Chicago-Based Boston Marathon Training Programs

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Two local organizations provide great training programs for runners who are signed up for the Boston Marathon in 2023. This year’s race will be held on Patriot’s Day, which is Monday, April 17th, 2023. All runners who met their qualifying time standards received entry for the second year in a row. With the new time standards being five minutes faster than the historical times, it seems that the Boston Athletic Association has gotten the entry standards set perfectly. There’s just something crushing about meeting your qualifying time only to be rejected because you had to be 3 minutes under!

Spring marathon training is a whole different animal than fall marathon training. Runners are just coming off of holiday season, where many of us have enjoyed the spirits and sweets of the season and have dialed our mileage down. This lazier lifestyle coupled with the extreme cold and snow that Chicago is so well known for, can make for a difficult training season, to say the least.

There are also far less races to keep runners motivated, and less marathon schedule support, especially for those long runs. I have found spring marathon training to be lonely, cold, and not a whole lot of fun! 6 am on a morning in mid-February looks a whole lot different than 6 am on a morning in August! It takes me about 10 minutes to get my winter running gear on and, it never fails, the second I get my mittens on I realize I forgot to start my watch. So off come the mittens and I have to restart my routine!

Well, two Chicago organizations have set out to make spring marathon training, specifically Boston Marathon training, easier for us. Fleet Feet Chicago and the Chicago Area Runners Association have training programs you can sign up for that feature speed and tempo runs, long runs, and support at the Boston Marathon itself. I have found these programs to be invaluable, specifically when I am in Boston and relying on the bus and course support the offer. I normally go to Boston without friend and family course support so having a Chicago-group of friendly and familiar faces take me to the race, allow me to sit in a climate-controlled bus until race start, take my bag for me and hold it until finish, and cheer me on along the way is worth every penny and more.

Chicago Area Runners Assocation: Boston Performance Training

The CARA program offers an in-person training program, as well as a virtual one for those who can’t make the group runs or live too far from them. Registration is not yet open, but will open soon for these. You can find full information on the programs from their website, but here is snippet of the benefits I pulled from their site for quick perusal. The in-person program costs $195 and the virtual program costs $100. Both programs provide participants access to a bus on the morning of the marathon, which takes runners to the start line. Boston requires runners to arrive extra early, and the weather can be finnicky in April, so having a nice warm Coach bus to sit on is amazing. Plus you can leave your drop bags in the bus and the incredible CARA staff will transport them to the finish line for you to pick up after.

Group Program Benefits:

  • 15-week customized training plan from CARA Head Coach Tim Bradley, based on your individual goals, mileage, and paces.

  • Training guide and weekly education newsletters

  • Video guided marathon tailored strength training plan

  • Group training long runs (Saturdays) led by group leaders for 7:30 to 11:30 pace/per mile run, and 12:00 to 13:00 pace/per mile run/walk

  • Coach led speed workouts (Wednesdays)

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

  • Rush Physical Therapy Injury Hotline

  • Custom BOCO CARA winter training hat

  • Access to a private STRAVA group for program participants

  • Access to CARA’s hotel block (first come, first serve)

  • CARA Boston Performance Training Packet mailed directly to participants

Virtual Program Benefits:​

  • 15-week customized training plan from CARA Head Coach Tim Bradley, based on your individual goals, mileage, and paces.

  • Training guide and weekly education newsletters

  • Video guided marathon tailored strength training plan

  • Rush Physical Therapy Injury Hotline

  • Access to CARA’s hotel block (first come, first serve)​

Fleet Feet Chicago: Boston Bound

Fleet Feet offers two training program options. The first is similar to CARA’s above and is tailored for those runners registered for the 2023 Boston Marathon. The program features speed and tempo runs, long runs, and several different amenities during race weekend. Below are a list of benefits from their website. The cost for the program is $375 or $325 if you are an alumni to the program.

Program benefits:

  • Weekly 16-week day-by-day training program coached by USATF-certified and championship-level coaches with more than 25 combined Boston Marathon finishes.
  • Wednesday evening speed & tempo runs at Fleet Feet Old Town (gear check provided)
  • Saturday morning long runs at Fleet Feet and Barrington High School (depending on weather conditions). Fully supported (gear check, Gatorade, and water all provided)
  • Hill training that mirrors the Boston Marathon Course
  • Boston Bound program shirt
  • Private clinics on topics including race prep, hydration, and nutrition
  • Weekly Boston Bound newsletter with workouts, training tips


Boston Marathon Race Weekend Amenities:

  • Access to select room blocks at various Boston hotels (based on availability: link to room block portal will be provided in registration confirmation)
  • Private charter buses to the start line in Hopkinton – stay on the buses until your wave starts and leave gear on the bus. Gear will be ready for you at Race Day Resort at the Host Hotel.
  • Shakeout run from the Tortoise and Hare along the Charles River on Sunday morning with a light breakfast included
  • Pre-race private dinner for program participants in Boston’s North End early Sunday evening. Friends and family may also join you (for an additional fee)
  • VIP pre-race lounge for runners prior to boarding buses to the start line. Open at 5 a.m. with coffee, bagels, hydration
  • VIP Race Day Resort at the Host Hotel including gear pick up, recovery, food, and beverages
  • Post-event celebration party (in Chicago & Boston)

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

I can’t speak highly enough about these two programs and encourage you to research them both if you are planning to run Boston. The training programs are motivational and provide a community in the cold winter, also providing some accountability to get those long runs in. But, the true benefit, in my opinion, is having course and emotional support in Boston. It can be a stressful experience and having a familiar organization take care of the race day logistics is beyond helpful.

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Mandi has been running for over 25 years and has participated in the Chicago, Detroit, and Boston Marathons. Mandi regularly competes in regional events and enjoys being a part of several running groups including CARA and the Badgerland Striders. She is a co-host on the Ten Junk Miles podcast and looks forward to hosting the Chicago Athlete Podcast. An RRCA certified coach and Les Mills certified instructor, Mandi is also a coach with Chicago Athlete Coaching. Mandi is a local government attorney by weekday and race warrior by weekend.

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