Women's Lifestyle Grand Rapids — march 2014
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Running Tours
Richelle Kimble

Fresh on Your Feet A New Way to Run Around Town

Picture a GPS, Grand Rapids historical buildings and structures, and your newest pair of running shoes. How are these items related? All play an integral part in a running tour of your charming hometown.

Caroline Cook, a Gazelle Sports employee, an avid runner and a local townsfolk, recently launched a fresh business called Grand Rapids Running Tours. It offers calorie-burning education to both out of city tourists and residents who wish to learn more about their home city.

As an attempt to marry her passion for running with her enthusiasm for Grand Rapids, Cook pitched the idea to her family and friends in September 2013 and began brainstorming. After collecting positive feedback, she decided to take the plunge and let her idea expand beyond her own running along the downtown sidewalks.

“The nod from people I trust coupled with my determination, enthusiasm and my personal history of bringing concepts to life was all I needed to start me on my journey,” Cook said.

Online registration opened on February 17, 2014.Already, Cook conducts several tours a week and plans to increase the frequency with the help of her hired Running Ambassadors. Each tour guide is a Certified Trained Ambassador through Experience Grand Rapids, ensuring the information provided will be accurate and entertaining.

Each ambassador is passionate about meshing their fondness of running with the idea that the best way to see and experience Grand Rapids is on foot. Grand Rapids Running Tours strives to reach those who feel the same way. In addition to sharing these ideas, the sharp-witted ambassadors will deliver history, trivia and facts about people and places encountered during the tour. Participants are encouraged to stop for sights, photos or enjoyment of what surrounds them.

Currently, Cook has developed three “classic tours” for year-round participation. These include Lapping the Landmarks 5K, Art Dart 5K and Steeple Chase 10K.Seasonal tours such as Beer City USA 5K, Market to Market 10K, Art Prize, Halloween Haunted and Twinklin’ Rapids themes will appear as the dynamic culture of Grand Rapids changes seasons.

The routes are pre-determined by Cook and include a developed theme and script with researched facts and information. She said that choosing the routes and creating the tours was her favorite part considering the infinite possibilities.

“I live downtown and run these streets frequently,” she said. “All I need is a thread of a theme in mind, a big dose of curiosity, a Garmin watch to track the mileage and a computer to do the research. Before you know it, I have an incredibly interesting route!”

Long term, Cook envisions providing service to the professional world, incorporating weekly employee wellness runs and having direct involvement with downtown conventions. She looks to always provide tours for business travelers and visitors to Grand Rapids, as well as to provide the local running community with knowledge and an opportunity to stay fit.

The excursions are not limited to avid runners and the scheduled tours. Cook invites all interested, regardless of fitness level, to contact her and schedule a customized tour based on individual or group interests, time availability, and number of miles. For large groups or companies, Cook offers a discount on crowds larger than ten. Visit www.Grandrapidsrunningtours.com for more information on this trendy tour.