How to have your run and apple pie too
Sometimes, observes Michael Horstmann, you dream when you are running. So for him city running tours, like the ones he organises in Berlin, are like dreams come true.
Horstmann was working full-time as an IT consultant a few years back, travelling the world, trying to stay fit and hoping to learn a little about the places he was visiting in the very short time available to him.
Getting people to guide him while they ran together seemed the perfect solution and eventually he thought of doing it back at home as a business.
The stories told by Hope Sloly of City Jogging Tours in London or Paul Bierman at Tourist Run Amsterdam bear striking similarities. Their continuing enthusiasm for the concept of “sightjogging” as it is often known, is another thing they have in common.
“With running you can get really close,” says Bierman, who set up his company with a friend a little over three years ago.
“On a bike you can come pretty close to the same experience but you have a lot of stress because of the traffic but even then running is better plus, if you do the tour at the start of your holiday, it’s a great way of getting orientated to the city. You can make a plan afterwards of what you want to go back to and you have a basic idea of where things are and how to get there.”
The fact that you are running means that you get to see more in a typical tour than those who might take a walking tour. There are other benefits too. “If you’re a serious runner then you get your run in for the day,” he says cheerfully. “While if you’re a regular tourist, then you can eat your slice of apple pie later in the day with less guilt because you’ve already done your work-out.”
Amsterdam is just one of many cities, including Dublin, in more than 30 countries that have running tours. The original idea has been credited to Cheryl Anker whose Off ‘N Running company started taking people around Beverly Hills on foot back in 1994 to see the homes of celebrities. Gradually, the concept spread to many other US cities before catching on abroad, most notably Germany where Horstmann oversees a network of guiding companies.
Some of those involved also run other types of tours but running tours present particular challenges. “We tend to work with small numbers,” he says. “Up to three is usual because you need to be sure that everybody can hear and also that they understand what is being said.
“Also, the number of tours is sometimes limited. The reason is simple; you are physically limited . . . you can’t run eight hours a day, so you need to have different guides all of whom have to know the routes, be qualified, be safe and fit enough to do the running.