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Two local organizations offer excellent training programs for runners who have entered the Boston Marathon in 2023. This year’s race will take place on Patriot’s Day, Monday, April 17, 2023. All runners who have reached their Qualifying time standards received entry for the second consecutive year. With the new time standards being five minutes faster than historic times, it looks like the Boston Athletic Association has set the entry standards perfectly. There’s just something overwhelming about meeting your qualifying time only to be disqualified because you had to have 3 minutes less!

Spring marathon training is a whole different animal than fall marathon training. Runners are fresh out of the holiday season, where many of us enjoyed the spirits and sweets of the season and cut back on our mileage. This lazier lifestyle, coupled with the extreme cold and snow Chicago is famous for, can make training season tough, to say the least.

There are also far fewer races to keep runners motivated and less support for the marathon schedule, especially for long runs. I found spring marathon training to be lonely, cold and not much fun! 6am on a mid-February morning is very different from 6am on an August morning! It takes me about 10 minutes to put on my winter running gear and, it never fails, the second I put my mitts on, I realize I forgot to start my watch. So take the mitts off and I have to start my routine again!

Well, two organizations in Chicago decided to make spring marathon training, specifically Boston marathon training, easier for us. Fleet Feet Chicago and the Chicago Area Runners Association offer training programs you can join that offer speed and pace runs, long runs, and support for the Boston Marathon itself. I have found these programs invaluable, especially when I am in Boston and rely on the bus and class offerings. I normally go to Boston without the support of my friends and family, so having a Chicago group of friendly, familiar faces takes me on a run, lets me sit in an air-conditioned bus until the start of the race, take my bag for me and hold it till the end, and cheer me along the way worth every penny and more.

Chicago Area Runners Association: Boston Performance Training

The CARA program offers an in-person training program, as well as a virtual program for those who cannot do group errands or live too far away. Registrations are not yet open, but will be soon for these. You can find all the information about the programs on their website, but here is a snippet of the benefits I took from their site for a quick read. The in-person program is $195 and the virtual program is $100. Both programs offer participants access to a bus on the morning of the marathon, which takes runners to the start line. Boston requires runners to arrive very early, and the weather can be fickle in April, so having a nice hot bus to sit on is amazing. Plus, you can leave your drop-off bags on the bus and CARA’s amazing staff will transport them to the finish line for you to pick up afterwards.

Benefits of the group program:

  • CARA Head Coach Tim Bradley’s personalized 15-week training plan based on your individual goals, mileage and pace.

  • Training guide and weekly education newsletters

  • Tailor-made video-guided marathon strength training plan

  • Long run group training (Saturday) led by group leaders for 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. pace/per run mile, and 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. pace/per run mile/walk

  • Coach-Led Speed ​​Workouts (Wednesdays)

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

  • Rush Physiotherapy Injury Helpline

  • Personalized BOCO CARA winter training cap

  • Access to a private STRAVA group for program participants

  • Access to the CARA hotel block (first come, first served)

  • CARA Boston Performance Training Packet sent directly to attendees

Benefits of the Virtual Program:​

  • CARA Head Coach Tim Bradley’s personalized 15-week training plan based on your individual goals, mileage and pace.

  • Training guide and weekly education newsletters

  • Tailor-made video-guided marathon strength training plan

  • Rush Physiotherapy Injury Helpline

  • Access to the CARA hotel block (first come, first served)​

Fleet Feet Chicago: to Boston

Fleet Feet offers two workout program options. The first is similar to CARA’s above and is designed for runners registered for the 2023 Boston Marathon. The program includes speed and tempo runs, long runs, and several different pieces of equipment during the race weekend. Below is a list of benefits from their website. The cost of the program is $375 or $325 if you are a program alumnus.

Benefits of the program:

  • Weekly, 16-week, day-to-day training program led by USATF-certified, championship-level coaches with over 25 combined Boston Marathon finishes.
  • Wednesday evening speed and tempo class at Fleet Feet Old Town (equipment check provided)
  • Saturday morning long runs at Fleet Feet and Barrington High School (depending on weather conditions). Fully supported (hardware check, Gatorade and water provided)
  • Hill training that mirrors the Boston Marathon course
  • Boston Bound Program Shirt
  • Private clinics on topics such as race preparation, hydration and nutrition
  • Boston Bound weekly newsletter with workouts, training tips


Boston Marathon Weekend Amenities:

  • Access to select room blocks at various Boston hotels (subject to availability: a link to the room block portal will be provided in the registration confirmation)
  • Private charter buses to the start line in Hopkinton – stay on the buses until your wave begins and leave your gear on the bus. The equipment will be ready for you at the Race Day Resort at the host hotel.
  • Run from the Tortoise and Hare along the Charles River on Sunday mornings with a light breakfast included
  • Private pre-race dinner for program participants in Boston’s North End early Sunday evening. Your friends and family can also join you (at an additional cost)
  • VIP pre-race lounge for runners before boarding the buses for the start line. Open at 5am with coffee, bagels, hydration
  • VIP Race Day Resort at host hotel including gear pick up, pick up, food and beverages
  • Post-event celebration party (in Chicago and Boston)

Fleet Feet also offers a training program for those who want to qualify in 2024. This program is called “Boston Qualify” and costs $195 to participate. It is also a program that runners can sign up for who run a different spring marathon and are looking to train with others.

I can’t say enough about both of these programs and encourage you to seek them both out if you’re considering running Boston. Training programs are motivating and provide community during the cold winter, also providing some responsibility for doing those long runs. But, the real benefit, in my opinion, is having a course and emotional support in Boston. It can be a stressful experience and having a familiar organization taking care of race day logistics is more than helpful.

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