How to find a running route

How to find a running route

A few week’s ago we discussed running crews. Yes, finding your people can be a real game-changer. I told you how one of the best things I got from running were the many friends I’ve made.

The other awesome thing about running is the places we go. I’ve run on airport runways, along Santa Monica Beach and the Cliffs of the Palisades. I’ve run over the Golden Gate Bridge, George Washington Bridge and even Tower Bridge in London. I’ve run in (so far) 15 states and 7 countries, and on a cruise ship in the middle of the Caribbean. I’ve run along the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and a couple Great Lakes. I’ve run on the FDR Drive, Pacific Coast Highway, Lake Shore Drive, and the Salt Hill Prom. And on some days, I’ve run around in circles or in the most boring places imaginable to get in the miles.

Salt Hill Prom. Galway, Ireland. July 2018.

The two most important factors for me when choosing running routes are safety and convenience. Next would be scenery. Often, I have to sacrifice one for the others. Ideally, I want to be able to walk out my front door and just run. In my little New Jersey town, convenience meant running on roads often void of sidewalks, not very safe. Long runs could be done on several park trails, but meant getting in the car and driving 15 minutes to half hour or more. There was usually only time to do that on weekends.

When I first started running in 1996, and began to venture out of my immediate neighborhood, I would get in my car after a run and drive the route to figure out how far I had run. When I was training for my first marathon in 1997, for my longest run of 22 miles, I had my husband drive the car until the tripometer said 22 miles and had him leave me there to run home!

Thankfully now there’s America’s Running Routes, Map My Run and others to help us plan. And of course there is also Garmin and Apple watches, and apps like Strava and Nike Run Club with which we can track our mileage. Hopefully all of this is making running more convenient and safer too!

A neat feature on Strava which I recently stumbled across (included in the $60 annual upgrade from the free basic version) is a heat map. You can see all the places you’ve run with Strava in varying degrees of color depending on how often you’ve run that route. My heat map shows that in New Jersey, I did most of my runs in Ramsey – with the corner I lived on being the thickest and brightest for obvious reasons. Convenience. It also showed that my next most popular running route was the Saddle River County Park Trail. Safety. 

View of the Hudson River and George Washington Bridge as seen from the Palisades. January 2018.

In Chicago, most of my runs have been along the Lakefront Trail which has it all. Safety. Convenience. And a view that will never get old. Now that I’m living up in the suburbs, I’m sacrificing convenience (and sleep!) to still run my weekend long runs there. It’s hard to get bored in Chicago, but if you do, you can switch it up a little. There is over 18 miles of Lakefront Trail end-to-end. The Chicago Lakefront Trail is often cited as one of the best places to run in the world (Great Runs and Active).

Since my recent move, I’m getting acclimated to some new running routes. The local park district offers some nice trails around lakes, and playgrounds and ball fields that are fine and are easily accessible from my new home on foot.

There are also an amazing amount of forest preserves in the area that offer their own trails or through which the 56-mile Des Plaines River Trail runs. While these are somewhat convenient (a short drive away) and are predominately safe from vehicle traffic, as a woman, I have concerns about running much of them alone. So I run with my boyfriend or for the next marathon cycle, the 45 minute (off-peak) drive to the northern most part of the Lakefront Trail will be a minor inconvenience, and with the absence of summer heat, won’t require such an early start time.

Races are a little different. We don’t do them every day, and have more time to plan. A lot of the incredible places I’ve run were in the middle of races where safety is typically a reliable attribute and convenience may be replaced by a worthwhile destination.  Running in the USA, RunSignUp, and Race Find are just a few of the sites that provide searchable data bases to help runners find races by location and date.

The bottom line is that whether racing, or training, or just keeping in shape, running is a great way to explore your neighborhood or the world from a different perspective. I always map out a run when visiting a new city. Running will take you to places a car won’t. There’s always something to see from unique buildings, budding flowers, and friendly people to sunrises, sunsets and storm clouds. Running has shown me the beauty in everything I see on my run.

