Friday, October 24, 2014

City Running Tour – River Walk & Navy Pier

Date: 13 October 2014
Venue: The Bean > Chicago River > Navy Pier > The Bean
Distance: ~ 3.4 miles
Timing: ~ 90 minutes

And so someone aka yours truly thought it was a par excellence and extraordinaire to do a running city tour the day after this. Hey it was either doing it pre Chicago (equivalent to “tiring” out the legs on battered body after traveling through a few time zones) or post Chicago (equivalent to shuffling around like an old lady). In the end, it turned out to be post as rest overruled fun.

Oh hey, this post looks like is turning out to be “race” recap like! Anyway, back to the topic. This has be one of the highlights of my visit to Chi-Town and definitely one of the best ways to see the city. I highly recommend you do this! Don’t be intimidated by the word “run” since the pace is basically “smell the flower” pace and I guarantee you that I did no running whatsoever except for the few metres for the photo op. Of course, you need to “run” or look like run for the photos! Oh darn it! I even wore my jeans instead of some semblance of running gear coz I wasn’t expecting to run.

Here's the feeble attempt to "run"
Photo credits to Marlin

This was originally scheduled for the Friday before Chicago but due to my rescheduled flights, I asked Marlin (who so graciously!) to allow me to do it on Monday which in turned, turned out to be a one-on-one tour.

We met at The Bean around 7:15am and Marlin gave a brief history of the Americas, Chicago and the river before we started our journey. Yippity yak, yippity yak, yippity yak and soon we were close to the first stop where Marlin brought out some photos, charts etc and continued the earlier briefing. This was also the first photo shoot. Now, just look at that gal running! BTW, those first few steps felt like a dagger digging deep into the quads!

Walk, walk, walk. Yippity yak, yippity yak, yippity yak. Here we are at the turnaround – Navy Pier and I definitely don’t look like Sylvester Stallone in Rambo in this pose. More interesting talk about how Navy Pier and “windy city” came about. Bet you didn’t know that “windydoesn’t actually mean the weather! Me neither! It’s a reference to the “nonsense” coming out from politicians’ mouth and the long winded presentation of the Chicago team during the bid for the World Expo.

Photo credits to Marlin as well

Repeat para 2 and before you know it, we’re back at the Chicago Tribune building. Marlin pointed out that each country/event is imprinted on the walls of the building.

The Notes from Marlin
Thank goodness Marlin emailed this to me…coz I could never remember everything from the tour. So for those of you who are interested in the history of the Chicago River & Navy Pier, read along:
The lesson of the day is our environment can be very forgiving if we are responsible stewards.  The concept applies anywhere we live.  The following are some fast facts we covered during your tour:
1)    The geographic location of the Chicago River is the reason why Chicago became a major metropolitan center in the U.S.  It allowed for the growth of a major transportation center that connects the Midwest to the Atlantic seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico.
2)    The flow of the river is considered lazy with a slow moving current.  As Chicago grew during the 1800's the river was used as an open sewer receiving massive amounts of industrial and human waste. 
3)    Chicago residents get their drinking water from Lake Michigan.  During the 1800's the city experienced epidemics of waterborne diseases including typhoid, cholera, and dysentery.  This led to the reversal of the river so that the waste dumped into it would flow south, away from the lake.
4)    Navy Pier was completed in 1916 and was first called Metropolitan Pier number 2.  It was renamed Navy Pier in 1927 in honor of World War I veterans.  The U.S. Navy leased it in the 1940's to use as a pilot training facility.  Today it is the state of Illinois number 1 tourist attraction.
5)    Today there are over 200 WWII fighter planes on the bottom of Lake Michigan.
6)    The 41st president of the U.S., George H W Bush, trained as a pilot at Navy Pier.
7)    The Ferris wheel at Navy Pier is symbolic of the 1st Ferris wheel ever built.  The 1st Ferris wheel was designed and assembled for the 1893 Columbian Exposition.  (World’s Fair)
8)    Navy Pier is the state of Illinois number 1 tourist attraction.  It boosts the nation’s 2nd largest children’s museum.
9)    A 1970 study of the Chicago River revealed that there were 17 species of aquatic life in the river.  During this period the non-profit organization "Friends of the Chicago River" started a major river cleanup initiative.  A 2010 study of the river revealed there were over 70 species of aquatic life in the river.  The river cleanup initiative exemplifies the point; "our environment can be very forgiving if we are responsible stewards."
10) The name "Windy City" has nothing to do with wind. It is a derogative vernacular Chicago was labeled with based on political sparring. It suggests our city politicians are long winded and full of hot air.

Navy Pier

And the Rocky pose! Photo credits to Marlin

a)    Super well organized and informative and Marlin is a fantastic tour leader.
b)    Accommodative – Marlin even suggested I come in on Saturday morning (Chicago Tragic Events) when he found out about my travel predicaments.
c)     Tour time was about 90 minutes – just right, not too long before you get bored, not too short that you feel like you didn’t get anything out of it.

Walking thru the tunnel along the river

d)    Photo ops and FOC too! They put up the photos and Flickr where you can download them. Yeah, I’m looking at you, major run events! Charging something like $30-50 is just a bit too much for me.
e)    And just like a running event, you get a swag.
f)     Follow-up email – if you’re like me, you probably won’t be able to remember all the details, so Running Tour emails the brief to you.

a)    Can’t think of any! That’s how great a job Marlin did on Monday!
a)    Check Groupon or LivingSocials for deals – I got mine off LivingSocial and it was very well worth the deal.
b)    Read up on reviews – Marlin and his team received many thumbs up on TripAdvisor and which is why I went with them.
c)     Go without any expectation and enjoy the journey.
d)    Do this in spring or fall when the temps and weather are perfect for an early morning jaunt. Running Tours do have other longer runs and these could take up more time, so if you sign up for these, spring and fall would be great. I guess you can do the shorter ones in all seasons…except maybe winter…in which case, you’ll probably be RUNNING rather than shuffling along like I did. Who knows…maybe you do enjoy cooler temps; just not me to have chattering teeth for 3 miles.

Photo log (photo credits to Marlin as well):

Swag - Clif Bar included!

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