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Run 11: Hello, Hyde Park.

January 26, 2012

Miles: 7

Other Runners: 13!

I played chauffeur to Bijan today and drove him to Hyde Park. We parted ways at the student union, he looking sharp and handsome as ever and me looking like a bulked-up retiree. (Seriously: two pairs of pants, big mitties and a running vest make a gal  look anything but lean and mean.) In all honesty, I thought I could take advantage of the long winter nights and no one would see me. This was poor planning;  the neighborhood was bustling and in full, foggy daylight by the time we arrived.

We lived in Hyde Park two summers ago, so I followed my old route south to the Museum of Science and Industry (which I love, despite the scary baby exhibit and the wildly-outdated “working coal mine”).

Isn’t it beautiful?

Now take away anything green or blue in this photo and replace it with dense cloud cover and frozen mucky water. That’s what it looked like today. Still, a gorgeous spot.

I moved east through Jackson Park’s Wooded Island (where I ran by many a drug deal that summer, bizarrely), then north on the Lake Shore Drive bike path. The south side of the path is, thankfully, not representative of the rest of it. I got to know the north end of the Lake Shore path pretty well as an undergrad and, frankly, ended up having  a lot more fun running through neighborhoods. It’s a grey, lonely place in the winter time: without any foliage to block the view, it seems to stretch on endlessly, flanked by a cold frozen lake to the east and loud, zooming traffic on the west. It’s gorgeous in the summer but packed with bikers, roller bladers holding hands (that it the worst. And yes, roller blading is still considered a fun, hip pastime in the Midwest), runners, picnickers, walkers, beach-goers, tennis players, elephants, etc. No elephants. Needless to say, it’s crowded and for the most part fun. However, if you want to run for a long time and check out mentally and not get run over by a speeding bicyclist who doesn’t respectfully call out, “On your left!” it can be not great.

The south side, on the other hand, is fabulous! And in 2009, it was the nicest, most anonymous community I’ve ever found. On my 5:30 runs, I inevitably encountered the same elderly man and two speed-walking women each morning. The speed-walking women wore spectacularly bright patterned leggings, and they talked nearly as fast as they pumped their arms. I looked forward to greeting them on those runs, and to feeling recognized.

I didn’t know anyone this morning, but I knew the stretch of land and where to turn and when to stop and enjoy the long, smooth slabs of ice covering the barrier rocks. I ran past the largest mosque in Chicago, the Masjid al-Faatir, then past Louis Farrakhan’s home, the Obama house, the Drexel Fountain (which was commissioned by Francis Drexel, a stockbroker who interestingly never visited Chicago), and other impressive landmarks like Wright’s Heller House:

On the subject of homes, which I have somehow been thinking a lot about lately, at the end of my run I slowed down a bit to admire some murals. I was at the 47th st. underpass, where until today I have only- and deliberately- crossed on the north side. The mural there is stunning, with mirrored tiles, jeweled pieces, and black and white photos of area residents (including Ella Fitzgerald) spotting the length of the wall. The south side is less flashy, for sure. It’s older, with the neighborhood’s biggest, and for the most part best-known, homes represented  in deep colors and careful strokes. At the end of the underpass, however, I noticed a series of simple, square dwellings- what looked like standard Section 8 or subsidized housing. They were different from the rest of the houses on the wall- simply designed, but with flashy green and purple and red diamonds brightly anointing the fronts of doors and garages. I don’t know who designed the mural, but the inclusion of presumably less “powerful” homes- still so vibrantly and pointedly painted- struck me. How often do we recognize, let alone honor, homes that are over-looked- and the homes of people who are often over-looked?

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