Most mornings I wake up and the absolute last thing I want do is run. With toddler-like protest, I claim I am absolutely not going to do run today, and I don’t press the issue. Instead, I go about my day walking the dog, journaling, and eating breakfast, and like a parent trying to woo said toddler to bed, if I just let it be, nature takes over. Within a few hours, I have an intense hunger to lace up my shoes and steal an hour outdoors.
Like most runners these days, I’ve had to change up my normal routes. Chicago’s two biggest paths—the Lakefront Trail and the 606—have been closed since, I don’t, maybe 2019? It’s hard to remember. Anyway, they are off limits, which means runners, walkers, and cyclists are forced onto the sidewalks. Summer in Chicago is an EVENT, and each year, the first nice day brings hoards of people outdoors to dust off winter crumbs, but without patio bars, farmer’s markets, beaching, and intramural leagues, all of that pent up energy can only be released with short walks and bike rides around the block. Meaning, more than ever, the sidewalks are busy and crowded. So, when I decided to run mid-morning or day, as opposed to 6:00 a.m. which is the time of most of my runs when I actually have places to be in the day, I have to avoid my tried-and-true paths.
This morning, when the urge to run was gnawing at me, I thought about which way I would go. It was only 9:30 a.m., but it was also above 50-degrees, which meant a decent amount of people out. Now, I run with a buff to cover my nose and mouth, and I always dive into grass and even the street to separate myself, but those actions are cumbersome when there are so many people out. I live about a mile from the Chicago-Evanston border, and most of my runs lead me north, past Lake Michigan, and up to Evanston’s running path, which is still open. Again, though, I knew there would be enough families on bikes, runners who wouldn’t bother themselves with moving over, and neighbors trying to walk together at a “safe” social distance that it would make me anxious and zap all of the joy from the run, which is really the only reason I run these days. Well, that and because, for me, running works better than antidepressants.
So, to go north, I would need to take another path, and I decided on well-traveled road that was far from the lake and with more stop lights but would most certainly contain less people. At first it was pretty loud, making it hard to hear my podcast, and my body nearly met the front of a Subaru crossing an intersection too quickly with a driver who didn’t see the runner before her (who, by the way, had the right of way). As I crossed into Evanston, traffic thinned out, and it became the most lovely run. There were gorgeous houses and interesting things to keep me entertained, like a stuffed bear sitting in a porch swing, flowers making their grand May entrance, and the quaintest green door that should be a painting in an art museum. The sun was giving me enough warmth for the most ideal conditions, and there were a limited amount of people out that it was easy to scoot to the curb for a safe pass. I was so so happy. And grateful.
Grateful to be outdoors.
Grateful to be running.
Grateful to have taken a chance and followed a new path.
This run is an appropriate metaphor for the uncertainty that we face. Things are scary and uncertain, but we are given a new path forward. We must take it, and even though we can grieve for the route we had planned to go on, we also have to open our hearts to the possibilities. It’s not ideal, but we have to keep going. And, if we take this new route, we will be led to incredible beauty that we might have missed otherwise.