I had a half day conference on Saturday morning at Lurie Children's Hospital in downtown Chicago. I also knew that I needed to run on Saturday, and I did some mental gymnastics trying to figure out how I could get it done. I had to leave my house really early, and the thought of getting up at zero dark thirty to run was not appealing to me, at all. I made a decision. I was going to bring my running shoes and I was going to run downtown after the conference. I have never run downtown along the lake except when I'm racing. The more I thought about my plan, the more excited I became. And it was really interesting how things fell into place. The weather forecast? Sunny and cooler along the lake, with highs in the 60s. Fueling? Lunch (free) would be served at the conference. Parking? The hosts offered a $10 parking voucher. It seemed almost too good to be true. I decided that it was meant to be. This run would be my therapy, my positive ending to a very difficult week.
Like the compulsive runner that I am, I planned this run like I plan for a race. I reviewed the route I'd take to get to the lakefront path. I laid out all my gear the night before. Set my alarm and went to bed early. Getting downtown at 630 am was a breeze. The conference was good. One of the speakers was a sports medicine doctor, and I've heard him speak before. He's quite entertaining. Today he talked about common sports injuries in adolescents. He did make the statement that "marathon runners are the worst patients to treat.". He gave a couple of examples, one of a runner who insisted on running the marathon with a stress fracture in her femur (she finished and then got treated) and a guy who collapsed after the finish line, needing CPR. Once revived, he asked where his medal was. Everyone in the room gasped. Except for me--the runner who ran a race on a broken foot last spring....I chuckled to myself and looked longingly at my bag of running gear on the floor next to my chair.
Runners, we're different..
|The John Hancock building and Water Tower Place|
After the conference ended, I headed to the restroom to change into my running gear. I went back to my car to put my bag away, and headed to the street to try and get a signal on my Garmin. Anyone who has run in downtown Chicago knows that this is a huge challenge. The tall buildings really mess with the satellite reception. When I ran the Chicago marathon last year, my Garmin was useless for pacing. After a couple of minutes, I got a signal, and I was off.
|Looking south toward Navy Pier. You can see the ferris wheel. The building to the right is Lake Point Tower.|
I headed towards Chicago avenue and looked for the underpass, and took the stairs to go under Lake Shore Drive. I came out on the lakefront path and had to stop briefly to take it all in. What a gorgeous day, and what a gorgeous view. I used to work at the University of Chicago, and drove Lake Shore Drive every day. The view never gets old. I've been a lot of places, and personally, I think there is no more beautiful skyline than the Chicago skyline. My brother-in-law, a native New Yorker, disagrees vehemently with me on this point. To each his own...
I ran south towards Navy Pier. I was shocked at how many people were on the path walking, bicycling, and yes, running. There were Segway Tours. My husband joked that I would get hit by someone riding a "Divvy" (a rental bike)--they're everywhere-- and yes, I had a close call almost right away. The path was under construction, and it was a little confusing but I just kept heading south.
|Running over the Chicago River. The building directly behind me is Donald Trump's contribution to the city of Chicago.|
The detour took me up onto the Columbus Drive bridge over the Chicago River. There were a lot of tourist boats going back and forth. Once I crossed the bridge, it was back down to the lakefront. I stopped to take a picture across the street from Buckingham Fountain, and the people that I asked were visiting from Poland. They took my picture and asked me where they could find "the bean". I sent them in the general direction of the stainless steel sculpture and headed on my way towards the museum campus, where you can find the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium. I spotted a couple getting married on the grass near the Planetarium. The wind was pretty strong off the lake, and her groom put his jacket on her shoulders.
|Wedding pictures on the lawn of the Adler Planetarium|
I kept running around the Planetarium and found myself on Northerly Island. This used to be an airport, called Meigs Field, but was suddenly shut down in the middle of the night by the former mayor of the city. Now it's a park, and there was a concert stage set up. I wondered who was playing there that night.
|Burnham Harbor with Soldier Field in the background|
I stopped to take a picture of all the boats in Burnham Harbor. Behind the Harbor is Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears. Behind that, I spied the Chicago skyline and the
Sears Willis Tower. At this point, I had run 4 miles, and so I headed back north. My run up until then had been easy and when I headed north, I realized why. The wind, blowing off the lake, was really strong. Running into that wind, my pace slowed down remarkably. I groaned to myself and kept pushing forward, retracing my steps. I found the Chicago Avenue underpass, and headed back to my car.
I reflected on my run. What didn't I love? The crowds. The tourists. There were so many people along the lake, and a lot just not paying attention to what they were doing--like the bicyclist who almost ran into me. I had to do so much weaving--it was like running in a race! If I did this again (and I will), I'd plan on running much earlier in the day.
But all that was minor compared to the pleasure I felt running along Chicago's lakefront. I do believe I had a smile on my face almost the entire time I was running. What did I love? I always love racing in the city but today I loved the experience of running along the lake with no goal, no plan, just to run 8 miles and take it all in. I love this city. The skyline? Spectacular. And if you get tired of that, you can always look out at the lake. Even though the day was fairly cool, the boaters were out in full force, either out in the harbors, or just sitting in their docked boats, living it up.
I also loved that I could do 8 miles in the afternoon. The old me, the "I can only run in the morning me" would have wilted and never been able to do this run. I love how my running has evolved, how I've become so much more flexible. I love how I could eat a turkey and cheese sandwich, and head out 2 hours later and run some killer paces (with the wind at my back, there were a couple of 8 min/miles in there!), no side stitches. This run felt good, physically and mentally. I felt like I could have kept on going past the 8 miles I had planned for today. Don't we all love runs like that?
I pulled out of the parking garage, and saw that if I hadn't had my $10 parking voucher, I would have paid $53 dollars to park there today. And that's something to love.
I'm so glad I took advantage of my day downtown to have a running adventure! It felt so good to get out of my comfort zone. We runners get so caught up in our training--our miles and our paces and it felt great to just get out there and run. And to stop to enjoy the view. What a great way to end the week!
Have you ever taken yourself on a running adventure? Not a race, just a really fun run?
I'm linking this post with Tara at RunningNReading for her Weekend Update!