Playing the Role of Running Tour Guide

Each year, I have a work conference in late August or early September. And each year, I take to the streets in the conference’s host city. I’ve run in Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco and New Orleans and thoroughly enjoyed each jaunt. However, I sure would’ve liked some local experts to guide me along the way.

Group selfie

Group selfie!

So when it was announced that the conference would be in Chicago this year, I offered to lead guided group runs in the morning. With 1,000 attendees, I figured there HAD to be at least a couple runners in the group who would take me up on the offer. Right?!?

The conference was held at the Chicago Hilton and Towers on Michigan Avenue — prime location for some of the city’s most scenic and iconic running routes — and I was absolutely thrilled when a handful of women and men from all over the country trickled into the lobby bright and early to join me.

Friday morning, our group of seven headed out at 6 a.m. It was hot and humid and generally disgusting outside, so I decided to keep it short, just a two-mile loop around Grant Park’s Buckingham Fountain and down toward the Field Museum before heading back up Michigan Avenue to the hotel.

Saturday morning, a completely different group of seven showed up for a 6:30 a.m. run. Boy, what a difference 24 hours makes. It was cool and crisp and ideal weather for a September morning run. I led the group on a 5K route over the Roosevelt Road Bridge (the notorious 26th mile marker of the Chicago Marathon) and onto the Lakefront Trail, where we headed south toward McCormick Place. All of the marathon training groups were out on the trail, and we continually heard greetings of “Good morning, runners!” It made me burst with pride for my city, not only because of the gorgeous views but because of the amazingly supportive running community we have here.

Chicago skyline

Being a tourist in my own city is fun.

I did my best to play tour guide along the way – “McCormick Place is the largest convention center in North America” and “on the right you’ll see Soldier Field, home to the Chicago Bears” – while keeping a slow and easy pace. We also stopped at a couple of especially scenic spots for photos and a group selfie, of course. It was a lot of fun.

But what was the most fun was the fact that a group of complete strangers came together for a lovely morning run and there was absolutely nothing strange about it. Conversation came easily – training, races, travel, etc. – and by the end, we were all high-fiving and talking about how these morning runs need to become a permanent fixture of the conference. And wouldn’t you know it, next year’s convention is in Boston. — Mags

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