You’ve all heard of the city walking tour. I have been on many a walking tour in a new city – Edinburgh, York and New York spring to mind. They are generally inexpensive for the time you are informed and entertained, and are a great way of learning about a city, of getting access to a local expert who can help you plan where else you might visit during your stay, and of clocking up your step-count.
But what about the running tour? I’ve never done a running tour. Well, up until yesterday, I had never done a running tour. But on the hottest day of the year, I participated in a test run tour around Birmingham with “Run of a Kind”, a new run tour company founded by my friend Lucy.
As soon as Lucy invited me to take part I was intrigued and a bit excited about it. With all the various types of running I had done, I’d never done a running tour where you run from landmark to landmark and learn as you go.
We met outside the Bull Ring in front of the imposing Bull statue. Before we had even started I had met four new lovely people and was reacquainted with Lucy and my friend Hannah, who is supporting her, and whom I also hadn’t seen since lockdown. I knew this was going to be good.
From the off we learnt some really interesting facts about the Bull; who knew how photographed this handsome fella was?! We then set off towards Victoria Square and the Council House, where we learnt about the disdain Queen Victoria had for Birmingham (more fool her), before moving on to the Mailbox (did you know there are underground tunnels between there and New Street?), and then to Centenary Square surrounded the Symphony Hall, the Rep Theatre, the University of Birmingham’s new acquisition ‘The Exchange’, and of course, the magnificent Birmingham Library.
All the way we were chatting, getting to know other people and even getting some supportive cheers from the friendly folk who were enjoying themselves, in the evening Brummie heat.
For a first run through, Lucy knew her stuff for sure. Clearly well planned, light-hearted, informative and also with the opportunity for chatter, questions, and even anecdotes from other runners.
We moved on to the Jewelry Quarter and it was here that I realised that running tours don’t have to be reserved for cities you’ve never been to before. I’ve lived and worked in Birmingham for over 10 years but yesterday I ran down new roads, and learnt so much more about this vibrant and underestimated city that I call home.
There were no Aston Villa fans amongst us on the run so blushes were spared when Lucy shared a couple of embarrassing stories from their past. But is this really news? (sorry Villa fans, couldn’t resist!).
In between landmarks we chatted, joked, shared running stories and kept together as a group. This isn’t for the runner looking to improve their 10k personal bests, this is for runners interested in getting to know their city, or a new city, better and enrich their stay.
After a stop at Curzon Street, the original Birmingham railway terminus, and the centre piece of the HS2 development (watch this space), we headed down to funky, street-art decorated area of Digbeth. This place is so cool. It’s an area of town I’ve not spent too much time in, but this must be rectified now!
From Digbeth, we made our way back to the Bull via China Town and Hurst Street, where we learnt about the pioneering and breakthrough steps made in Birmingham for the LGBT movement.
10k and just under 2.5 hours later, we arrived back at the Bull. We weren’t exhausted, as the run had been broken-up. My watch told me we had been on the move for just over an hour, and had stopped for just over an hour, which is a lovely balance of exercise, entertainment and expertise all lead by Lucy and wonderfully supported by Hannah who herself will also lead future run tours.
At the end of this particular run, we had organised ourselves to get some takeaway pizzas, but Lucy had also brought some refreshments, and post-run snacks along as well, which was a lovely touch and much needed after the hot run we had been on.
So what’s the verdict? If you want to learn about Birmingham, want to meet new people, and enjoy running – I can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t (a) join this running tour and (b) encourage others to do so.
It was so much fun and a privilege to be part of something creative, entrepreneurial and new being developed by two dynamic and proactive young women. All very Birmingham indeed!