Friday, January 9, 2015

My kind of town...

As I sit inside, under a heap of blankets, snow and wind whipping outside, my mind wanders ahead to the upcoming race season. With the exception of the Sarasota Half Marathon (Florida), I haven't firmed up my race plans for this year. People who know me well know that I'm not a big planner when it comes to choosing races. Last year, I planned ahead and I had my first DNS due to injury. That did not make me happy. It was a streak of sorts, really! Plus, I don't like to eat the high cost of races. So I kind of like to wait and see how I'm feeling. But one thing I know for sure is that the majority of my races this year will be run in my hometown, Chicago. Today I'm linking up with the DC Trifecta aka EatPrayRunDC, You Signed up for What?, and Mar on the Run to talk about my 5 favorite races I've run in Chicago!

North Avenue Beach, with the Chicago skyline in the background. This is the "preview" day for the Air and Water Show. We used to go with a bunch of neighbors every year! 
I grew up in a really small town about 60 miles northwest of the city, but my grandparents lived in Chicago and we spent a lot of time visiting them. They actually lived right across the street from the Lincoln Park Zoo! My sisters and I visited them a lot and my grandparents took us all over the city, fueling my love for Chicago. After I graduated from college, I got a job in one of the big hospitals on the near West side and moved to a Rogers Park, on the north side. Eventually I took a job as a home health nurse and traveled all over the city to see patients. I got to learn a lot about the city and neighborhoods. A few years later, my husband and I moved to Edison Park, which is located on the far northwest side of Chicago. I loved that neighborhood, but when I had my first son, we decided to move to the suburbs to raise our kids. Believe it or not, I had never lived in the suburbs and it was a bigger adjustment than I expected. To this day, I still love to go to the city and I still get a thrill when I'm heading in on the expressway and see that beautiful skyline. Some mornings as I'm driving to work, I can spy the Willis (aka Sears) Tower in the distance. Amazing, really, because it is about 25 miles southwest of where I live now.

The boys and me, 2 years ago, playing tourist on the skydeck of the Willis Tower
This is why I will be running the Chicago marathon again this year--provided I get in the lottery! I love the Chicago marathon. The race meanders throughout a large portion of the city, and runners really get a flavor of the various neighborhoods. Since I had all that experience traveling the city in my home health days, it's really like coming home for me. I'm happy when I run in the city. Chicago is a great city for runners. The people come out in droves to cheer on the runners and it is an amazing experience.



One of the biggest assets the city has to offer is its lakefront. Chicago's lakefront is loaded with beaches, parks, golf courses, and of course, the lakefront path. A lot of Chicago's races are run on the lakefront path. One of my favorite races, the CARA Lakefront 10 miler, which is considered a "kick off" to the race season, is run along the lakefront. The race also takes you through the harbors, which are somewhat empty this time of year. Since this race is in April, the weather can be unpredictable. But that's all part of the fun of living and running in Chicago. 

Broken foot and all...the weather was perfect for a PR!
Another race, the Chicago Spring Half Marathon, is run on the Lakefront Path as well, but runs south to Burnham Harbor. Technically, I didn't actually run this race but if I had, it would be a favorite and so I've included it. This was the race I couldn't run, due to my broken foot. I did go down there to spectate and cheer my friends on, and I'm glad I did. I had never run a race on that end of the Lakefront path, and it was really beautiful. I was able to experience a race on that part of the path later in the summer when I ran Zooma Chicago. I also learned what a**holes some cyclists can be, as they raced by us while we ran. It was really dangerous. 

Chicago Half Marathon running on Lake Shore Drive
Several years ago, I ran the Chicago Half Marathon. This fall race starts in Hyde Park, which is the home of President Barack Obama. Hyde Park is also the home of the University of Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry. This part of Chicago was developed during the Columbian Exposition/Worlds Fair in 1893 (there is a great book, Devil in the White City, that takes place in this era). The parks in this part of the city are hidden gems, truly. Besides running through this area, part of the race is run on Lake Shore Drive, which is closed to traffic. I thought that was very cool and I loved this race but I didn't love the logistics, as getting there and finding parking was a challenge. Still, given the chance, I'd run it again.

Chicago Half Marathon 2011
There is one other race that I used to love, but haven't run in years, and that is the Shamrock Shuffle. This is an 8k, which is another distance that I love. The race is run through downtown Chicago and ends in Grant Park. It usually sells out, reaching a max of 40,000 runners. I don't normally like to run such big races, but the Shuffle is organized by the same group that puts on the Marathon, and so it is a really well run race. I haven't run it in years because it usually is held in late March, and that is when we take a family vacation to Florida. Hmmm...Florida vs Chicago....

