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Why I’m Running Every Street in Oak Park — For Real This Time

Last year, I set out to run every street in Oak Park as part of Lively’s GOvember Challenge (aka, Anne Physically and Mentally Tortures Every Runner in OPRF).

I failed.

I was arrogant. I waited too long to start, I lacked a proper strategy, I doubled back on certain streets way too often. I didn’t respect the GOvember Challenge.

But this year, I’m back for more — and not just because I can’t turn down anything with the word “challenge” in the title. Although that’s a lot of it.

Even though I came so, so, so painfully close to completing my map last year that you would think, being something of a sore loser, I would just throw in the towel this year, I really enjoyed seeing Oak Park in such an intense, eyeball-level way — the way you never would driving by in a car.

I ran past the houses of childhood friends. I ran past every non-collegiate institution I attended — preschool (holler, First United!), grade school (what up, Washington Irving!), junior high (a dignified nod to the school formerly known as Julian), and, of course, OPRF High School (wooOOOoo Huskies!).

I ran past the hospital I was born in. I ran past the house where I grew up, where my dad still lives. I ran past the two-flat where my sister lived at the time, with her husband and two children.

I ran past the houses of ex-boyfriends, former piano teachers, families I babysat for, and the non-residential spaces that jolted me back to my first work experiences, from wrangling little kids in summer camp at Barrie Park, to answering phones at Giordano’s and always smelling like pizza, to waiting tables at Buzz Cafe.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of running every major street in my hometown was seeing the houses I didn’t know, and exploring all the avenues and boulevards I had been down rarely, if at all.

I ran past estates on the north side that caused me to stop my Garmin and stand still for a moment, finally appreciating the fact that, oh yeah, Oak Park is renowned for its architecture and is a famously desirable place to live.

I ran past bungalows so cozy and welcoming, aglow with holiday lights, that I was tempted to knock on the door and invite myself in for cocoa. Those houses definitely had cocoa at the ready.

I ran every street in the upper northeast quadrant of Oak Park and thought to myself, “I don’t think I’ve ever been here in my life,” and that seemed so strange for someone from a mid-sized town.

It’s impossible not to wonder, when you’re running at night and homes are lit from within, who lives there and what their lives are like, and would you be friends if you sold your condo in the city and came back home.

With any luck, they’d be a runner and join you for some GOvember miles, right?

So swing by Lively on November 1 and grab your GOvember map, and we’ll see you out there, Oak Park.


PS. I don’t think Anne even tried to complete her own GOvember Challenge last year. So definitely give her a REALLY hard time next time you see her.

Afternoon run during last year's GOvember challenge, outside the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio.

Afternoon run during last year’s GOvember Challenge, outside Frank Lloyd Wright’s house.


Lively Athletics


09 Oct, 2015

Challenge,  Oak Park,  Running,  Winter


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