How to find your BRF* in Chicago *best running friends

I joined (Lakeview/Lincoln Park) Moms Run this Town not long after I came out to Chicago last year. I was looking for others to run with in my neighborhood when I didn’t feel like running alone. Also based on my experience in New Jersey, many of the people I met through running became the ridiculously supportive people with whom I shared more than miles.

A few weeks ago, the MRTT FaceBook group moderator posted something for us to think about: “Let’s talk about our BRF’s (best running friends)! Who are the runners in your life that motivate and cheer you on, pull you along on days you’d rather have a coffee or a cocktail than pound the pavement, and who relies on you to do the same when they’re feeling that way?”

If you follow me on social media, you can probably answer that question for me. Kurt is, of course, my BRF, as well as my boyfriend and best friend all around. I would argue though that, like there is room for multiple best friends in your life, there is room for numerous Best Running Friends, and you should try to make as many as you can!

To date, I am still working on making running friends here in Chicago and although I’ve made lots of running connections here, I still miss my New Jersey running friends. They were the people I ran with the day my mom died and created a “support group on the run” the week I was diagnosed with cancer. They were the first people who descended on my house with healthy food after my husband died and they were the people with whom I celebrated after races and who were waiting for me at the park on cold winter mornings when it would have been easier to roll over and go back to sleep.

One of my favorite memories is of a hot day in August traversing New Jersey as part of a River-to-Sea Relay team – people I barely knew when we started out at dawn and loved by the time the sun set over Manasquan Inlet. I’ve run with fast friends and slow friends, and my dog and their dogs. I’ve socialized after workouts and at get-togethers that had nothing to do with running.  I’ve volunteered side-by-side with fellow running teammates at races we organized. I hosted running club board meetings around my dining room table. I spend over 20 years running in New Jersey and cultivating these relationships, so there is hope for my life here.

I’m still navigating the Chicago running scene. I’m a member of CARA (Chicago Area Runners Association) and while I’ve gotten to know a few of their staff, have yet to participate in any of their workouts. My neighborhood chapter of MRTT has over 400 members in their Facebook group, although most are working moms of small children and tend to run much earlier than I need to these days. I’ve made a couple “Sunday Run and Coffees” and enjoyed the coffee and conversation as much as the run.

I’ve run a few times with No Runner Left Behind, although I can only keep to the pace on recovery days. I connected with this group because a member happened to be a college friend of one of my New Jersey neighbors and she connected us online before I even moved out here. I see her more at races and it’s always a welcomed surprise when she sneaks up on me.

Soldier Field 10 with guest appearance by Ellen. Chicago, Illinois. May 2019.

This week actually marks three years since my first run with Three Run Two while I was in town for my daughter’s first Lollapalooza. I have put in the most miles with them – an urban running crew similar to Run Dem Crew (London) or Bridge Runners (NYC). Anyone visiting Chicago should definitely look up this group, especially the Thursday before the Chicago Marathon. All are welcome and they often have visitors from all over the world! They have informal group runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays (4-6 miles) and members post their weekend running plans in a Facebook thread to find company for their long runs). During marathon season a big group of regulars meet near Foster Beach at 5:15 in the morning and then meet back for some lakefront relaxing and shared refreshments. This is now my second summer and it’s becoming a nice routine.

Three Run Two. Thursday night group. Logan Square, Chicago, Illinois. August 1, 2019. Photo Credit @_micaela

I’m balancing this with my formal marathon training with Chicago Endurance Sports, which is available to me both as a member of the Team Gilda fundraising team and as an employee of Fleet Feet. I am scheduled to run with them on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings, although to date my plans have only allowed me to attend two workouts. There are only so many hours in the day, although I am disappointed because this seems like a nice way to connect with fellow runners running a similar pace.

Then of course there are all the wonderful people I have met through my job at Fleet Feet Chicago – fellow staff, customers, and fun runners. Fleet Feet has group runs out of all their stores on select nights and anyone can join in! It has truly been a remarkable adventure getting entrenched in the Chicago running community.

Starting next week, I will be coaching my first Beginner 5k training group. It’s primarily for the members of Gilda’s Club and I am donating my coaching time. I can’t wait for it to start! Their “graduation race” will be the Bucktown 5k on October 6th. Last year when I ran this race, I was sad because I didn’t know anyone at the event when in New Jersey I typically knew tons of people at any given race! October 6thalso marks the 5thAnniversary of my husband’s death. It will be good to mark it with something so positive and life-affirming.

Three Run Two uses #ChicagoIsForRunners and it truly is. With amazing places to run like 18+ miles of lakefront trail, river paths, boulevards and forest preserves in the suburbs, as well as amazing groups of runners if you want company. Most of my new Chicago Facebook friends are also running friends. Of all the wonderful things running has given me, it continues to give me lasting friendships.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.