Visitors’ centers, historical associations, museums, and others, often offer historic walking tours; included may be a detailed pamphlet with a map and information about stops along the route, perhaps an audio headset, or plaques to read on your tour. Walking tours are a beautiful, environmentally friendly way to see the neighborhood and enjoy the good weather of tourist season.
However, walking tours do not suit everyone. Some people cannot walk for long periods of time (i.e. the elderly); in which case a bus tour may be a better option, in cities anyway. Or a walking tour of everything you want to see may take too much time. Most people, at a leisurely pace, will require 20-30 minutes to walk one mile, especially with stops included.
And then there are some of us who find any pace of walking too slow (yes, that’d be me). I like walking around town and strolling in the warm, sunny weather or in the cold, snowy weather; but if I am in a new town and want to see everything, I need a faster way to go sight seeing, one that is not dependent on a motorized vehicle. Bike tours are one option, though my favorite is a running tour. This past weekend, while visiting a friend in Birmingham, Alabama, we went running around his neighborhood. We covered three miles of gorgeous architecture and city views in about 30 minutes, stops included. Had we been walking, we would have never been able to see as much.
Running provides a fast way (faster than walking) to cover a fair amount of distance and sight seeing provides endless entertainment while running, and it is much safer than driving and attempting to sight see. Whenever I travel, I explore by running and discover places I wouldn’t have while walking. When running I’m in comfortable clothing, sturdy sneakers, and I am alert and interested in my surroundings. Even on my daily running routes I take note of the changes in town, whether it be construction, home improvements, or the number of people working in their yards or the children at the playground playing basketball or the hours of the downtown stores. So why not combine the two? Runners are preservationists and travelers, too!
However, the only “historic running tour” I can find is this one from the New York Flyers, a running club in New York City. The running tour provides bag check (for gear), a water stop, tour guides, and an option for a group lunch afterwards. This run is about 12 miles long, which probably scare off most travelers.
Thus, we need other historic running tours! Perhaps a guide who can talk while running at a comfortable pace, run backwards, move his/her arms to point when necessary, and speak loudly enough for the entire run. It sounds difficult, but coming from this track coach, it’s just something you get used to. Who would like a running tour? I’ll volunteer!
Some cities have “tours” via iPods and mp3 downloads nowadays. That could work for running, too, since many people run with iPods. The pros and cons of this are up for debate (safety being the primary concern).
How does it sound? Let’s get started. A website with running routes, historical information, water stops and bathrooms along the way, perhaps markers on the route, would be great. But for now, the best way is to find a friend who is a runner and can lead you through her neighborhood. Or, just get out the door and take a historic running tour of your own. If you like running, you won’t regret your new perspective on sight seeing.