When I lived in D.C. in 2009, my Saturday runs were on the National Mall. I’d run north through my neighborhood to get there, then past the Smithsonian Castle, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Sometimes I’d take detours past the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. Occasionally other runners joined me, but I mostly dodged throngs of tourists mesmerized by the monuments, snapping shots of the capital of the free world.
Had I not been an outdoor runner, I would have visited the Mall about 25 fewer times than I did the year I lived in the District. I would have known much less about the geography of the area and the patterns of weekend tourists. Running is a great way to learn more about your neighborhood and your city. And you don’t have to go crazy—I’m by no means a serious runner. I max out at 7 miles. I have no interest in doing a marathon. But I do go running at least once a week, and everywhere I’ve lived, I’ve learned something about my home by running around it.
In Chicago, I often run in Ukrainian Village and Humboldt Park. On my Saturday runs here, I’m most struck by the murals I encounter. Some of them are political. Others are commercial. Most of them are beautiful. They all make my run, and the area, a little more intriguing.