Tuesday, January 8, 2013

We run this town.

My view on a run. (Well, one of them.)

I used to be intimidated by Chicago's Lakefront path. In the warmer months, it's overflowing with people -- runners, bikers, rollerbladers, walkers, teenagers, tourists, beach goers, dog walkers, stray children who don't look before they dart in front of your bike, giving you a heart attack at 6 a.m. on your commute to work and making you think that you'll hit them and either kill them or die yourself in a crash. (Sorry... projecting.)

It took me a while to get used to frantic pace while still being able to keep my cool. (It's been more than six years since I moved here, and I still know my sanity will always be tested if I ride south of Fullerton on a warm summer afternoon. Been there, been hit in the head with the football by the drunk frat boys.) (True story.) (I also got hit by a flag attached to a passing triple-wide stroller. You can't make this shit up.)

I live about two blocks from the 18-mile-long paved path that runs along the waterfront. To dodge the crowds -- and my own insecurities when I started running -- I'd usually veer along winding dirt paths that splinter off from the main north-south thoroughfare. Sure, they might be muddy and devoid of bathrooms and water fountains. But they offered this incredibly different experience of exercising in the city. Running right along the water's edge, I'd loop around Montrose Harbor, following the shoreline south past the golf course and then trace the outline of Belmont Harbor before turning back north to finish a 5-mile route. You'd get spectacular views of the skyline while passing a few runners and picnickers off the main drag. (I learned the disastrous way NOT to bring the Mutt Puppy on these runs after an ill-fated outing where she stopped roughly every 500 feet to roll around in smelly goose poo and fish detritus.)

A storm washed out a huge part of my favorite splinter path last summer, so I've found other routes to call my own. In the winter, when the sun sets before 5 p.m., I hit the main trail. (Because treadmills are the devil.)  It's a wholly different experience to be out there in January. Bundled up in gaiters and balaclavas, you still see just a few runners and cyclists who are out in the cold. You nod as you pass each other, offering the trail version of a high-five. (I've been known to let out a loud squeal when the snowflakes start falling and the wind gusts kick up in single-degree weather.)

RunChi shirt from CafePress.
This past summer, I'd ride my bike six miles down to Oak Street Beach on Saturday mornings to get in a swimming workout while I was training for a triathlon. One morning in particular it felt like the path -- and the entire city -- was alive. It was warm and sunny on the way south as I passed my Chicago Endurance Sports teammates training for the marathon. Along the way I spotted an outdoor yoga class, cycling groups, people doing bootcamps, tennis players, people flying kites, walking dogs, fishing, picnicking and swimming. I finished my workout with this ridiculous grin, so proud of my city and the people in it. It was just one of those moments when I felt so much civic pride. I was so stoked to be able to call myself part of Chicago's dynamic running community.

The path is this weird place full of conflict when it's crowded and yet full of serenity when it's not. (And the views of the city are mind-blowing.) When I saw this photo posted on a Facebook page, I knew I'd have to share it.

If you're ever up this way, let me know -- I'll show you my trail. Just make sure you bring your camera.


Pete B said...

Great pic! I wonder how old that picture is? The retaining wall looks crumbly and there is no Trump Tower. Anyway, I prefer the Lakefront Trail in the winter, but appreciate the life and vitality of the path in the summer!

Noodles said...

I thought the same thing when I saw the photo! I actually am now so used to the Trump building that I did a double check to be EXTRA sure it was our skyline. :)

I'm with you on the trail in the winter. It's kind of like our own little playground. In the summer, we have to share it with everyone else. (And shout, over and over and over and over "on your left!" or "bike back!) In the winter, it's just ours to enjoy!

Erin said...

I loves my noodles all bad-assey!