How to Pick the Right Run Club….

If you’re lucky, running clubs in your area are a dime a dozen and ONE SIZE certainly does not fit all.  You need to find one that caters to your needs, your ability level and one that is accommodating to your family’s schedule. 

There is no such thing as a “real” running club.  If the club runs, then they are a running club.  No question.   No exception.  However, each club normally has a specific focus.

Let’s look at my local run clubs in south suburban Chicago and breakdown their specialties so you can pick one that fits your needs.

Tinley Track & Trail – Probably the fastest club in our area.  See the description below from their blog.  “Premier Running Club”.  If you are fast and want to get faster, contact Rich.  He’ll help you fasties get even faster, rack up age group awards at every event you enter and you will finally have a group of equals with which you can run and workout.  If your slow, don’t go.  You might cry at the first workout; I know I would.  Speed work on WED night, long (fast) runs on SAT morn. 


Park Forest Running and Pancake Club –  Probably the longest established group in our area.  The PFRPC was established in 1978 and I think some of their original members still run with the group today.  They have a great crew, very welcoming.  They accept fasties and slow pokes alike.  They generally run on SAT & SUN, locations vary with intermittent Full Moon Runs throughout the year.  Love their motto:  “Start Slowly and Taper Off”.


Frankfort-New Lenox Running Club – One of the newest clubs in the area.  I think they had about 30 members 1.5 years ago and now they have over 475 members on their Facebook page.  This group offers low key group runs every day of the week except Friday.  Locations vary from Manhattan, New Lenox to Frankfort.  All paces & distances welcome.  Large contingent of run/walkers, lots of cyclists & triathletes.  Lots of racing, Lots of cheering, Lots of “cheerleading” to encourage newbies.  No membership fee.


Kankakee River Running Club – Large contingent of far Southside runners.  This group is very eclectic with ultra runners, trail runners, road racers and marathoners.  They work speed on a local track in Kankakee on TUE & THUR evenings, and usually hit some sort of wooded trail over the weekend.  Lots of variety in this club.  Lots of welcoming friendly faces.  Lots of racing locally and throughout this US.   $15 membership gets you a discount to A LOT of local races. 

Swallow Cliff Trail Runners – This group is true to it’s name.  They run Swallow Cliff and the surrounding trails.  They even hit the stairs before or after their runs to make it legit!   Runs are normally on SUN mornings or specifically scheduled thru their Facebook page. 


Yankee Runners –   If you have qualified for Boston and are living in the south suburbs, you will most likely eventually find you way to the Yankee Runners.  During the summer, they pound out miles with CARA in Yankee Woods.  During the winter, they pound out long training runs in the hills of Palos Heights.  This is a warm and welcoming group as long as you don’t mind running their hills.  Most runs on Saturday mornings.  Actual coaching, training plans and prep for half marathon and marathon distance events.


CARA (Chicago Area Runners Association) –    This group has the largest membership of any run club in our area with over 10,000 members.  They run Chicago and the surrounding burbs.  They have a subgroup within a 30 min drive of most areas but almost all runs (except Montrose Harbor) happen on Saturday mornings.  If you are looking for a training plan to run a race, or if you need group runs with actual pace leaders then this is the group for you.  Membership fees and training plans are not cheap but include a lot of extras in each package.  They deliver what is promised, as long as you show up and do the work.


Channahon-Minooka Running Club – A newer club, the CMRC frequently runs the I&M Canal trail and local parks in Lemont, Channahon & Minooka. Good friendly group.  Lots of running, racing & cheerleading.  Get on their Facebook page to hook up with runners in this area.


The above list consists of local clubs that are close to me and when I say “close”, I mean within a 30-45 minute drive.  There will never probably be anything in my backyard since I live in the middle of nowhere but I do like to travel around, try new trails and meet new people.  I also like to utilize the various clubs for their strong points whether that be a nice group run with lots of varied paces or a good speed workout.  Sometimes I decide where to go depending on what I can fit into our hectic family schedule.   I will always be FNRC proud but it is important that I maximize the opportunities in my area and meet as many local runners as possible.

Please peruse this list if you are a  Chicago south suburban runner.  Find a club, or two, or three that fits your needs!   If you are not in my area then look for run clubs in your area on one of the following sites:  Running in the USA, CARA (Chicago area only), Road Runners of America (only chartered run clubs are listed), US Run Clubs, Cool Running or RunningPage.

Any local clubs that I have missed?  Add them into the comments below!

** Happy Running ** Amanda – **

12 thoughts on “How to Pick the Right Run Club….

  1. Thank you for the roundup! I want to join a club, but my times to run aren’t very flexible without sacrificing family time.
    While not a fleshed out group (its pretty new), there is
    It focuses on people that use reddit, run, and live in Chicago. Its a discussion board with hopes to get people together come this nice weather!

  2. Thanks for this summary of all the running clubs in the area. We are lucky to have so many! This doesn’t even include the running store groups that are usually a blend of some of these running clubs! Chicago and the Chicagoland area folks sure do love to RUN! 🙂

  3. I think there is only 1 running club where I live – I’ve been thinking about joining for awhile now. Maybe I will do a little more checking.

  4. Pretty good summary of the clubs and all I am familiar with. They all have there advantages and it is not out of the question to segue between one, two or more clubs. I know…I do! TTF accurately captures the essence of all the clubs. Not so sure Tinley Track and Trail the fastest…maybe if you did some analysis on there race times in shorter distance venues…maybe, but they do emphasize that all “finish” Chicago Marathon and nothing there gloating bout speed. But yes…TT&T do got some speedsters…but most other clubs got them also. Remember…speed is relative to intensity. Good post. FNRC and PFRPC probably best place to start if you new or beginner or just want to break-in. Speed always can wait…as it should be in any solid run-training program.

  5. I was burned by a running club (that I paid a considerable amount to join) a few years back while training for my first marathon. Cliques were formed and it was implied there was no room for newbies. When I went to the leader to voice my concerns, a scarlet letter was then placed upon my chest. I’ve been running on my own ever since. I’ve warmed up to the F’NRC on Facebook so I’ve got to get over the fact that not every club is like that and just get my ass out there.

  6. Pingback: Find Something You LOVE ….. | TooTallFritz

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