Genius wife finds running track among skyscrapers

MY WIFE is a genius.

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Austin in Chicago
Austin in Chicago

She has demonstrated this twice. The first time, of course, was her decision to accept my marriage proposal.

The second has been to find the only city centre high-rise hotel I have ever heard of with its own outdoor running track.

Eh? The long-distance lawyer has finally given in to the pressures of training and gone off his nut.

But no, dear reader, it is true. The running track bit, at least.

I and the First Lady are in Chicago for a wedding.

As we are still in July, I must train every day.

I packed my running shoes anticipating I would be pounding the streets of Chicago when not too blisteringly hot.

At the hotel, a revelation. Not only is there an excellent gym (with basketball court - they are obsessed here), and an open air swimming pool high up among the skyscrapers on the 70,000sq ft deck, there is an outdoor running track on that deck that circumnavigates the building for about a quarter of a mile in length.

It is made of a rubberised surface that is gentle on the legs, and allows a magnificent view of some of the mightiest buildings in Chicago, with the Lake, the rest of the city and beyond peeking through between the mammoth blocks.

I have no head for heights, and the track hugs the boundary of the deck, looking out over the surrounding streets, but is enclosed by a high enough metal fence, so you can enjoy the view but avoid vertigo.

I have run early morning - dawn is before 6 and you waken up either from light streaming in or from the siren wails of the Chicago Police Department.

I have also run in the late morning and even afternoon, which although it gets rather boiling, the height of the deck and running course make it airy and not too unpleasant.

The track is completely flat, which is always a plus for us less athletic types.

Speaking of flat, the whole city and the countryside beyond in every direction are more or less on one level, the only hill that I have been able to find is a slight rise up to the plaza where our hotel and a few others are located.

But on my first full day, I did a fine four miles through the city - along the Lakeside southwards to the Field Museum, two out and two back. Perfectly flat all the way.

The running is fine, but so are the other available activities.

The First Lady and I have walked our socks off around the city every day, there is so much for the tourist to see, and as a birthday present I had recently bought her a new pedometer so we can judge the miles actually done.

Our top so far is 14 miles in one day.

We have swum too, and though there is an indoor pool, we prefer the outdoor one, not just because you don't get much of a chance for swimming in the open air in Glasgow, but the view is magnificent.

I have been in the gym, both on the cross-trainer when my feet are giving me difficulty (the walking generates blisters initially), and have also used the enclosed indoor basketball court and the outside deck for some karate workouts.

CHICAGO is a city in which fitness and sport are well up the agenda. Most bars have big screens with football, American and soccer, showing or tennis, baseball or athletics.

There are joggers all over the place, as well as groups playing ballgames in every park.

Soldier Field Stadium near the city centre is huge and busy when the Chicago Bears have their football matches there. The place is a playground for all sport. Indeed the one regret I had was that on the Sunday after the wedding the Chicago half-marathon was being run - start at 6am because of the heat.

I could have trained up and joined in. Next time, maybe.

And after all that, you can have too much of a good thing. Chicago is an expensive destination. Now that the wedding is over, we will head back and resume the day jobs.

Just one more hurl round the running track in the sky.

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