Race Certification

CARA has a long history of supporting and assisting races as they work to improve the running experience of their participants and to raise the standard of racing for all runners.

CARA offers races the opportunity to achieve and assert their excellence through its certification process. By requiring races to adhere to its Best Practices Guidelines (formerly the CARA Standards), CARA is able to certify and promote races to its membership and the wider running community. Additionally, only certified races will be eligible for promotion and official affiliation opportunities with CARA.   


  • Adhere to all requirements outlined within the CARA’s Best Practice Guidelines. Races must have a full understanding and plan for executing the CARA Best Practices Guidelines prior to application;

  • Provide a CARA member registration discount [minimum discount of 10% o $5] that is active until the close of online registration*;

  • Provide CARA with at least three (3) complimentary race entries to be used at CARA’s discretion that are active until the close of online registration*;

  • Post-race, distribute to participants, by e-mail, a survey related to event organization;

*Races that do not comply with this requirement will not receive any promotional benefits with their certification (i.e. Connection listing, Calendar highlight, printed material distribution).


  • Race will receive CARA Certified Race endorsement including a unique CARA Certified Race logo, certification number, and statement to be used event materials and website;

  • Race will receive participant post-event participant survey results from CARA to aid in the evaluation of event and future planning;

  • Race will be designated as a qualifying race for CARA Racing Award requirements;

  • Race will be considered for inclusion in following year’s CARA Runners Choice Circuit and/or as a CARA Training Program Target Race;

  • Race will receive a CARA Certified Race icon and search results distinction on CARA Local Race and Events Calendar;

  • Race will be featured in the CARA Connection newsletter's listing of upcoming CARA Certified Races approximately four weeks prior to the race date. The Connection is distributed to CARA's over 10,000 members;

  • CARA will display the race’s printed event materials (up to 8.5”x11” provided by race) at the CARA tent/booth at all CARA Runners' Choice Circuit races and all other races it attends up to three months prior to the event;

  • Listing in CARA members-only discount code listing;

  • 10% discount (Up to $500) on apparel orders from Marathon Sportswear / e-mail kristy@marathonsportswear.net;

  • 10% discount (Up to $500) on timing services from Big River Race Management / e-mail zach@brrm.com


  • A $250 fee is required prior to review of the application ($50 application fee and $200 certification fee). The total fee must be paid PRIOR to the application being reviewed. Should the application be denied, the $200 certification fee will be refunded. Fees are not refundable, deferrable, or transferrable for any other reason, including race cancellation. After submission, instructions for payment by credit card or check will immediately be provided.

  • Multi-race discounts are available. E-mail events@cararuns.org for inquiries.

Application Process: 

  • Complete application online HERE. Applications are only accepted online as of 12/1/2020. Applicants should expect the application to take up to 20-30 minutes to complete.

  • Complete payment of $250 fee. Applications will no longer be reviewed prior to payment. Should the application be denied, the $200 certification fee will be refunded. Fees are not refundable, deferrable, or transferrable for any other reason, including race cancellation. After submission, instructions for payment by credit card or check will immediately be provided.

  • IMPORTANT: Races MUST not advertise in any way themselves as CARA Certified on current year's materials and websites prior to approval. Doing so may result in certification denial. It is the race's responsibility to apply far enough in advance to meet its marketing deadlines.

  • Races should submit their race to the CARA race calendar at https://airtable.com/shrvEIkheh2HZjynG. Races are not automatically added after certification.


Frequently Asked Questions:

Q:  What is a CARA Certified Race?

A:  CARA Certified Races are ones that promise to adhere to CARA’s Best Practices Guidelines. These Guidelines embody the highest standards for the execution of a road race. Races that follow these Guidelines are eligible for certification and promotion by CARA. 


Q:  Can a race be CARA Certified if it does not meet all requirements?

A:  Races may request exceptions to some requirements. These requests will be reviewed on a case by case basis.


Q:  How common are CARA Certified Races?

A:  Between 80 and 100 races received CARA Certification each year, ranging from small neighborhood runs to world-class events.   


Q:  What is the difference between CARA Certification and USATF Certification?

A:  CARA’s certification is an operational certification promoting quality, safe, and well-organized events; while USATF’s certification is a certification specific only to the accuracy of the race course.


Q:  How does CARA determine if a race follows the Best Practices Guidelines?

A:  CARA requires races to provide a standardized survey, created by CARA, to its participants. The CARA Race Committee, Board, Staff, and Membership also regularly review and provide feedback on local events. The CARA Race Committee meets quarterly to discuss local races as well. The Race Committee is made up of a wide range of runners and race directors from many different local running clubs.


Q:  What happens if a race falls short of requirements?

A:  CARA discusses the shortcomings and works with the race to determine solutions.  Our goal is always to help a race to get better. If a race is willing to get better we will continue to work with it. If the race is not willing to work to improve, or continues to make significant errors, the race will no longer be certified by CARA.


Q:  How does a race become a CARA Runners’ Choice Circuit Race?

A:  In late fall each year the CARA Race Committee reviews and evaluates all CARA Certified race participant surveys. The Race Committee also conducts a survey to CARA membership about local racing. This data is used to choose the schedule of races. Factors that are considered are CARA Certification status, history of successfully meeting CARA’s Best Practices Guidelines, date of the race, the location of the race, the distance of the race, and runner satisfaction with the race. Once the top races are identified the committee works to create a schedule that is runner-friendly and includes races that are balanced between the city and the suburbs.


Q:  Who competes in the CARA Runners’ Choice Circuit?

A:  Runners of all levels and nearly every major running club in Chicagoland. CARA offers competition from youth to elite and Clydesdale to Club. Circuit Races draw the area's most dedicated racers. Nearly 4,000 runners annually score points in the circuit.


Q:  How does CARA encourage local race participation?

A:  CARA provided nearly 300 awards, both participation and competitive based, annually to runners who participated in local races.


Q:  Does CARA sponsor local races?

A:  CARA does not financially sponsor local races.