COPENHAGEN – There are extra boxes to check when you go running in a foreign city.
Where can I run that’s safe? How do I not get lost?
If I get out for my run, how do I also squeeze in time for sightseeing when time for both is limited on a business trip?
Guided running tours don’t kill just two birds with one stone, but fell an entire flock.
A trot around central Copenhagen, Denmark, with guide Lena Andersson of Go! Running Tours felt like the ultimate maximizing of time.
Beautiful architecture? Check. Fun and interesting information about what I’m seeing? Check. Talking to, and getting information from, a local? Check. Safety? Check. Runner’s high? Check.
Socializing and exchanging information with other runners? Well, check, if the couple who signed up for my tour hadn’t backed out, citing jet lag. The bonus for me was a private tour – a service Andersson offers as well.
The eight-kilometre “Heart of Copenhagen” route took us past the Little Mermaid statue in the harbour, Parliament, the royal family’s palace and through the city’s green spaces.
A surprise for both Andersson and me was running right into a movie set for “The Danish Girl” starring Eddie Redmayne. No glimpses of the Oscar winner this day.
With my arrival from Calgary less than 24 hours earlier, the short stops to listen and learn helped me catch my jet-lagged breath.
Ninety minutes later I was full of endorphins and Copenhagen lore. If time is money, it was 195 Danish krone, or $35, well spent.
Andersson asks group-run clients to be comfortable running a pace of about six minutes per kilometre, although she tailors private tours to other paces and distances.
Among the group offerings, there’s a 10-kilometre architectural tour as well as an eight-kilometre loop around the hippie neighbourhood of Christiania.
She’ll guide groups of up to a dozen. If more people sign up, Andersson will bring more guides.
“There’s a huge parallel between runners and foodies,” she said. “Half my job is to provide restaurant recommendations as well. They want to know ‘where do we eat well?”’
Andersson, a Copenhagen native, founded Running Copenhagen in 2011. Just over a year ago, she joined forces with Robin Florax of Running Tour Barcelona to launch Go! Running Tours.
The company now guides runs in almost 30 European cities and also has franchises in Singapore; Cape Town, South Africa; Mexico City; Guanajuato, Mexico; St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; and Sydney, Australia.
Las Vegas and Chicago have come on board in the United States. Andersson is working on expansion to two Canadian cities.
“We’re still very much in the first phase of people getting to know about us,” Andersson said. “If you look at the statistics, there’s so many runners and running is booming everywhere from North America to India to Israel. Low-cost airlines is the best gift for our companies.
“What we see is that the same people run with me in Copenhagen, next month they are on a trip to Budapest or Prague or Athens. It’s the same people who join the tour in different cities.”
In North America there are several independent running tour companies.
There is also the U.S.-based chain City Running Tours, which operates in 16 cities, including the running meccas of New York City and Boston.
Running was always a portable sport. Making it more memorable? Check.