Area Spring Training Programs Provide Companionship, Motivation

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While spring officially begins in two and a half weeks, Chicago’s weather does not often perfectly coincide with the calendar. Cool temperatures can linger well beyond the spring equinox, sometimes making it difficult to want to head outside for a run even with a big race looming on the calendar. Fortunately, multiple local groups recently kicked off their annual spring running programs to help encourage athletes to lace up their shoes.
A few weeks ago, the Chicago Area Runners Association launched its annual Spring 10 Mile and Half Marathon Training programs. The programs, which target both early May half marathons and the Live Grit Lakefront 10, give runners from all ends of the experience spectrum the opportunity to train with others.
“You get the novices that are looking for support with a new distance or goal, the experienced runners that are looking to help others achieve their goals by group leading and those looking to PR with a little help from CARA runners,” Waveland site coordinator Oscar Valencia says.
CARA’s spring half marathon training runs out of four locations: downtown (333 E. Benton Place), Waveland, New Balance in Hyde Park (5500 S. Lake Park Ave.) and St. Alexander Church in Palos Heights (7025 W. 126th St.). Because 10 mile training also begins and ends at Waveland, runners from the two programs train together.
Paul Merrick, who leads an 8:00 minute pace group during summer marathon training, also helps with spring half marathon training out of the Waveland location. Though he leads fast groups that often focus more on performance than completion, he says even the traditionally more serious pace groups relax a bit this time of year.
“We’re less concerned about pace and more about time running,” Merrick says. “Sometimes the lakefront is so slippery.”
Even with a more laid-back vibe, having group members available to keep you accountable can make a big difference in motivation, Federoff says.
“It makes it so much easier to get out of bed early on a cold Saturday morning if you know there are other runners doing the same,” she says. “Once the run begins, you quickly forget about the miles at hand, and, before you know it, you’ve completed your miles for the day and made a few new friends.”
For runners itching to compete, the Live Grit Lakefront 10 Miler that the 10 mile training program targets provides them with that outlet.
“[The race] is very competitive, which we love,” CARA training program manager Meg Sullivan says. “All the different racing teams take part. It’s a good start to the season to see where you’re at for a longer race.”
The top five male and females finishers in the Live Grit Lakefront 10 Miler will receive prize money, with an additional bonus if they belong to CARA, and those registered for the training program receive discounted entry into the race.
If runners want to add a bit of education to their physical training, Experience Triathlon, a Naperville-based training and coaching service, offers a half marathon class, which began in late February. While participants do receive a training program and have nine group long runs with coaches, the hallmark of the program is its seminars.
“This is a coached class, and every class starts out with Coach’s Corner: a sit down session with either coaches that run the program or guest speakers,” Joe LoPresto, founder and head coach of Experience Triathlon, says. “The program is a nice combination that way.”
Classes, which take place at Starbucks (22 E. Chicago Ave.) in Naperville, cover a wide range of topics, including nutrition, health and mental skills. While the information particularly helps those new to the sport, experienced runners benefit from it as well.
“We’ve had a few people that have done a lot of races but really enjoy the concept of the class,” LoPresto says. “It gives them accountability to be on a progression and get their run done.”
ET’s training program follows a progression that allows runners to target a variety of half marathons in the spring. The program provides guidance both for weekday and weekend runs so those training know what they need to do to prepare for their race even on days without class.
“That’s what people always want to know: what should I do for the rest of the week?” LoPresto says. “We provide guidance for that on a group basis.”