Sweat and Sightsee

Before you go getting any crazy ideas, just know that I was (unfortunately) not paid or otherwise compensated for raving about this company like lunatic. I just really really like new cities, and I really really like running, so putting them together is a match made in heaven for me.

A year and a half ago I was training for my first marathon and  had plans to travel to NYC right before Christmas. I also had a 14-mile run scheduled for the weekend was going to be there. I do not deviate from a training plan (at least when it's for something as serious as my first marathon), so naturally, I had no choice but to run 14 miles during our trip. I figured I'd have my pick of half marathons and that that would do, but all of the ones in that timeframe were either the weekend before or the weekend after we were traveling. I searched high and low and was willing to leave the city if I had to, but I still came up with diddly squat. 

So, a race was out. I had a runner friend who lived in Brooklyn and worked for NYRR, but he moved the month before our arrival. So rude. I mean you would think his wife's job offer in San Francisco at Google could have waited until after this important marathon training run of mine, right? Anyway, he did give me some route suggestions but I just didn't feel comfortable running that far alone in a city I didn't know. I figured there had to be something I hadn't thought of. I looked into group runs at NYC running stores and running groups but I couldn't find anything quite at the distance I needed until finally, somewhere in my search I finally came across City Running Tours. 

It's not rocket science; it's basically what it sounds like. Tours are offered in several major US cities and can fit any and all of your travel running wants and needs. They offer both personal and group runs, and I've now done one of each:

Personal run, NYC, 14 miles
As I browsed the site I noticed that most group runs are around 3-6 miles, so I knew immediately that I had to do a personal run to get in my full long run mileage. When I signed up I filled out a pretty comprehensive questionnaire with questions about my pace, when I wanted to run, what sites I wanted to see (my only request was to run as many bridges as possible), etc. 

On the day of the run, my tour guide picked me up in the lobby where I was staying in Brooklyn. He had mapped out a course for us so all I had to do was follow along. Sometimes we stopped so he could point out different buildings or tell me some history of the area. We ran the first 5 or 6 miles through Brooklyn up to the Williamsburg Bridge, stopping a few times but mostly running along and chatting.

Once we crossed the bridge, at about the halfway point, I met my next guide in Chinatown in Manhattan. I'm not sure why I had 2 but I'm guessing because of the distance and time it took? He took me over the Manhattan Bridge back to Brooklyn then down to the Brooklyn Bridge. We stopped for pictures on the Brooklyn Bridge then headed back into Manhattan. We ran around Wall Street and along the Hudson River before eventually ending in TriBeCa.


Group run, Chicago, 4 miles
Since this was a group run, the date, time, route, and distance were predetermined (you can check all group run options, with descriptions of what you'll see and available dates and times, on the website). Ben and I did this together and we picked a run that was 4 miles and pretty near to where we were staying. There were a couple other options but honestly that was the one that sounded most interesting to us and was at the most convenient time.

We signed up the night before the run and all I had to fill out was our pace. Since it was a group run and not personal, this time we had to go meet our guide instead of having him come meet us. Our meet up spot was about a mile from our hotel, so we just ran a quick warmup there. It was a rainy, kind of nasty day, so we ended up being the only people on the tour.

Since it was just us and our guide, we got a lot of the same benefits of a personal run without paying for special treatment. We got to determine the pace, which was nice. We started at The Bean and ran down Michigan Avenue to Lincoln Park, then down Lakeshore Drive back to The Bean. We stopped maybe 4 or 5 times along the way so our guide could tell us about different buildings, and we chatted the rest of the way.


Thoughts and Impressions: 
Running is my favorite way to see a new city, and being able to run with people who are really knowledgeable is icing on the cake. The guides are required to have lived in the city for a certain amount of time, and they really know their stuff! They're also really nice and happy to answer whatever questions you have, whether they're about the city, running, or something totally random.

Running through the hustle and bustle of the city is pretty fun! There will be times when you'll get stuck by tourists and by people going about their daily business, but seeing all the goings-on of the city was one of the coolest parts for me. It's kind of like watching a movie since there's so much to see and you're running by too fast to really process all of it.