One of the reasons I love to run in Chicago so much is because I just love the city. We've talked about moving back to the city once the boys are grown. Besides all the great races and places to run and play, we have theater...great restaurants...culture....if only we could get a Cubs World Series...or another Lombardi trophy....well, at least we have the Hawks! 

Wrigley Field and the iconic scoreboard, 2013
As we say in Chicago, "there's always next year".
BTW, both these boys are taller than me now...

42 comments :

  1. My first marathon was Chicago in 1997! Fond memories....mostly!! LOL! Loved the city, but was unable to spend much time there afterwards. Would love to go back and maybe run the marathon again!

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  2. Chicago is definitely on my list. I would love to do a race there and be able to see the city that way.

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  3. You know that the Chicago Spring Half has morphed into the new 13,1 Chicago, right? They'd been looking to move 13.1 further north for at least five years and now the Chicago Spring course will be it. It was a royal PIA shuttle busing so far south for the old 13.1.

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    1. I did not know that. But I think it's a good idea...there's been too many races the last couple of years...

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  4. Chicago is such a great town--all of these races sound like fantastic options and way to see the city to me! One of these days maybe I'll make it to one...

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  5. Wendy, I have NEVER been to Chicago; such a tragedy. My husband had been several times and he loves it; want to try to get into the marathon, one of these days. It looks like such a wonderful city with lots of great running spaces; thanks so much for sharing these pics! Hope you have a great weekend!

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  6. I am one of the few that didn't enjoy the Chicago marathon. I like to stick to smaller races where I can lose myself.

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    1. I didn't enjoy my first attempt at the beast. But the second one yes. And I was able to lose myself a little...

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  7. I went to Chicago for a conference. it was before I started running. I loved it. I would love to go back.

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  8. i've had some great runs in chicago. i love that city - running along the lake is always fun for me!

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    1. I don't get down there enough. I've done SUP on the lakefront too, and that's also a great experience.

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  9. I have never been to Chicago, but I know people who've run the Chicago Marathon. I would love to visit some day. It looks beautiful. And the lakefront looks like an awesome place to run.

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  10. I loved the book Devil in the White City! I have only visited Chicago once, when I wasn't a runner, and loved it. I'd love to go back and run there!

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    1. I'm always so torn when I'm picking out races...I do love to run in the city!

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  11. I'm visiting Chicago for two nights during Spring Break this year. I haven't been since I was a senior in high school. I can't wait!

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    1. When is your spring break? I hope the weather is decent for you.

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  12. I've been to Chicago once and I'm itching to go back...I was seriously amazed at how awesome that city is! I would love to run the Chicago marathon one day!

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    1. I'm partial but of course I think it is the best city!

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  13. I haven't been to Chicago, but it's on my list for sure. It sounds amazing. The Shamrock Shuffle sounds like a fun race to run. Someday, maybe, if I'm in the area.

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    1. There are a lot of fun races to choose from...all distances.

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  14. Chicago looks like a great place to run. The one time I was there in the summer it was literally over 100 degrees and miserable walking around. My husband goes for work sometimes perhaps I can tag along one of his trips (in the spring :))

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  15. Fun place for a run! I have to get to Chicago and enjoy it sometime soon. Perhaps you will move back into the city once your boys are grown?

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  16. I love Chicago. I went there a few years back for 10 days and it was amazing. I loved Lincoln Park, that's where I stayed. I ran around the water during the mornings. It was beautiful. I am also thinking of signing up for the Chicago Marathon lottery. It would be my first marathon in years!!

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  17. These pics are amazing! I am absolutely looking into the Chicago Marathon lottery and will hopefully partner with a charity to make it happen :)

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  18. I really liked Chicago the two times I went but its was always in the dead of winter, s frigid weather ! I love the museum on the history of Chicago... very interesting !

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    1. Winter isn't the best time to visit! You'll have to come in the summer!

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  19. I would absolutely run any one of these races. I've only been to Chicago twice and I have been dying to go back. The Chicago marathon is definitely on my bucket list.

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  20. I"ve only run in Chicago once. I did the last 10 mile leg of Ragnar which meant I got to run in the city. I LOVED it and would definitely love to run another race there again and see more of it! It is really so beautiful!!

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    1. I hope you come back. I know I need to head to DC...

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  21. I LOVE your take on this Friday Five! Makes me want to run Chicago even more. I can't wait for them to update their website :) Now I know you will be my Chicago Marathon/Chicago area SME (subject matter expert) :)

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    1. Yes! And let me know if you decide to do it so we can meet up!

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