First World Problem – Running in the city is a pain

I haven’t been running very much for the past year due to runner’s knee, but I also haven’t been as motivated to run. Perhaps it’s because of the pain that it can lead to. Or the fun I’m having doing other workouts.

Or perhaps it’s because running in the city can be a pain in the ass.

Well, not totally. If you live close to the Lakefront Trail, it’s great!! 20 miles of pretty much uninterrupted trail with some of the best views anywhere!


I don’t live that far from the Lakefront Trail. Only about two miles. But considering most of my runs as of late are 3-5 miles, it’s too far. I can run to the lake and immediately turn around. Or I can get myself to the lake by other means – take the bus, take a Divvy (without a helmet, because what would I do with that while running?), or drive, which means dealing with parking. When the run itself will take under an hour, spending the extra 20-30+ minutes to drive/bus/bike doesn’t seem worth it.

So, that leaves me with running from my front door (of the buildings that I live or work in). Which means pedestrians. Intersections. Stop lights. Busy roads with no sidewalks. Broken glass and other litter. Uneven sidewalks. Dogs. “Undesirables” (aka creepy dudes). I love my neighborhood and all, but it’s not the greatest for running. What Chicago neighborhood is though?

City, suburban or rural, what annoys you about running where you live? 

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14 Comments on “First World Problem – Running in the city is a pain”

  1. Yaay first world problems! I live in the most walking-unfriendly suburb on earth. Once you leave the subdivision there are no sidewalks or greenways (one is in the works but only stretches of 1-2 miles are complete and I still have to drive or run in a busy street with no shoulder to get to it) so I can either run around in circles or drive somewhere. I’ve been going to the airport for my long runs because the perimeter road is 12 miles and practically deserted.
    My MIL lives right next to the Geneva Spur of the Prairie Path and it’s such a luxury and privilege when I get to run there. (Of course that neighborhood is like, SEVERAL tax brackets out of my reach.)

  2. Ugh. I know what you mean. When Patsy was much younger and I was getting back into running, it was easy to just run out the door but most of the streets by my house don’t have side walks so there is basically 1 route if I want to go longer than a mile. I can drive some place, but that requires about 30 min of prep (stroller, diapers, extra toys, snacks, drinks) and then all the stuff for myself too. I tried to plan runs with other people to make myself accountable for that very reason.

    I miss the days when you lived close by and we would meet for runs all the time. But I’m sure you don’t miss living at your parent’s house. 🙂

  3. There’s some downsides to living in my current neighborhood of Rogers Park (so far from downtown, takes me forever to meet up with friends to do things, etc). But when it comes to running, this is my favorite place so far (former ‘hoods were Printer’s Row/South Loop & Uptown).

    I head north, as I’m literally two blocks from Evanston, and after a few blocks of running along a main street (past a quiet cemetery), I turn towards the lake, then turn back northwards, and I have a quiet, mostly lakefront (first mile-ish has homes), well-maintained path. The sidewalks & running paths are in better shape then the northern most portion LFT (no potholes), and I’m not in danger of being sideswiped by a bike. It’s never crowded (granted I run before 5 am). And when I do run into people, they’re much more pleasant with standard morning greetings, hi-fives from other regulars, a group inviting me to participate in their beach tai chi exercises. And there’s variety every few blocks….from homes, to park, to beach, another park, there’s the boat slips, and right around my turn-around point a large park area with a pond & fountain. Keeps my run from feeling boring or monotonous.

    It feels much less like running in the city (and yes, technically I’m not running in The City once I cross Howard, but you know what I mean).

  4. I totally understand about running in the city being a pain. When I would run after work, It’s about a mile to the lakefront trail. But it’s busy with people, cars, stoplights, etc. etc. Sometimes even the lakefront trail is hard too with all the people strolling, running, and biking!

  5. Agreed! Unless I’m running 7+ miles I don’t usually bother going to the lakefront path. Instead, I have a few routes in my hood that minimize intersections. And since I live right near UIC I can cut through their campus, too. On weekends the campus is pretty quiet.

  6. Yes, I’m also 2+ miles from the LFT and unless I’m doing 7+ miles, I won’t go there because like you mentioned, I’d just have to turn around once I got there. However, I live only a few blocks from Welles and Horner Parks which are nice 1k and 1.5 mile loops respectively. Also the Chicago River Trail is only one mile north of me and it is pretty much an uninterrupted 5 mile trail along the North Branch from Lawrence to well into Evanston (there is also the running track at NPU). They are currently installing a new trail along the river from Belmont to Montrose which will pretty much be in my backyard. I guess I’m living in “Runner’s Paradise” (for the city at least)!

  7. I’d second Erin – I leave the lakefront path for 90 minute or longer runs! (It takes me about 40 minutes just to get there from where I live). I have learned to enjoy the 606 trail – a 15 minute warm-up and then I’m without any traffic! I also frequent the two parks close to my home. One is close and has a loop around that’s about half mile. The other is a much bigger park and can keep me entertained on a long run if I want to make various zig-zag loops. Also nice that these two have water fountains on them, versus my 40 minute run to the Lakefront that does not have a single water fountain on it’s way! I had to ration water or buy at a drugstore during the “return trip” on some of the hottest summer long runs!

  8. Pete beat me to the punch, but I was going to say you moved out of an awesome city neighborhood for running last year! 🙂 I loved running around North Center and Lincoln Square, and it was nice to have the LFT just a couple miles away for long runs (or when I’d feel motivated enough to drive down to Montrose Harbor). The thing is though, I did most of my runs during the day while working from home, so it was during off-peak hours. So less people/dogs/creepy dudes walking around, less traffic if I drove down to the LFT, easy parking, etc.

    I have sidewalks and a little neighborhood for walking/running around now, but was definitely missing that feature of the city last year when I was in a sidewalk desert.

  9. I loved when I lived in Lincoln Park & I was two blocks away from the lakefront trail. It was totally different when I lived in Rogers Park and now living in Glenview. I drive to the South Loop once a week for coaching and for my long runs. I’m lucky to live across the street from the north branch trail. I love it except during the winter because they don’t clear the snow on the path & we don’t have sidewalks so my only option is to run in the street.

  10. I live in Memphis which is not a great city. The sidewalks are horribly maintained. The drivers don’t pay attention. The trails have had women attacked in them. So I just meander around the uneven sidewalks and do my best. I would love to have a lakefront trail!!!!

  11. In general, I don’t mind running on sidewalks, but coming up on an El or bus stop during rush hour…oof. Feels more like obstacle course training than running when that happens! I’m much farther from the trail than I used to be, and I will say that I like the “freedom” that comes with that. Obviously I still could’ve run wherever I wanted when I lived by the trail, but since the trail was just right *there*, it didn’t make sense to me to not run on it. Now I’m more likely to vary my route, which is probably better for me in the long term.

  12. I usually go to the lakefront when I have to run longer than 8 miles. I hate having to pay for parking. I know it isn’t expensive but just hate the fact that I have to pay. Anyway, on runs shorter than 8, I run by my house. It is usually the same route and so far I am not bored with it. I also run around Midway Airport which is 4 miles.

  13. I’ve thought about that before…here where I live (town of 4000 in the farmland of NW IL), the problem is it gets boring running in the country with no civilization. And it’s sometimes scary, especially when you can go a mile without seeing a house or person. However, you have the polar opposite, which can be just as scary (if not more). I suppose the lake front is worth it for long runs, but you’re right, if you need 4 miles just to get there & back, I probably wouldn’t make it there for most of my runs either!

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