Race Certification

CARA has a long history of supporting and assisting races as they work to improve the running experience of their participants. This fulfills, as well, CARA’s mission to raise the standard of road 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.   



E-Mail questions and applications to

Please note, at this time, CARA will not issue certification to races without a detailed plan for how it will meet local and state COVID-19 guidelines for gathering and safety measures.



  • CARA certification must be renewed annually. Logos from previous years are not valid and must be removed from websites and materials annually. 

  • Adhere to all requirements outlined within the CARA’s Best Practice Guidelines. Races are expected to have a full understanding of the CARA Best Practices Guidelines prior to application. Free Race Director Clinics are available to learn more about the Guidelines;

  • Complete an application (Download file), and receive approval from CARA as certified prior to promoting the race as CARA Certified;

  • After approval, display the CARA Certified Race logo and a unique number on race website. Logo must be linked to the Best Practices Guidelines. Races may NOT use the CARA organizational logo or CARA Circuit Races logo without permission from CARA;

  • Post-race, distribute by e-mail a provided CARA Race Certification Survey to all participants;

  • Provide CARA, upon request, a 10x10 space or larger at your race site near the start, finish, sponsor or registration area for CARA to provide member services and promotion. [CARA will notify the event at least 14-days prior event if it requests space. Should you require more advanced notice please contact];

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

  • Provide CARA members with a discounted registration rate [minimum discount of 10%] that is active until the close of online registration;

  • Make a payment of $250 to CARA to assist in CARA's administration of the Race Certification program.


  • Race will receive CARA Certified Race endorsement including approval to include CARA Certified Race logo, certification number, and statements on all event materials and website;

  • Race will receive participant post-event survey results from CARA including a year-end comparison to industry-standard survey scores to aid in the evaluation of event and future planning;

  • Race will be designated as a qualifying race for CARA Participation 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 CARA Certified Race icon and search results distinction on CARA Local Events Calendar;

  • CARA will display 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

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

  • 10% discount on marketing opportunities through Chicago Athlete Magazine / e-mail

Application Process: 

  • Review the CARA’s Best Practice Guidelines. Prior to application ensure the race is prepared to meet all requirements and have an initial plan for execution.

  • Print, complete and send the application (Download file) to or mail to CARA, 1100 W. Cermak, #231, Chicago, IL 60661. Note: CARA'S NEW ADDRESS. Do NOT send incomplete applications. Races that fail to agree to requirements will not be reviewed.

  • Send $250 fee by check (payable to Chicago Area Runners Association) to the above address. After application and fees are received please allow for 14 days for applications to be processed. Invoices may be requested. Credit card payments are accepted by request. The race must pay the credit card processing fee.

  • 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 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:  Is there a fee to be a CARA Certified Races?

A:  Yes, races are required to provide a fee of $250 to support CARA's administration of the Race Certification program.


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 only a certification that the race course itself is accurately measured.


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 monthly 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 mistakes, the race will no longer be certified by CARA.


Q:  What benefits does CARA provide Certified Races?

A:  CARA provides an endorsement with logo to display so participants know the race is CARA Certified, an opportunity for a consultation to discuss how to meet the Best Practices Guidelines, a post-event survey to provide to participants, event promotion and inclusion in CARA awards programs that honor CARA members who participate in Certified Races are some of the benefits.


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 Race?

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 areas most dedicated racers. Nearly 4,000 runners scored points in the 2015 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. This includes Circuit Awards, Participation Awards Long Distance Awards and the Marathon Incentive Program.


Q:  Does CARA sponsor local races?

A:  CARA does not financially sponsor local races.