The Do’s and Don’ts of the Lakefront Path for Runners


After that amazing weekend we just had, I think it’s safe to say spring has sprung. And one of the first thing Chicagoans do the second it gets warm enough is swarm to the lakefront path. Men, women, couples, teenagers, kiddos, people with dogs, people with strollers, runners, bikers, bladers, and the occasional dude in a hot dog costume (no lie – I saw that on a weekday morning at 6:30 am last summer) – they flock to that 18-mile stretch as if it’s the last time they’ll ever be allowed outside. It’s awesome, and it’s one of the things that makes Chicago so Chicago-y.

Unfortunately, those well-meaning hordes don’t always know the proper etiquette for taking up space on the lakefront path. And honestly, we all probably need a refresher after a somewhat dormant winter filled with indoor cycling classes and treadmills. So here, a handy reference outlining The Do’s and Don’t of the Lakefront Path for Runners.

DO: Prepare accordingly. Shorts and tanks are awesome. Chafing is not. Make Body Glide your best friend if you’re heading out for an extended run. Also, if I may take on the Mom persona for a second, wear sunscreen! Your proximity to the water means that the sun’s rays will reflect and hit your face with the strength of a shot of Malort. Your future wrinkle-free self will thank you for wearing a hat and/or SPF 50.

DON’T: Turn up those headphones too loudly. I’m in full support of using music during a long run (currently jamming to continuous mixes by the White Panda), but in a congested area like the lakefront path, it’s incredibly important to be aware of your surroundings. Loud music can render you deaf to the “ON YOUR LEFT!” of an incoming biker, or other such signals. Stay aware, stay vigilant, and keep your earbud volume at a level where you could hear someone running next to you talking in a normal tone of voice. Want a jazzy alternative to headphones? I fully endorse the JammyPack, and I own the American flag version. It’s honestly one of my prized possessions.

DO: Take advantage of the water fountains. Personally, I’ve never run holding a water bottle, and luckily, the lakefront path makes it pretty easy for me to avoid doing so. Water fountains are now turned on, and they’re spaced out at pretty reasonable intervals. Stop and take a few sips every time you pass one- as the saying goes, if you wait to drink until you’re thirsty, it’s too late and you’re probably already dehydrated. As the weather continues to warm up, this tip will become even more important – so drink up! But…

DON’T: Hoist your dog up to drink out of said fountain. I’m sorry. I totally love that your dog accompanies you on runs, and honestly, I wish I had such a canine companion. But please, I don’t want to drink out of the same spigot as Spot. Either bring a collapsible water dish for Fido or limit his running schedule to shorter distances when the weather is cooler.

dog zombie

DO: Stay to the right. Pass on the left. I cannot emphasize this point enough. I remember one summer, my little sister came to visit and we went for a run together on the lakefront. I was on the right, and she was on the left- and like a car with a broken steering wheel, she kept drifting towards the center of the path. I was horrified and kept tugging her shirt back to the right side of the path. The road rules on the path aren’t unlike those of the highway; unless you’re passing someone, you should stay as far to the right side as possible. This becomes even more crucial as you go north of Belmont and the path narrows to two slim (and usually congested) lanes. Running in the middle of the path is both dangerous (you could easily get clipped by a bike, one of my worst fears) and honestly, a little inconsiderate. Even if you’re taking a leisurely stroll with a girlfriend and some lattes, please be aware of those around you and hug the right of the path.

DON’T: Roll more than two-deep on the path. This goes with the point above. Any group wider than two people becomes difficult for others to navigate around. If you’re running with a club, pretend like you’re in the Madeline book series and line up two-by-two. I promise, you can switch up running buddies throughout your jog to chat with different people.

DO: Look both ways and over your shoulder (in your “blind spot”) before crossing the path. Common sense, but it always bears repeating.

DON’T: Be mean. Above all else, just be a nice person when you encounter others on the path. We all love this path, and we all get to share it during Chicago’s glimpse of summer. Treat others the way you would want to be treated and be patient if someone doesn’t follow these unspoken rules.

What other tips would you give to people heading to the path for the first time this spring? Have you had any great runs on the lakefront yet? Let us know in the comments!

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About Kristen Geil

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Kristen moved to Chicago in 2011 and received her MA in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse from DePaul while trying to maintain her southern accent. Kristen grew up playing sports, and since moving to Chicago, she’s fallen in love with the lakefront running path and the lively group fitness scene. Now, as a currently retired marathoner and sweat junkie, you can usually find her trying new workouts around the city and meticulously crafting Instagram-friendly smoothie bowls. Kristen came on to A Sweat Life full-time in 2018 as Editor-in-Chief, and she spends her days managing writers, building content strategy, and fighting for the Oxford comma.

3 thoughts on “The Do’s and Don’ts of the Lakefront Path for Runners

  1. Wow, all great tips!!! I definitely think it’s great when people smile and are friendly and it’s cool when their headphones are not too loud- when my husband and I pass people from behind on trails/runs, we will usually say something like *passing behind* so we don’t startle them. Sometimes it’s hard not to surprise people when they can’t hear us.

    1. Haha Kristin, one time I said “COMIN IN HOT” and the people I was running with died laughing. Whatever gets everyone’s attention!

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