I watched my brother and 22-year-old niece complete the Chicago Triathalon last weekend and thought to myself. “Run. Run. Run. I used to run.” Not jog, but run. For three, five, sometimes six miles at a time. Four to five times a week. With CeCe. With Julia. With others I don’t remember. Or by myself.
I ran along the lakefront, in the morning. I would emerge from the Lincoln Park Zoo eastern gates – gates that said closed until 7 A.M, but any and all runners knew that they were open by 6 for a shortcut to the lakefront. Past Adelor, the African lion who recently passed away. He sat on his rocky post through any type of weather and often yawned or roared at the passing of a pair of New Balance, Nike, or Saucony running shoes.
On the other side of the gates the sun would be peeking up from the watery horizon. Sometimes yellow. Sometimes red. Best times, a pinkish glow.
“Where else in the world can you do this?” I would say to my running partner, or self. Run through a free zoo, in a park, and see the sun rise above the water. Not New York. Not Paris. Not Los Angeles. Not London. Only Chicago.
Those runs made me feel smug about living in Chicago. Made me feel alive. Alive enough that I would roar to Adelor as I made my way home, “Good morning King of the Jungle. I’m going to have a great day.”
After years of inconsistent exercise due to injuries and excuses, I am working my way back to the run, which is now a jog and fewer miles than before. Even if there is no king of the jungle to mark my steps. I’m working my way back to waking up with Chicago on the lakefront. Lion and running and sunrise, oh my!
(Picture credit: Chicago Sun Times files)