A blog by runners. For runners.

From the cornfields to the city lights

I recently moved to Chicago after four years living in the cornfields of DeKalb, Illinois. I became aware of a few differences between suburban and city running. When I lived in DeKalb, I got yelled at every time I ran. You know, the typical “Run Forrest!” or some other catcall/whistle. I started to believe this was the norm. Since moving to Chicago, I have not received any catcalls while running. There are so many more people running in a big city, that it's not weird to see a runner. Everyone seems to be used to us crazy runners in the city!

In DeKalb, I had a very difficult time recruiting running buddies. Even though I ran along busy streets and popular trails, running buddies were scarce. I even posted a notice on NIU's rec center bulletin board looking for a training partner and nobody responded. In the city, it seems as if everyone is a runner. After 5PM on a weekday, the trail on Lake Shore Drive is filled with runners, joggers, bikers and walkers. I've come to notice that I feed off the energy of all the people. Perhaps it was the lazy college student side of me shining through; but when I lived in the suburbs I often cut my runs short. I hated not seeing other runners. If I did see another runner, my luck was they were running faster than me in the other direction. I had no one to motivate me to keep running. One thing that helped me was to feed off the confidence I got from the whistles and catcalls. This tactic only lasted so long, and eventually my weekly mileage began to drop. Since moving to the city, I have noticed my weekly mileage has increased by about 15 miles on average.

There are a lot more races with higher distances very localized in the city. I have no problem finding Half-Marathons and 10Ks every few weeks in the city. In the rural suburbs, NIU often had random 5K races every couple of months that supported a charity. I ran the Sycamore Pumpkin 10K this year on Halloween, which was a lot of fun. It was something to look forward to because people dressed in costumes and many traveled far to get there. If I wanted to run a race that interested me, I would have to travel far to another suburb. Last year I ran the Schaumburg Half Marathon and 5K Turkey Trot. This race took me about 45 minutes to get to. The city has helped me to keep goals focused to only a few weeks, rather than a few months away.

The scenery is very different in the city. I love looking at Lake Michigan and the beautiful skyline on my runs. A part of me will always miss the quiet tranquility of a Fall trail run in DeKalb. Running on some trails made me feel like the only person in the world. The only noises I could hear were a local stream flowing or bird chirping in a tree overhead. Hearing city trains screeching and car horns blasting is something I am only beginning to get used to.

How far are you willing to travel for a race? What do you prefer when it comes to where you run, walk or bike? I definitely prefer the city for long term running, but you may see me on a trail in the suburbs for an afternoon long run! On a side note: city birds, geese and squirrels are not afraid of people! So watch out, runners! They will not move out of your way.