Growing up, I strived to fit in. I was made fun of most of elementary and middle school, I felt accepted in high school, and then I attended one of the largest US universities where I felt like I was drowning the first year. Once I was out on my own, I felt alone in a big city of Chicago. For about 6 years, I felt connected through a small Kung Fu school in Ravenswood.
But a mixture of life circumstances and the owner not caring about me and my welfare led me to moving away and leaving the school. When moving to a brand new area, I was scared that once again I wouldn’t fit in. Just about a month after moving, I entered a local running store named Lively Athletics for a marathon training run that was put together by World Vision and my church. And I saw a chalkboard with a cute sign that said weekly co-ed beer runs every Wednesday night 6:30pm. What I didn’t realize was just how much this little beer run would change my life.
I went to check it out that very Wednesday and instantly fell in love with the runners, store, and running route. Beer was a bonus. I actually went 12 weeks in a row to get a T shirt at 6 weeks and a beer glass at 12. That’s dedication. But through all the sweaty runs, I made friends. And I felt like I fit in with my new community.
The more I learned about Lively, the more I fell in love with it. It’s a sister-owned local running store that caters to women and children. Sorry, guys, but you already know women are taking over. And the owners are amazing. Kate, mother of two beautiful girls, cranking out marathons left and right. And Anne, mother of two as well, a power-lifter and cross-fitter. Together, they’ve created not just another running store, but a welcoming running community for runners of all ages, sizes and paces.
Every time I lace up on a Wednesday, I know that I won’t feel judged or left behind. Even now that I skip the beer afterwards, the gathering of sweaty runners afterwards is something I look forward to. It feels like I belong here, and that I belong in Oak Park thanks to Lively Athletics. And if you’re a runner looking for anything running (or tennis!) related, hit up this local gem. You won’t be disappointed.