chicago suburbia versus nyc

Greetings from 35,000 feet!!  (Or however high we are…)  I’m currently blogging from somewhere south of Detroit, which I’m sure will change in a matter of about five minutes.  My flight from Chicago to Philadelphia ended up boarding on time, just to sit at the gate for over an hour while they attempted to fix a frozen drain.  Ah, gotta love it, but I can’t argue because I’m going to be on the east coast tonight instead of Friday.  I’m sure you never thought you’d ever hear me say that I’d be happy to be landing in Philly, but I’ll take it at this point.

Although I’m not nearly as sad to be leaving Chicago as I used to be when I was returning to Philadelphia earlier this year, that doesn’t mean that I don’t still love Chicago and my family and friends.  It was a short visit, as it always seems to be.  This trip was a bit different than the last few…leaving NYC and going back to suburbia at its finest really exemplified the differences between the two locations, both in life and in running.  Let’s check it out in list form because who doesn’t like a good list or two?


  • Driving.  I haven’t driven a car in two months, so when I got in the car to meet my friends for breakfast, I had to do a double take on fixing the mirrors and figuring out where the window wiper controls were.  I mean, it was just like riding a bike, but still a little weird to have something that was once so natural seem a little foreign.
  • It’s SO quiet here!  I live in the “sleepy” Upper East Side, but there’s still a fair amount of noise, whether my neighbors are yelling or sirens are raging.  Not so much in suburban Chicago.
  • People don’t know how to walk here.  For some unknown terrible reason, I decided to brave the third largest mall in the country the day after Christmas.  I know, I’m an idiot.  I’ve learned to maneuver the Manhattan streets like a pro…no one in the mall can walk with any sort of purpose.  Get out of my way, I’m a New Yorker now.  (Kinda…)
  • Not every yellow car is a taxi.  In fact, I don’t think I saw a single taxi while I was in Chicago.  How odd…



  • Fewer people.  Well…duh.  The concentration of people in Manhattan versus the suburbs is clearly quite drastic, but I was blown away by how few people I saw while I was out running.  This especially applies to the number of people who are out walking around.  Everyone is in their cars because you don’t walk to the grocery store.
  • Fewer stops on the run.  I live about a mile from Central Park, which means weaving along as I follow the traffic lights to get me to the park where I can run freely for as long as I want.  I never make it across Madison Ave without hitting a red light, and if I want to run along the west side, that’s about 2.25 miles of stop and go traffic.  In the land of suburbia, I used to do a 20 mile run with maybe one or two stops if the traffic pattern was working against me…and I certainly didn’t grow up in the country!
  • Mindless runs are easier.  Or at least for now they are.  I’ve done these runs back home so often I could probably do them in my sleep.  I know where the mile markers are without looking at my beloved Garmin.  Perhaps I just need to learn to pay less attention to my Garmin and just run in NYC.  Ah, easier said than done.
  • Faster runs.  Maybe it’s because I’m not paying attention to my Garmin.  Maybe I’m excited to be back home on my favorite routes.  Maybe it’s the lack of stop and go and weaving around people and their little dogs.  Whatever it is, I’ve been flying on my runs at home and they seem nothing short of easy.  Maybe that’s why I ran my best time at Chicago this year?
  • Fewer running groups.  If there’s one thing that NYC doesn’t lack (and there’s very few things that NYC doesn’t lack…), it’s running groups.  Or someone to run with.  NYRR lists a bajillion (count them!) running clubs, and at any given time you can find at least someone else running in the park, whether you know them or not.  Back home, not so much.  Sure, the running groups exist, but not nearly in the quantity (and I’m willing to argue quality!) as found in NYC.  Nor did I pass any other running when I was out there.


So which is better?  I have absolutely no idea.  I love my old running routes and flying on them.  I love having a wide variety of running groups to choose from in NYC.  Trade offs are made, just like in other aspects of life.  I may not have laundry in my apartment, but I have any type of food at my fingertips.  I may have any sort of running group to run with, but I have to fight eight traffic lights to get to them.  I suppose that’s one of the good things about running…you can run anywhere.

What do you think?  Do you prefer city running for the social aspects (speed can be involved in that!)?  Do you like suburb/country running for the ease and quiet about it?  I’m still undecided…but I’ll go on a run with you in any setting!  :)


My last run in Chicago before heading home was another fabulously fast run that felt like I was simply jogging along.  I hit up one of my favorite long run routes that has some hills (or at least, as hilly as Chicago will be).  I know this run so well and my legs are just on autopilot whenever I run it…I even know what points in the street I’m going to cross, and I generally don’t even have to look over my shoulder to check for traffic (even though I always do) because 99% of the time I can hear it behind me, unlike NYC where you really have no clue.  Here we go:

Monday, December 27
8.03 miles in 1:00:33, avg pace of 7:33

Last miles in 7:08 and 7:02.  Woo woo.  And now I’ll stop being such an idealistic runner…

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  1. says

    Enjoy those fast runs. You don’t have to dodge cars, hehe. I like a mix of both when I am at home and then back in Austin. Keeps things fun!

  2. says

    I’ll choose the trails any day! 😛 But I haven’t experience running in NYC so I can’t compare it to that but Denver does offer up some good runs as well

  3. says

    N.Y.C! of course!
    What appeals to me when I run in NYC is all the stuff to see to keep my mind racing. AND, i have only been running for 2 years so NYC is all I know.

  4. says

    I think about this a lot too when comparing DC runs to runs at home in PA. I like that DC is lit up early in the morning so I can run at any time. Yay street lights. But I do hate that I have to stop constantly and can’t just keep running. In the end I think I will always like suburbia running better, but for now, I’m settling into city running.

  5. says

    I always compare running in the city vs. the suburbs and I agree — there are definite trade-offs. I don’t really have a home town anymore (parents have moved too much) but I do love being able to run without interruptions when I go to visit. There’s also a lot more variety to my runs than when I’m in the city. And the one thing I miss the most that I had access to growing up is trails. I love running on trails and hate that there aren’t any near me.

    As a side note, it’s so cool that you could blog from the plane! :)

  6. says

    That’s a tough one. Sometimes I enjoy city running because there are a lot of people and distractions, but for the most part I prefer running in suburbia since running is my “me time” and I like my brain to be quiet and to be mellow :)

  7. says

    I really admire you for living in NYC…out of all the big cities, that one is certainly the most scary to me. Chicago is a pretty busy city, too, but I think I might be able to handle that one better. :)

    I got your super cute Christmas card in the mail the other day…loved your photo montage of the year; it’s on my bulletin board!

  8. says

    Interesting comparison! I have not run in a big city, but I do love the quiet trails in Lake County :)

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