Chicago has its lifers, of course. But she’s a big city with a big heart, always welcoming wanderers from other places. Befriend them on social media and within a year, you’ll know the time of year most of them originally arrived. “It’s my six-year Chicagoversary,” they’ll post. “Time flies!”
I moved here from Texas in the fall of 1999 for graduate school. I brought along a blue-eyed Kansas boy, a wannabe journalists’ naïve ambition, and about 40 excess pounds. My previous athletic endeavors were limited to horseback riding and marching band. I didn’t find running until, in the middle of my yearlong master’s program, I tripped off a curb and landed on crutches for a few weeks. Temporarily losing the ability to move freely made me itch to actually take advantage of it.
Once medically cleared, I started jogging—a word I’d never use now but I’m certain I did at the time. I took my first 26.2-mile jaunt around the city in 2002. I already knew what it was like to fall in love and I found myself tumbling all over again, for a city and a sport and the crazy way of life they each demanded.
Fifteen years and 14 marathons later, I got to renew my vows, in a sense, by highlighting Chicago for the October issue of Runner’s World. What a gift, to ask runners here about the people and places that mean the most to them, then to share what I found with readers everywhere. (Of course, one magazine feature can’t contain this great community; I apologize to anyone whose input I didn’t solicit or include. We’ll all hope for a sequel!)
Just in case you missed that–read the article in Runner’s World here, or on newsstands right now!
As even the intro to the piece makes clear, it’s not all blue skies and shiny medals here. From polar vortices to stress fractures to race-day meltdowns, Chicago and running and I have our ups and downs. I know I’m not the only runner who has wondered if she’ll ever cross another finish line or who, after this past winter, considered moving back to Texas to take up river tubing.
But like any relationship that survives its trials, the tough times add depth and meaning. We find solidarity in our challenges. Chicagoans wouldn’t stand together, broad-shouldered, if we shared the sweetness of summer without the harsh sting of winter. And the running community grows not only by celebrating our triumphs, but also in commiserating over our sore bodies and bonked races and frozen-over bottles of Gatorade.
I began as an outsider to these worlds, but I have felt incredibly welcomed into both for the past decade and a half. And yes, time does fly. Ultimately, I think that’s why I run—to try to keep up, to stretch it out, to wring the most from every moment. Running keeps my thoughts and words moving fast but my feet in touch with the ground of the city I love. For all that, I’m incredibly grateful.