Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Trail Running--in Chicago

(Image credit here)

In a post last week I promised I'd comment about my running while on a business trip to Chicago. It was all I hoped for, and much more.

First off, convenience. I was staying at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare, which sits less than a mile east of the airport. With no rental car, I despaired of finding a decent place to run. Typically at airport hotels, the best you can hope for is street running involving parking lots, franchise avenues, and traffic.

I am a frequent traveler and pretty good by now at sniffing out places to run.  I had done my research ahead of time, Googling such things as Trail Running, Mountain Biking, Nature Trails, with the Chicago location. Also did a MapQuest lookup of the area, looking for green space that indicates some sort of park land. I found there was a series of "forest preserves," with trails, stretching along the Des Plaines River. Best news: I could reach the nearest access point on foot, along Lawrence Avenue, only about 1.5 miles from my hotel (this suburb is called Rosemont).

Second, the trail was pretty decent. The Des Plaines Trail was along the wooded river bottomland. The path and setting was pretty similar to running on the C+O Canal towpath along the Potomac River, of JFK 50 miler fame. It was a dirt and fine gravel path in the woods. The path was well-maintained and pretty well-marked. No water available here in Nov, although there were water pumps for summer use. There were several road crossings, all of which either had pedestrian crossing signals, overpasses, tunnels under the roadway, or routing under bridges right beside the river.

Most of the time I could not see any civilization. But I sure could hear it--auto traffic at a distance, and air traffic. Being under an approach path to O'Hare, the passenger planes coming in had flaps down and landing gear down and were screaming CLOSE overhead. Make no mistake, it was an urban trail. But it was plenty woodsy enough to be quite pleasurable.

Third, cool critters. I saw about half a dozen whitetail deer. One doe was quite close--she scared the crap out of me--I'm talking a mere 20' away, just off the trail. She seemed used to people and fairly unconcerned. Later I saw a magnificent 10 point buck, huge antlers, huge body, only 50' away. That's the closest I have ever been to one that big.

Bottom line: I ran about an hour and half out, then returned; I figure about 18 miles. These were some of the best "urban" miles I've ever logged. Not perfect, but very good for no car, right beside O'Hare Airport.


  1. You can take the trail all the up to WI border from there! Its 30 miles in length. If you start more toward the middle and go north, there are no road crossings. All the road crossings are in the southern third of the trail. But they aren't bad. Roas noise is much reduced when leaves are full on.

  2. Thanks, will keep in mind if I have another trip out that way.