SOUTH SHORE — While coronavirus canceled Mary Lu Seidel’s plans to run in the Chicago Marathon, she wasn’t going to let her year of training go to waste.
After all, the preservation advocate had already told herself this was the one and only year she would run 26.2 miles in a day.
“It’s a very powerful thing to train for a marathon, but I’m never going to do this again,” she said.
Seidel, who works as director of community engagement with Preservation Chicago, has redirected her energy into her own marathon tour of historical sites on the South and West sides.
Early Sunday morning, she’ll start off at Old Fashioned Donuts in Roseland and run a winding route to the Central Park Theater in North Lawndale.
Along the way, Seidel will pass Emmett Till’s Woodlawn home, the Forum in Bronzeville, a historic tavern in East Side and more, hoping to draw attention to some of Chicago’s storied properties and the neighborhoods they inhabit.
Six sites in particular will be highlighted. They’re listed in the order they’ll appear on Seidel’s route:
- East Side Tap, 9401 S. Ewing Ave. in East Side, a former Schlitz tied house that received Chicago Landmark designation earlier this year. Owners Mike Medina and Laura Coffey Medina plan to reopen the historic tavern by mid-2021.
- Jackson Park and the South Shore Cultural Center, both in line for drastic changes if plans for the Obama Presidential Center and a Tiger Woods-designed golf course are approved.
- The home of Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley, 6427 S. St. Lawrence in Woodlawn, which is on its way to a Chicago Landmark designation.
- The Forum, 318 E. 43rd St. in Bronzeville, a 120-year-old assembly and performance hall that was saved from demolition in 2011 and has been in the rehabilitation process since.
- The Central Manufacturing District in McKinley Park, the nation’s first planned industrial district with its own police force, traffic bureau, fire department and railroad lines.
- The Central Park Theater, 3531 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago’s first “movie palace,” now owned by a North Lawndale church with plans to restore the theater.
All six are sites Preservation Chicago has been “actively involved with recently,” either in renovating them or designating them as one of Chicago’s seven “most endangered” properties, Seidel said. The owners of the properties will be there when she arrives, she said.
Also important to Seidel’s marathon is lifting up Black-owned local businesses — including Old Fashioned Donuts and Ain’t She Sweet Cafe in Bronzeville — and community organizations involved in preservation along the route.
“In this era where … many people are wondering what they can do to make our city stronger and more equitable — start shopping in these neighborhoods and supporting local businesses,” Seidel said.
Raising awareness about the beauty of Chicago’s South and West sides is the focus of Seidel’s run, not pushing herself to go fast — after all, whatever time she runs will remain a personal marathon record for the rest of her life.
Seidel said she might even take a break during her marathon to support a local business.
“If I”m hungry and passing one of those restaurants … I’ll eat along the way,” she said. “I’m not this elite athlete that is trying to set a record.”
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