An active tour of the town: City Running Tours teaches local history on the go

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Decked out in running gear, Brendan Doyle waited for his two guides and another runner to finish stretching. Doyle, a University of Minnesota grad student, was getting ready for a unique jog.

City Running Tours, the only company in the country specializing in running tours of major cities like Chicago, Boston and New York, branched out to Minneapolis this summer and has been leading joggers through the University campus since late August.

The company runs a few tours around Twin Cities, but the University route is seasonal and ends in October.

The tour is a five-kilometer — or just more than three miles — run through the campus highlighting historic and interesting landmarks in the area. The route starts in front of TCF Bank Stadium’s main gate, stops at Coffman Union, then cuts across Northrop Mall and spills into Dinkytown, ending with a tour of the University’s arenas.

Guides accompany participants, giving the tour on the go.

Nate Herrington, the manager of the Minneapolis branch and University alumnus, said the tour has been a hit with alumni, visiting students and parents, and local residents.

“The experience is new and unique and different,” Herrington said. “We have great tours that allow you to learn about the community, all while getting in your exercise.”

Doyle, who knows Herrington from their days in Middlebrook Hall, decided to give the tour a try to supplement his normal exercise routine.

“I’m looking forward to learning more about the history of the area,” Doyle said. “It’s an easy alternative when you don’t have time to exercise.”

Running at about nine minutes a mile, the entire tour takes less than 40 minutes, Herrington said. He said the tour is set at a slower pace to accommodate non-runners.

The company’s Minneapolis chapter currently has 10 guides, Herrington said, more than five of whom are University alumni.

The University tour costs $25 per person. Runners can also request a personalized tour for $60 a person for the first six miles. Portions of proceeds from each tour go to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Herrington said.

The Minneapolis program is new this summer and started at the end of July. It’s the ninth city to host a chapter of the company.

Tours run through many parts of Minneapolis, usually focusing on the city’s park systems, Herrington said. One tour runs through the Walker Art Center’s sculpture garden, and attendees can take pictures of the famous cherry and spoon sculpture, he said.

There’s also the 10-kilometer Beer Run, where runners get to stop and sample local brews from bars including Pracna, The Local, and Town Hall Brewery.

“The beer tour of Minneapolis is by far the favorite,” Herrington said.

Runs are seven days a week, with multiple runs each day. But the weekends are the most popular, Herrington said. Campus tours start at 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Because of the warmer-than-usual weather, October has been the busiest month for the new branch, Herrington said. More than 29 runners are signed up for next weekend, he said.

Doyle, who grew up in Minneapolis, thinks the runs are a great way to get more background on the city.

“There’s a lot for the city to offer, and this is a great way to do it,” he said.

City Running Tours also gained sponsorship from major corporations, allowing the company to provide each runner with a Smart Water and a Clif Bar on their tour. Local partners include the Running Room in Uptown.

The tours are a part of Minnesota’s tourism industry, which brings over $11 billion to the state’s economy — more than $3 billion come from Hennepin County alone.

Nicole Sedey, who also went on the run Sunday, said she found the tour through a running website. As a runner, she couldn’t miss the opportunity.

“It’s cool — it’s a different way to see the city,” she said.