Search This Blog


Lincoln Park, Chicago
I only had a short jog scheduled for today, anyway, but I still found it hard, with the same issues as yesterday - breathlessness, excessive sweating and lead-leggedness.  I don't feel too bad when I'm not running, just a little fatigued, so I'm hoping I'll be healthy again shortly.  There is a tough 15km run scheduled for Terrigal Trotters tomorrow, so that will be a test.  As soon as I feel I'm healthy and running well again, I'll put together a training plan for the Hobart Marathon in January, my next best chance of running a sub-3 hour marathon, having given up on running well in the Melbourne Marathon, in just six weeks time.

Not having much to write about today, I thought I would revisit another of the regular morning running courses from my past.  Between 1987 and 1990, I held joint responsibility with a colleague for setting up the North American operation of my company in Chicago.  For a while, my colleague, who was based in Stockholm (I was based near London), and I alternated our time in Chicago and mostly stayed in a corporate apartment we leased.

Prior to this assignment, I had only visited Chicago once, briefly, and didn’t hold it in very high regard.  However, as I spent more time there I grew to love it and now rate it as one of my favourite cities.  I liked the cleanliness and professional bustle of the city, the friendliness of the people, and its classical stone buildings offset by the towering skyscrapers.  Tucked away everywhere were atmospheric little bars and bistros.  From our apartment on the southern edges of the central business district, I also grew to love my regular Chicago early morning run.

Along the Lake Michigan waterfront
to Chicago
The route headed north through the early morning quiet of the business district, known as The Loop (where I would be working later in the day), and joined LaSalle Street which took me across the very unimpressive Chicago River, more like a large drain, and out of the city.  After the river, North LaSalle Street traversed a couple of kilometres of quiet inner suburbs of picturesque old houses and apartment blocks to the famed Lincoln Park.  From there, my route followed a network of gravel paths and horse rides before skirting the north side of little Diversey Harbor to reach the vast Lake Michigan and turn south for the return to the city.

For five kilometres the route followed perfectly flat concrete paths along the Lake and I can remember flying along here, passing joggers at speed on my good days.  At the southern end, the path was squeezed between the busy multi-lane Lakeshore Drive and the Lake and one winter I vividly recall being hit hard in the chest by the stream of snow blasted from the side of a snow plough travelling the opposite direction along the Drive.  I could see it coming but there was nowhere to go.

The Chicago waterfront on a windy day
The snow plough experience paled, however, compared to another winter experience I had in the same area.  There was no path, but it was possible to run along a sort of wide sloping concrete shelf that bordered the lake.  At the edge of the shelf was a vertical drop of about half a metre into the deep lake.  If it had been windy, waves broke over the concrete shelf, and if cold, the breaking waves would freeze on the concrete.  One morning I was running along there in the winter pre-dawn darkness, trying to dodge the iciest sections, when I slipped and fell.  It was bad enough landing on the rock hard ice, but soon I became aware of a worse fate.  I was sliding, on my back,  down the ice-covered concrete slope towards the drop-off into the semi-frozen lake.  I spread my arms, trying to reduce my weight and catch one of the icy ridges caused by the waves.  After about five metres, with about ten to go, I managed to stop myself and then very gingerly got onto my hands and knees and crawled up the slope and off the ice.  It was dark, there was nobody around, and I have often wondered how long it would have taken for them to find my body if I had gone into the lake.  There was no way I could have climbed out or survived long enough to swim to safety.  I continued to use the same route in winter, but ran very carefully, and as near the top of the concrete ledge as I could go, walking if necessary.

The last part of the run crossed the open parks in front of the Art Institute of Chicago and back to the city and the apartment.

As far as “garbage” runs go, this was quite a long course (16.5km), but it was flat and fast and usually took around an hour.  I experienced it in the rank humidity of a Chicago summer and the way-below-freezing temperatures of a Chicago winter, and have very fond memories of both.