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Read-A-Thon 2022: Book Your Adventure in Chicago!

The 2022 Read-A-Thon is all about exploring the world, but there’s always an adventure to be had close to home! Read-A-Thon media partner, Read & Run Chicago, guest writes a blog full of running routes inspired by The Chicago Neighborhood Guidebook.

One of the best ways to see Chicago through a new lens is by reading neighborhood history and first-hand experiences and stories by fellow Chicagoans. At Read & Run Chicago, a local group that hosts running tours inspired by books, we believe the best kind of exploring is a combination of that–reading stories written by local authors–and running routes based on important places mentioned in those stories. 

One book that helped us embody this mission was The Chicago Neighborhood Guidebook edited by Martha Bayne. This anthology–featuring essays, poems, and photography by local authors and artists–isn’t a list of attractions or itineraries, but rather a glimpse into the lives of the everyday people who live in the city and the experiences that shape their relationship with this physical space we call home. 

Read & Run Chicago hosted mini-runs (defined as runs between a half-mile and two miles in length) this year inspired by 10 of these chapters. Here is a list of nine of the chapters and accompanying routes for you to walk, run, bike, or roll to bring the story to life, plus a suggested local business to visit at the end of your run.

South Loop run with Megan Stielstra. Photo courtesy of Read & Run Chicago.

1. South Loop: Michigan & Harrison by Megan Stielstra

Route Link: 

Post-run food or drink: Cafecito 

Author, essayist, and professor Megan Stielstra spent the good part of over two decades at this corner in the South Loop. This gripping essay is a reflection on how people change as the ordinary places we pass through on a daily basis change.

2. Beverly: How to Integrate a Chicago Neighborhood in Three (Not So) Easy Steps by Scott Smith 

Route link: 

Post-run food or drink: Top-Notch Beefburgers

The mid-20th century racist response to housing integration and increased African American populations that sociologists have deemed “White Flight” had lasting impacts on the disinvestment of Chicago’s South Side. One historic South Side neighborhood actively worked against it and fought for a racially integrated community. Smith’s essay introduces readers to this fascinating history and the community members who led the fight. 

Beverly Run with Scott Smith. Photo courtesy of Read & Run Chicago.

3. Lakeview: On Belmont and Clark by Emily Mack

Route link: 

Post-run food or drink: Clark Street Dog

In a society where we often lack a “third place,” the area surrounding this corner was author Emily Mack’s. As a teen, she worked, shopped, hung out, and even skipped class to spend time around storefronts that are no longer there and people that spoke to the neighborhood’s eclectic roots. 

4. Hegewisch: Pudgy’s Pizza by Josh Burbridge 

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Post-run food or drink: Pudgy’s Pizza and Old Time Tap 

Hegewisch–the far South Side neighborhood where street parking is still free and neighbors still know each other–is home to Pudgy’s Pizza, a staple and beacon of community in post-industrial Chicago. Writer and pizza aficionado Josh Burbridge writes the story of Pudgy’s former owner. 

Pilsen run. Photo courtesy of Read & Run Chicago.

5. Pilsen: The Quietest Form of Displacement in a Changing Barrio by Sebastian Hidalgo 

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Post-run food or drink: La Casa del Pueblo Taqueria 

Local photographer Sebastian Hidalgo’s photo essay of the historic Czech-turned-Mexican-American neighborhood of Pilsen is both a response to the gentrification of this area and an ode to the culture, power, and heart of the people who inhabit it. 

6. Ashburn: That’s Amore by Tim Mazurek 

Route link: 

Post-run food or drink: Vito and Nick’s

As a kid, author Tim Mazurek came to Vito & Nick’s with his family for its legendary pizza–and ended up watching the employees in tight white shirts. He understands this attraction as his nascent queerness. We learn about gender roles, identity, and South Side community history in this touching story.

7. Bridgeport: The Community of the Future by Ed Marszewski 

Route link: (And here are Ed Marszewski’s must-see spots)

Post-run food or drink: Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar and Kimski 

Well, we lied. This chapter actually is a must-see list of Bridgeport, the South Side neighborhood that produced much of Chicago’s Democratic political machine has a complicated history of white supremacy, and today functions as one of the most welcoming and integrated neighborhoods in the city. In this essay, media and hospitality giant Ed Marszewski shows us his version of Bridgeport and all the local businesses and spots we can’t miss. 

8. West Ridge: Rebel Girl by Sara Nasser 

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Post-run food or drink: Uru-Swati 

The far North Side neighborhood of West Ridge is home to a historic Jewish community, the lively Devon Avenue, Chicago’s home to South Asian clothing shops, restaurants, grocery stores, and cultural centers. Author Sara Nasser grew up near Green Briar Park, a place where she starts to formulate her identity as a Muslim-American. 

9. Pullman and Ideal Communities in Chicago, The Rust Belt, and Beyond by Claire Tighe 

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Post-run food or drink: Lexington Betty’s Smokehouse 

Just after President Obama’s 2015 designation of Pullman as a National Monument, journalist Claire Tighe visits the historic buildings that once comprised the planned community for George Pullman’s workers at his Pullman Palace Car Company. She weaves between past and present and invites readers to consider how we can build ideal communities. 

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