Friday, October 7, 2011

My Kind of Town

Yahoo! It's Chicago Marathon weekend!

Yesterday I got an email from my friend Shiow, that began like this:

"Weird when a marathon is kinda no big deal...."

Oh but it is! It still is! If I ever act like running a marathon is easy, just punch me in the face. Seriously. With over 45,000 runners, this will be by far the largest event I've ever taken part it. Also, it's taking place in one of my most favorite places in the world!

As a kid living in Rockford, Illinois I remember telling my parents that I wanted to move to Chicago when I grew up. (I also remember them warning me how crazy living in a big city would be.) During school, I went on all the obligatory Chicago field trips that a northern Illinois kid would- the Art Institute, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Lyric Opera... When I got older, I would beg my mom or dad to drive me and my friends there so we could go shopping down by Clark and Belmont, where we considered all the "cool" shops to be. I have this great memory of my dad standing around awkwardly in The Alley while I browsed through racks of goth dresses. (Fifteen-year old me was a real treat.)

Then when I graduated from high school I finally got the chance to move there to attend college. A group of friends and I (including Jason) all lived in the same dorm building in the South Loop- just a few blocks from where the marathon start line will be on Sunday. It's kind of funny because at that time in my life I was completely oblivious to the sport of running. I don't even remember hearing about the event!

What I do remember though is how in love I was with the city. I remember walking home at night from my job at an art store on Chicago Avenue to the Red Line train. I would look up at the skyline and the lights glowing from the windows of the Hancock Building and think how awesome it was that I *actually* lived there. When I found myself rehearsing at the Dance Center in the evening after most everyone else had gone home, I would stand at the ballet barre looking out on Sheridan Avenue and think to myself, "How lucky am I that this is my life?" After Jason and I got married, we rented our first crappy little apartment on the far northwest side- the third floor walk up where I would blow a fuse every time I turned on the hair dryer and the coffee pot at the same time- and I thought it was the most perfect place ever. We brought home a kitten, followed by another, and another. I worked at a coffee shop, a bakery, all while surrounding myself with art, music and dance. When the Bulls won the NBA Championships for the 6th time, everyone in our neighborhood poured out of their apartments and started celebrating in the streets.

I know, I'm being overly sentimental and that everything tends to looks glossy and perfect in hindsight. There were times when I had to leave a full grocery cart behind at the store because my credit card was maxed out and I had no money. There was that creepy stalker-ish guy who would always come to see me at the coffee shop I worked at. And oh, the joys of being a young college girl walking through Uptown in the late 90s! But it's also the city my first daughter was born in. It's where Jason and I started our life together. It's where I had big dreams of being a professional dancer. Oh, there's also that time I jumped up and down on top of Buckingham Fountain in the middle of the night singing the theme song from Married With Children.

And now I get to run one of the biggest marathons in the world there!