|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.|
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.