Even runners ride together

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By Paul Oppenheim

Running Columnist

Several years before retirement, I had surgery for a torn meniscus (knee) and had to sharply reduce my running. I bought a bike so I could alternate running and cycling, and called Buck Hales, a friend from the Oak Park Runners Club and a professor at University of Illinois Chicago, who regularly commuted  by bicycle. Buck said he used Harrison Street, and invited me to ride along. So, I began bike commuting on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, keeping my usual early morning runs on the other days. 

I mentioned this new routine to Moe Sullivan, my retired next-door neighbor, and an avid cyclist. He asked if he could ride along. Sure, I said, so Moe promptly called other retirees — Bob Hakes, a member of the runners club, and Bill Dring, another condo neighbor. Buck also spread the word via the internet, and soon we had a couple more "worker bees" — Elissa Speizman and later, Karlene Schowalter. Occasional riders Cliff Carlson and Bob Bell are also runners club members.

Our standard routine is to meet at Austin and Harrison at 6:30 a.m. for the ride to Downtown Chicago. Those who worked went to our jobs, and the old guys headed for breakfast, taking a different route back to Oak Park. One of Moe Sullivan's favorites was "Loop de Logan," riding northwest to a Logan Square Starbuck's for breakfast before returning to Oak Park.

Sadly, Moe died a few years ago, and Buck Hales departed to head Southern Illinois University Medical School's Physiology Department, but the group, now including Jim Ihrig, is still active, and the Sullivan Loop de Logan is still ridden on special occasions. Upon retirement, I just switched teams, joining the old guys for the breakfast routine.

Riders have come and gone, and today Speizman tends to be the glue that holds the group together. She bikes to work most days, with Showalter a bit less frequent. The official meeting place is still at Harrison and Austin, but if neither of our two working ladies is there we'll go a different direction — still with a breakfast stop, of course — and we're home before 9 a.m., ready for whatever assignments our wives have for us.

Our group recently gained Wendy Negron, another injured runner, who started biking during stress fracture recovery, and we have occasional guests who enjoy the adventure of riding through Chicago's West Side. But "adventure" is an inaccurate term. Harrison Street starts as a beautiful bike trail around the edge of Columbus Park, extending east along the Eisenhower Expressway. It's not a designated bike street, but much of it is one-way, and traffic is light. Some neighborhoods are rundown, others are nice, but we've never felt unsafe.

If you'd like to bike commute, or are looking for cross-training to supplement running via an early morning ride to the Loop and back (about 8-10 miles each way), give us a try. Speeds are moderate (12-15 mph), and traffic signals provide frequent pauses. The workers usually email each other to coordinate return trips in the afternoon. Again, it's Harrison and Austin at 6:30 a.m. — Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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Wendy Negron from Oak Park  

Posted: June 22nd, 2012 7:03 AM

Paul, Bob, Jim, Bill, Elissa and Karlene... I am delighted I found you and this delightful ride. Always an excellent start to my day. Paul, a big thanks to you for the nudge when you recognized I needed it!

Bob Bell from Oak Park/Madison WI  

Posted: June 19th, 2012 7:04 AM

Hey Paul, nice story and happy to see our names in print. Karen of Oak Park Cycle Club has alerted her yahoo group to the link.

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