Chicago's Lakeshore Path may be the best place I've ever run. Yes, I've had some very nice runs through state parks, but those are often hilly and pretty difficult, despite their beauty. I've run some fun races, but I usually end up drained and swearing off running after those. My 12 miler this weekend, however, was everything I love about running, in the unlikeliest of places - an urban center full of people.
To outline my course; I started at Lincoln Park, just off of Irving Park road (Hwy 19). I traveled South, turning around just before Navy Pier, since I didn't realize the path actually went through. When I got back to my start, I still had 2 miles left, so I continued North, turning around at Wilson St. Along that route were several features making this path worthy of Best Run Ever, in no particular order.
1. Separate lanes for bikers and runners. Usually the running lane was gravel or newer asphalt, a better surface than concrete or older asphalt. The space allowed for ample passing room, and helped me to avoid being startled by passing bikers.
2a. Plenty of available water and restrooms. Even though I started my run before 6am, it was HOT. I refilled my hand held water bottle numerous times, and never felt uncomfortably thirsty. I was also able to relieve myself when the hydration got the best of me.
2b. Multiple stations handing out FREE sports drinks. I at first passed on by, thinking it was for participants of some race, but was unable to spot anyone sporting race bibs. I then asked, and it turns out the local marathon training club sponsors hydration stations on the weekend. There were 2 of these, and one station handing out promo bottles of a sports/energy drink. This one was in my last mile, and the caffeine boost was quite welcome.
3. Plenty of other runners from various marathon training clubs. Though they were all training for the Chicago Marathon, a week after mine, it was nice to feel like part of a team, running with similar goals in mind. It was also nice to pass several of these groups, gaining the assurance that I am not the slowest runner ever to run a marathon.
4. Constant views of Lake Michigan. I like water. It makes me feel less overheated, both visually, and with the cool breeze.
5. No dogs. Don't get me wrong. I like dogs. But it can be a distraction, especially when they're really cute and I just want to ooh and aah over them. Then there's the inevitable poo left behind. So no dogs is a good thing.
If you're ever in the area, I recommend checking out the path. Happy running!