I’m a reluctant runner. Actually, I hate running. I run nonetheless because it is an efficient way to exercise, and I survive thanks to a little MP3 player and its 160 or so songs. They have one thing in common: they make me feel like taking another step. It’s a crazy mix, with The Monkees and Shakira, Titus Andronicus and Michael Stanley, Van Halen and all the greatest hits of the New Wave. Usually, I set it for random play, but if I’m angry at my weight or the wind chill, I keep pressing forward until I hit another punk song. Other times, I’m marveling at the lovely sunshine and the fact that my ankles don’t hurt, so I just skip between the happy pop songs.
On Sunday, my hippie-liberal Episcopal church here in Chicago is holding its annual 5K race, the Ravenswood Run. The church is a long-standing neighborhood landmark; Carl Sandburg was once a parishioner, and he mentions the place, not kindly, in his Chicago Poems. We’re nicer than that now. The event raises money for the church’s food pantry and for student health clinics at two Chicago Public Schools high schools. Most races in Chicago take place along the lakefront, both for the view and the relative lack of traffic disruption. The Ravenswood Run is unusual in that it goes through north side neighborhoods. It brings out 4000 runners on a Sunday morning in what is officially spring, but we in the Big Windy know is really still winter. The non-running residents come out to cheer us on, which warms us up.
This week, I present my Ravenswood Run playlist. Given that this is a church fundraiser in Chicago, I decided to pick songs that were uplifting (no “Somebody to Shove”); about Chicago (eliminating “Empire State of Mind” and “Cleveland Rocks”); or both, thank you Sufjan Stevens. Can I finish the course before the playlist ends? I’ll post my time once it’s official.