Taking a break on Chicago’s Lake Front Trail. North Avenue Beach. Chicago, Illinois. July 2019.
5 (More) Fundraising Tips for Marathoners

5 (More) Fundraising Tips for Marathoners

Those of us running the 2019 Chicago Marathon next month are less than four weeks out. In our training, this is “peak week.” I realize for many running for a charity, this may also be crunch time if you haven’t yet raised the required amount. For me that was $1500. For some charities – or other marathons, like New York – the goal may be $3000 or even $5000!

If you are stressing about making your marathon fundraising goal for Chicago or another fall marathon, I am expanding here on the 10 Fundraising Tips for Marathoners that I published two years ago. I know you are all getting some fantastic advice from your charity representatives. I just wanted to add a few more ideas that are perfect for these final weeks.

I spent almost 25 years of my career as a professional fundraiser and have also personally raised closed to $100,000 for a variety of charities through personal cause-running efforts. I thought it might be helpful to anyone still stressing about this part of marathon preparations to share some techniques that worked for me and got me – easily – to my goal this time around.

  1. Seek the support of others in soliciting their contacts – my boyfriend and another friend wrote amazing things about me and their connection to me and the charity which they shared along with the link to my fundraising page on their social media accounts. This was particularly helpful to me since I’ve done this so often, my personal network is suffering from donor fatigue. I even got a donation from my boyfriend’s ex-wife!
  2. Post a heart-tugging message on facebook with the link to your personal fundraising page that also includes an “honor roll of donors” (people who have already given) tagging them – that way friends of friends and mutual friends will be alerted and some peer pressure is a good thing here.
  3. Use all your social media accounts! In addition to facebook posts, publish an “article” on LinkedIn with your story and a case for giving with the link; also post a picture of yourself in training action on Instagram (the timer in burst mode on your phone is a great way to capture an action selfie); include your “why I’m running for this charity” text, tag the charity, include a few popular and appropriate hashtags, and add the link to your fundraising page in your bio. Share on Twitter too! I got two donations from total strangers!!
  4. Use MailChimp (it’s free for up to 2000 contacts), or similar service, to broadcast an appeal to a large audience provided you have their emails in a format that can be uploaded (like excel). It’s fairly intuitive and simple to use.
  5. And finally – get more personal! Get off social media, send your last email and pick up the phone! Personally speak with people who you know have the means to give and ask them for something specific (that’s a little more than what you want or think they can give). I know it’s difficult to ask people for money….BUT you are not doing it for you, you are asking on behalf of those who will benefit from the money you raise and ultimately the work of this wonderful organization you are so passionate about!!

For those of you running for charity this fall who have already exceeded your fundraising goal, I want to hear from you! What techniques did you use that worked particularly well? Please share!

iPhone selfie. Timer and burst mode; garbage pail tripod. North Avenue Beach. Chicago, Illinois. July, 2019.

And of course if you are so inclined…

Please help me celebrate my five years as a cancer survivor by supporting me in my effort to raise funds for Gilda’s Club Chicago through the 2019 Chicago Marathon. Please use this link.

What I like most about GC is that they support the emotional side of the cancer diagnosis – for everyone living with cancer – regardless of the type of cancer or your roll (the one with cancer, family member or friend). Cancer touches all of us – and coping with the effects of that diagnosis, as I saw the toll it took on my family, can be extremely difficult.

In addition to being a member of Team Gilda for the Chicago Marathon, I am also volunteering my time to coach a 9-week 5k training program for Gilda’s Club members who are new to running or looking to get back to running. They will be participating in the Bucktown 5k on October 6, a week before the marathon. If you’re in the Chicago area, please come cheer them on. If you are not, please consider making a donation to my fundraiser. No gift is too small…or too large. 🙂


Why I love my lowest paying job

Why I love my lowest paying job

Celebrating Labor Day last weekend included a lot of social media posts about jobs – the best, the worst, and the most interesting.  For my parents’ generation (they were both born in the 1920s), jobs were a necessary evil to afford a desired lifestyle, you were rewarded for hard work, and maybe only had one job for your entire full-time career. And actually liking the work you were doing wasn’t always a top prerequisite. Read more

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

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. Read more

How to run an airport runway

How to run an airport runway

This weekend was supposed to be the 22nd running of the Teterboro Airport 5k. I say supposed to because after many years of dealing with hot races (an airport runway in July is rarely cool), this year’s forecast exceeded anything that was safe and for the first time, the event was cancelled. Read more