Tuesday, November 13, 2018

My Kind of Town..for Running

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If you had to pick your favorite city to run in, where would you choose? Would you pick a city you've never been to but is on your bucket list? An exotic locale? A place that you return to over and over again? Or a place that's as familiar to you as the street you live on?

Me, I'd choose Chicago.

Rock'N'Roll Chicago Half Marathon 2017
Butler Field

It's no secret to the blog readers that I love my hometown, Chicago. While I grew up in a small town about 50 miles outside the city, my grandparents lived in the Old Town neighborhood and I visited them frequently. I felt as much a part of the city as if I lived there. After I graduated college, I moved to the north side of Chicago. I lived and worked in the city for 10 years. During most of those years, I was a home health nurse and the entire north side of the city (north of 290 for you locals) was my territory. After all those years of traveling the streets, I know the neighborhoods and I love the personality of each area.

I've run more races in Chicago than I can count including the Chicago marathon, which I've run 3 times. Without a doubt, if I could run the Chicago marathon again, I would. I don't know that my body could hold up to the distance anymore and so I have to be content to run shorter distances in my favorite city. I'll take whatever I can get!

Some people complain that Chicago is too big, too dirty, and too noisy. They fear crime. Runners don't like how the tall buildings mess with their GPS. The weather is definitely a challenge, but good weather or bad, there is no place I'd rather run.

So, what's so great about running in Chicago?

The lakefront: If you've never run on the lakefront trail in Chicago, you are missing out on one of the most scenic running spots around. With Lake Michigan to the east and the skyline to the west, the views can't be beat. The trail runs for 18 miles from Ardmore on the north side to 71st street on the south side. I've run most of it at one time or another--but not all at once! I recently did the Lululemon Ghost Race, fully knowing that "the treat" offered to finishers was going to be a coupon. Instead, I looked at it as an opportunity to run the lakefront on a beautiful fall morning. That was my "treat".

Ghost Racing along the lakefront
The start line of just about every race: All the big races start heading north on Columbus Drive and across the Chicago River. The races have taken me in a variety of directions after the start, but this is the iconic starting line. The sight of the tall buildings gets the adrenaline flowing. If you run in Chicago, this never gets old.

At the start of the Shamrock Shuffle 2018 and every other big Chicago race
The people: I'm always amazed at the wonderful spectators that come out to cheer runners on for the big races in Chicago. I love seeing the people lining the Randolph Street Bridge as we run underneath it once we start up Columbus Drive. Spectators line every mile of the marathon course. The first time I ran the marathon, it was really warm and I was so impressed by the kindness of strangers. One woman was carrying around a bowl of orange slices. Another had a big bowl of pretzels. In one neighborhood, a guy was handing out bottles of water.

Chicago Marathon 2014
Chinatown
The sites: It doesn't matter how many times we run down State Street, I still get goosebumps when we run by the Chicago Theater. I always feel like a tourist when I see one of the classic buildings--I have to stop and take a photo.

Marina City
The food: I can't write about running in Chicago without mentioning the food. You need fuel to run and to recover, right? It would be a crime to run a race and not visit one of Chicago's iconic restaurants. If it's fast food you're looking for, Portillo's will fit the bill. Looking for Mexican? Chicago is the home of Rick Bayless and his Frontera Grill empire. Go to the original restaurant on Clark. It's well worth the wait. Chicago is also the home of deep dish pizza. There's a lot of discussion about which is the best but my personal preference is Lou Malnati's. Get the Lou. And if none of these choices appeal to you, there are so many other good places to eat and drink--that could be a whole separate blog post!

And the beer! Oh, the beer!
Since I know my way around the city fairly well, I normally do my own self-guided running tours. While preparing this post, I learned that there is a company Chicago Running Tours that offers a variety of tours. Their motto is "the slower we go, the more we show". That's right up my alley! Maybe I could get a job with them? The tours all sound really interesting, especially the Devil in the White City Tour. Erik Larson's excellent book The Devil in the White City is the true story of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, complete with all the fanfare of hosting the fair and a gruesome side plot. How fun would it be to see the sites from the book? Some of the buildings from the World's Fair are still standing. Plus, I haven't run much on the south side of the city.

Looks like I've got my first goal for 2019. Because I can never get enough of my city!

I don't always do a 5k in the city, but when I do it's on the Lakefront Trail!
McCormick Place is in the background
What is your favorite city to run in? Ever done a city running tour? Have you read Devil in the White City? I'd love some company on the tour--thinking about it for next spring!

I'm linking up with Marcia, Erika, and Patti for Tuesdays on the Run.






50 comments :

  1. I also love running in Chicago. I miss the lakefront since most of my runs now are around my house. I’ll do the tour with you. I just need to read the book. Have heard great things about it.

