CEO Michael Gazalah of Manhattan-based City Running Tours explains why exploring a city with the locals makes all the difference.
Magellan: City Running Tours is based in New York but offers personalized running tours in cities across the U.S. and in Toronto, Canada. Would you talk about where your big idea came from? About how you got started?
MG: Sure. I’m a chiropractor and I was working out of a Manhattan gym and I got a call from a friend about an Australian guy who was in town and looking for a running partner. My friend knew I was a runner who could match the guy’s pace and distance requirements. I thought it would be cool to run with him and show him around a bit, so I agreed to go. We clicked and a spark of an idea was born. That was 11 years ago.
Magellan: Do you have a “typical” client?
MG: Yes and no! We know that about a quarter of our clientele – and that number is growing – are returning business professionals, people who make regular visits to our cities. We have clients who run with us multiple times during extended stays. We also offer corporate and group events. We embrace a broad swath of competitive, recreational and social runners. We’re popular with families, whether the kids are running alongside or are tucked into strollers. And we attract slightly more women than men.
Magellan: What do you think your clients are looking for?
MG: That will vary depending on the client; people have different motivations. But we know a big driver for runners is the desire to keep on schedule, to maintain their training and mileage while they’re on the road. Running with a guide means committing to that schedule with ease – without the burden of planning – and being mentally free to simply enjoy the act of running. For many, running with a group or partner is a social experience with the added benefit of exploring unfamiliar parts of the city from a local perspective. For women wanting to run early in the mornings or after work, we offer not only ease, but security. The same for families. The commonality is that people are looking for a broader experience than running alone, which is our value-add. We stop, explore and chat according to the client’s wishes.
Magellan: What won’t you do?
MG: I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that we won’t do, but making smart choices is always the starting point. We tend to run off the beaten path and each run is tailored to the specific needs, wants and abilities of the client. So we’ll run in all kinds of weather but will be constantly assessing routes if temperature or conditions are extreme. For instance, running across the Brooklyn Bridge offers unique challenges due to its exposure to the elements, wind in particular. And running New York during a snowfall can be tricky, but, on the flip side, it possesses a charm because the city is so much quieter than normal. All of our guides are local runners so they know the ins and outs of each place; they know what’s possible and what’s not. Overall, exploring an urban environment means you’ll never know exactly what to expect, as each street and neighbourhood has quirks and tells a different story. That’s an intrinsic part of the journey.
Magellan: What do you like most about what you do?
MG: I like the whole adventure of it. I like showcasing our city to clients and sharing insider tips about New York. I especially like when they tell us that our tours have been the highlight of their trip – that is the highest compliment they can pay us.
City Running Tours services major cities including NYC, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Honolulu, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC and Toronto. It makes it easy to stay with Magellan Luxury Hotels and run with the locals.
Photos provided courtesy of City Running Tours. All rights reserved.
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