My favorite place to run in the city -- and favorite place in the city, period -- is the Lakefront Trail. The view towards the skyline and Navy Pier Ferris wheel unfolding before you as you run never gets old.
But, of course, every Chicago runner already knows the merits of the Lakefront Trail. It's the second best places to run that are the real hidden gems.
For me, the best hidden gem is Horner Park. The park is located in the Irving Park neighborhood on the North Side. It stretches from Irving Park Road to Montrose Avenue, bordered by California Avenue to the west and the Chicago River to the east.
Horner Park is one of the largest parks on the North Side, and one full loop around its paved path clocks in at almost exactly one mile. I often go to Horner Park for tempo runs or other speed workouts because it functions nearly as well as an actual track. In fact, I think it's even better than the old high school track.
Here are some of Horner Park's most runner-friendly features:
- Changes in elevation. As we all know, inclines of any kind are hard to come by in a city as flat as Chicago.
- Bathrooms and plentiful water fountains. Admittedly, the water isn't always cold, but it's better than nothing. (Pro tip: Hop across Irving Park Road to the fountain next to the wheelchair softball diamond for the coldest water.)
- A welcoming vibe. The park is full of baseball and softball diamonds, football and soccer fields, tennis courts, basketball courts, a playground and picnic groves. There are friendly people and pets everywhere, creating a warm, communal feel.
- Snacks. When Little League season is in full swing, a concession stand and ice cream carts are also in full swing. Treat yourself to a snow cone after a tough run. You earned it.