The tour guides are invaluable, not only for their expertise but because they really take care of you. You don't have to map out a route in an unfamiliar city. You don't have to worry about minutiae like how to bring water or your phone/camera for pictures. They carry a small backpack with all of that stuff for you. You just have to show up ready to sweat and sightsee.

If you are looking for a hardcore training run, this isn't it. The pace is pretty leisurely since the tour part is sometimes more of the point than the running part, and you do stop several times. Plus, you're in a city so you'll be stopping for traffic a lot, dodging people on the street, etc. We got lucky being the only two in Chicago, but I imagine a group run with other people would make it hard to keep any particular pace.

The distances aren't exact. My GPS on my watch never synced up in NYC so I can't say exactly how far we ran, but based on how long it took I really think it was closer to 15 miles than 14. In Chicago, the run was advertised as 4 miles but I measured more like 3.6. Not a big deal in either case, but something to be aware of in case you're data obsessed like me.

Group runs are only offered at preset times, so it may be hard to work it into your travel schedule. I'd definitely check and try to plan ahead of time if you want to try a group run.

Pricing is pretty similar to a race, especially city race prices. You can generally expect to pay about $8-$10 per mile for a group run and about $10-$12 per mile for a personalized run. Our 4(ish) mile run in Chicago was $30 and my NYC run was $110 for 14 miles (personal runs start at $75 for 6 miles and increase by $5 per additional mile). The group run is definitely the more affordable option. The personal run wasn't cheap, but for that far of a distance I really didn't think it was outrageous since I generally pay $90-$100 for half marathons.

My NYC run was one of the best running experiences I've ever had, but I wouldn't have had it without CRT. I wouldn't have attempted to run that far alone, but it also would have killed me to have missed that long run (like probably literally, my training plan is my life), so I don't know what I would have done. I'm glad we could make it out for a group run on our whirlwind Chicago trip, even if it was rainy, as it was a neat way to get to see the city. You can bet I'm already trying to fit in a City Running tour in San Francisco during our California trip this summer!

What's your take on running while on vacation? Have you ever done a run with City Running Tours? What new cities have you explored via running?

12 comments :

  1. Holy cow- this is such a brilliant idea!!!! At least I think so! Being able to experience a new city in such a unique way?! I love that! Caleb is a sucker for history, I'll have to remember this!

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  2. Thank you for posting this! I know we've talked about CRT before but somehow it slipped off my radar. I definitely want to plan for one in Portland or Seattle or both when I take that trip. Especially if I travel solo, how could this not be the perfect thing for me?? Especially considering the timeframe I'm thinking about going in is less than two months out from City of Oaks so... yeah, I'll need a long run to happen. Glad you've had such good experiences with the company and thanks again for sharing!!

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  3. Uhh... I need this in my life! What an amazing way to see a new city?! Seriously.
    How cool. I'm going to have to check this out to see which cities I can do it in!

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  4. I love this post!! I definitely want to do a tour with them one day. i was hoping to do one in NYC but what was available didn't work with our plans, boo. I totally think what you paid was worth it - I wouldn't have wanted to run 14 miles on my own, heck probably not even 10. It's scary! I love that they also stop and tell you stuff. Very informative and helpful post Tracy :)

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  5. That is really awesome! I recently ran on a vacation, but since I used to live there I pretty much already knew where I did and didn't want to run (flat trail versus hilly streets). We're planning on going to Seattle next summer though, so I will definitely have to check this out for that trip!

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  6. I never knew anything like this even EXISTED!!!!! So cool!

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  7. So cool! I like to run in a new city the first morning and get my barings. I don't always do it though b/c the hubs doesn't run. Love the idea of these tours.

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  8. What an awesome idea!!!! I know when I lived in Atlanta, they were talking about doing walking and bike riding tours through the Beltline...which is basically a path that literally connects all the parks in the city and I just thought that was the coolest thing! I moved before it was complete but I would love to still do that tour one day.

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  9. Dang I totally didn't know this was a thing but what a great idea!! That's so awesome you didn't have to miss out on your 14 mile run! Between this and Kayla's post, I want to go run outside right now haha. Booo thunderstorms!!

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  10. This is such an awesome thing to do!!

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  11. I can't believe thats actually a thing - I love it! Its one of my goals to do a run through NYC - next time I'm there (hopefully soon!) I'll definitely be looking up City Running Tours

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