When the skies exploded Monday morning, each burst more intense than the last, like the final moments of fireworks on the 4th of July, I was glad to be on the Bloomingdale Trail. I had flipped off the forecast to finally kick off training for the Chicago Marathon. After a week of skipping runs due to laziness, busyness, and/or weather, I was overdue.*
I’ve always wanted to use the lakefront for training, but am not keen on adding a 12 mile round trip bicycle ride to 12 mile runs. In accordance with my hyper-local lifestyle, I stick to neighborhood sidewalks and parks. Nothing wrong with that, especially since so many Logan Square sidewalks flank grand boulevards and Humboldt Park and Palmer Square are no ordinary parks. But something about a trail elevates my effort. And, as of last Saturday, there’s an elevated trail a mere 12 minute (round trip) walk away.
Almost 3 miles long, the Bloomingdale Trail is nearly perfect for a 10k run. The distance from my house to Drake, to the west end, to the east end, and back to Spaulding–with some forays into parks for water–was 6.08 miles. Only need to do four more round trips and I will be marathon ready. I could not be more thrilled about my new training partner:
- No intersections: no
excuseneed to stop every 1/4 mile
- No cars: no cars.
- Blue running track: a boost for flagging energy
- Access ramps: hill work. not easy to find in Chicago
- Floating above the streets: cleaner air, real or perceived, and fewer puddles
- Creative land and hardscaping: lots to notice.
- Juneberries: mid-run snack
- Fellow runners: motivation. I can’t keep up with half of the folks I’ve seen flashing by.
- The Bloomingdale Trail as a whole: inspiration. A marathon is a nothing compared to the herculean efforts that pulled this project across the
- Did I mention no cars and intersections?
However, there are intersection-type situations at the access points and overlooks, which means potential for conflict. Folks need to learn how to safely cross lanes and merge. Moving the garbage cans a smidge would help with sightlines. A few trees and shrubs are encroaching on the running strip. It would be nice to know where to find water fountains, especially those in access parks. Maybe more street signs to help with overall orientation? Improved crossings of nearby arterials to improve access (cough, looking at you, Armitage)?
Yes, there is work left to do on the trail, and much to dream and scheme about. But it is also wonderful just the way it is. Judging by the number of fellow runners laughing through sheets of rain, I am not alone. I’ve got a good four months of hard training ahead to see how it all evolves.
*My first two marathon times hovered around the five hour mark, reflecting a shameful lack of training. I drew more upon confidence from surviving longish distance bike-camping capers than miles of running. This year I *intend* to do better. If you are interested in supporting my fund-raising efforts on behalf of Girls on the Run, please click here. Thanks!