Keys to the City

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Tim Rossi is getting the lay of the land in Chicago

Editor's Note: NYC native Tim Rossi lives and breathes running. You'll catch him logging huge miles week on week and racing anything he can on the east coast, always repping his crew, Lostboys.

When he's not running, he's writing about running for TEMPO as our first regular columnist.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

I know it has been a minute (strong reference to my first TEMPO piece) since I last wrote for you guys, but in my defense I’ve had a few things happen since I wrote about being hurt.

First off, I am running again! It has not been a ton, but for the last two months I’ve steadily built back into running. I’ve realized that my days of rolling out of bed and onto the roads are gone, and my new routine features a lot of weird band movements; I’ve gotten really good at doing these activations truly anywhere and am now numb to the weird looks I get while doing them in the middle of the street.

Regardless, this new normal allows me to run which is amazing. Moreover, I am finally feeling fit enough to actually start getting fit again (getting fit to get fit has been a fun mantra these last two months).

But the biggest change is that I moved – I traded my thin slices for deep dish, my MetroCard for a Ventra card, the West Side Highway for the Lakefront path, and am now a Chicagoan (I googled it, I promise that’s a word).

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This was kinda a big deal for me because NYC has been home for my entire life, it is all I have ever known.

And now I am living in a city that I had visited only twice in my 27 years of life (hopefully this major life change gets me some slack for the lack of articles, hey Riley?).

So what am I here writing about? Why am I talking about geography on TEMPO Journal, a platform dedicated to running?

Well, for a long time I’ve preached the inclusive nature of the running community, but more specifically I’m a huge fan of how the running community can help you discover places in unique ways – even a place you grew up in and thought you knew.

I won’t go all the way through my history with running, but basically I didn’t start until I got to college, and it wasn’t until I moved back to NYC after college that I started to immerse myself in the running community.

I can very safely say that my experience in NYC would have been completely different had I not discovered, and been embraced by, this mishmashed group of people.

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NYC can be an overwhelming place; everyone is focused on their own thing, and sometimes this can come off as New Yorkers being, um, assholes (I’ll defend New York forever, but, yes, New York isn’t always the friendliest place in the world). I’ve known so many people that have moved to the city and struggled to meet people, to find their community, to feel like they are truly part of the city.

“Eight million stories, out there in it naked, City is a pity, half of y'all won't make it”

Jay-Z (he gets it)

And it is fair, there is no place in the world that can prepare you for NYC and it can be overwhelming. But, the running community is insane. Not only will it take you in, but it will expose you to a side of the city that you never would have known about were you not in it.

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It’s not hyperbole to say running has shaped my entire life: It is why I left Law School, why the Lostboys exist, why my friends are who they are, why I work where I work, everything. And I do not for one second forget that I would be living a completely different life had the sport not found me.

Hell, every runner has stories of their non-runner friends asking, “how far do you run!?!?” or, “why are you doing this?” The cheesy jokes that we have heard thousands of times come out in droves at family events, work functions, or reunions of sorts.

And while I personally have properly rehearsed answers to these silly jokes (mostly just laughing it off and changing the subject), there is something about being surrounded by a community that truly gets it; that understands not only running itself, but the nuances of the grind that truly take up 99% of our time in this beautiful, heartbreaking, difficult sport.

“As with shipwreck survivors, hostages, and others in dire circumstances, duress fosters an unsentimental kind of intimacy.”

John Parker, Once a Runner

It is one of the reasons that I want to continue to help grow the sport, because the impact running has is truly amazing (ask me what my career goals or life goals or whatever are and I’ll give you some sort of line about, ‘changing the sport of running for the better while continuing to spread and grow the sport’).

But it is also one of the reasons leaving NYC was such a tough decision.

I love NYC, I love that community, and I was worried that I would be leaving all of that behind.

Runs with friends, my easy 60 minute loops, knowing where the various bathrooms are out on the road, the secret spots only you know about to go get a quality long run in, I was walking away from that.

But, after 6 weeks of being gone, I’ve realized that is silly.

Because, for one, NYC is not going anywhere.

Take the Lostboys as an example – while we are mostly based in New York, those scattered elsewhere simply find solace in knowing that there are others out there keeping the dream alive.

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"Knowing there are people out there grinding the same way you are helps when things get tough and lonely."

Tim Rossi

Now, I am experiencing being away from the squad. I don’t have the luxury of texting our thread to meet for a run or to grab beers or whatever. Instead, I am leaning into that shared commitment, gaining energy from the work everyone else is putting in, keeping the dream alive, staying lost.

I was just back in the city for the marathon, and when I say it felt like I hadn’t missed a beat I mean it.

It felt less like I had moved and more like I had just been on a vacation and hadn’t seen everyone for a little. The community is not going to leave me now that I’ve moved; it will always be there.

And that was an important realization for me. It was not dissimilar to the feeling of being hurt and worrying that your friends won’t be there because you aren’t running (though it is equally irrational). Those that care will always be there.

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So, NYC, check. And while I’ve just talked at length about NYC, the other thing the running community has done is connected me globally.

I now have friends all over the world because of running. I can now go anywhere and, even if I know no one there, a friend of a friend will be willing to meet up for a run or there will be some squad that I can hop in a workout with.

It makes the world smaller, and it also makes unfamiliar places feel familiar much quicker.

Which brings me to Chicago.

Like I said, I had only been here twice before moving here (once to watch the marathon, once when looking at colleges). So, I truly had, and still have, no idea what to expect.

I know there is soupy-pizza, the Bears, a big lake, and that it gets cold.

I know that, like NYC, there are super serious teams and casual crews trying to grow running in their communities. I know there is a marathon that, at some point, I will need to run.

So, you can tell I didn’t know a ton coming into it.

But I’m learning.

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I’ve learned that people actually ride the buses here, that the Lakefront path is absolutely amazing, that there is one track that everyone uses, and that it is in fact super cold.

And more specifically through running I’m starting to get the lay of the land.

I’m in an apartment that is exactly 2 miles away from the track (this was not an accident).

I’ve found some people to hop into quality long runs with that have promised me that they continue to run even when the temperature dips into the negatives (though I maybe shouldn’t run every long run with the 2:15 marathoner of the group).

And I am excited, because it all feels familiar: it feels like 2014 when I knew nothing about how much running would change my relationship with NYC.

If you’re somewhere new, or you’re heading somewhere new, the lesson is this; the community unlocks the city.

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