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    1. I was really excited to see they offer that tour. I'm in!

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  2. I have done a couple of running tours. They're a LOT of fun! I've been to Chicago a few times, although not in recent years (unless you count the airport & being stuck overnight once, thankfully not at the airport).

    But I wasn't a runner then. Running along the lakefront would totally be my jam!

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  3. Chicago is an iconic running city in my book too. I've considered being one of those running tour guides. But then living out here doesn't quite work for that.

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  4. If I had to pick a city you know it would be Chicago! I love everything about that city.

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  5. I love running along the lakefront in Chicago. New York City's Central Park is a close second. Boston is pretty nice too. And, of course, D.C. :-)

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    1. I have yet to run in DC but hopefully that will be remedied next year!

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  6. I love running in Chicago, too. I have done a half and a full there. And the restaurants, the beer, the food, the architecture....that's it, I'm making plans to come back.

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  7. Chicago definitely is a beautiful place. The art geek in me is even more overjoyed with everything there than the runner dork is....and that's saying quite a lot.

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    1. There's something for everyone, that's for sure!

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  8. I've always been impressed by the Chicago lakefront pictures that other runner bloggers post - looks like a fantastic area to run!

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  9. I need to run a race in Chicago once my foot heals up. It's been a favorite city of mine for a long time - visiting my grandparents there as a child and then going downtown on weekends in college for museums, theater, and food.

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  10. Thanks for this! I have 'Lakefront 10-Miler" on my Christmas list. I think it's a definite now :)

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  11. When we were on our once-in-a-lifetime trip to France this past spring, we took a river tour of the Seine in Paris. Seeing the many runners on the wide banks made me a bit, no, make that very, envious. If I could run anywhere it would be there.

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    1. That's how I felt about Big Sur! But even tho I ran in my "dream place", my favorite spot is right here at home.

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  12. I loved our RnR race even though it was pouring. I guess I will just have to come back for another one!

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  13. Would you believe the RnR this summer was my first time running in Chicago? I can't wait to get back there!

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  14. It was only after moving that I found out a company does running tours of Boston. That would've been fun to do one weekend.

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    1. I think running tours are becoming a thing now.

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  15. Running in Chicago is definitely on my bucket list and Devil in The White City is on my reading list.

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    1. Looks like we might have to make a plan...just saying!

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  16. We lived in various northside neighborhoods for almost 40 years. Now call the northwest suburbs home. Many great places to run besides the lakefront. Busse Woods, Des Plaines River Trail, Deer Grove. Chicago and its 'burbs have a lot to offer any runner.

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    1. 100% agree! I live in the NW burbs too and I run in all those places now. We are so lucky!

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  17. I'm sad to say I've never been to Chicago! Yikes, I'd better hurry if I want the chance to run there! Running is the best way to explore any city. I really love city running tours (I've never done one, but I love the idea! :-) )

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  18. I so love running in chicago. I am not from a big city and they kind of scare me BUT I love Chicago! We always stay at a hotel that looks at the chicago theater and I take like a million pictures. I like to try and do the chicago marathon every few years so we can go back.

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    1. I'd like to do the marathon one more time...it's just one of those races that you could repeat over and over!

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  19. Lou Malnati's!
    That was literally my first stop out of O'Hare when I was in town for a wedding. So good. Damnit I'm hungry.
    Never ran in Chicago but I loved walking from the Field Museum up to Navy Pier along the Lake.
    I love the idea of choosing a bucket list city for this question too

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    1. Been to but never run in: Rome, Sydney

      Never been to/run in: Athens

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    2. Those are some pretty nice choices!

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  20. I've run in a big city a total of ONCE (Vegas), but you make Chicago sound fun! I should look into running tours when I visit cities. I haven't spent enough time in cities to feel like I have the instinct to recognize safe vs. unsafe running areas.

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    1. I've never done a running tour either but I think it would be a great way to explore a city.

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  21. I've never been to Chicago but now you have me wanting to visit! I guess the only city I've run in is Tampa so it's my favorite. I always wanted to run one of the routes Spenser runs in Robert B Parker's novels but never got around to it when I lived somewhat near Boston. Maybe someday!

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  22. London! Nothing like running along the Thames crossing the various cool bridges. So many great buildings there too from all eras. I have only been to Chicago once, but made the most of running along the lakefront. So cool!

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    1. I've never run in London but I can imagine how amazing that would be!

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  23. I love this and Chicago Marathon is definitely on my list! Reykjavik has to be my own favourite, I've decided after reading a million of these posts!

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    1. I've heard such good things about Reykjavik and I think I'd like it too.

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    2. Let's all do the mara or half one year! How cool would that be? It's half way between the US and UK, after all ...

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    3. Sounds like a plan! I need to get my hubs on board..

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