8:21am Tuesday 8th May 2012
My idea of a sightseeing tour usually involves sitting back in the seat of a bus or horse and carriage and letting someone else take the strain.
I might be tempted to take a gentle stroll to the next tourist attraction, but only if there’s a stop for tea or ice cream along the way.
So I was intrigued when I heard the latest way for visitors to see York involved wearing Lycra and working up a sweat on a guided jogging tour of the city.
The running tours take in the top sights and are guaranteed to get your heart racing. Why walk down Shambles when you can jog, with a guide pointing out the main buildings of historical significance and giving a running commentary (literally) between breaths?
And it’s not just the usual sights. Organisers Mags Hearnden and Chris Acton are happy to go further afield – to the Knavesmire or Millennium Bridge.
Mags and Chris became friends while members of the same running group in York, and devised the idea for York On The Run after competing in an “ultra marathon” (a run longer than a marathon) in France last year.
Mags, a communications consultant, said: “We started thinking about how we’d like to combine our two passions – running and sightseeing.
“We realised we could do that in York. Plus, we both wanted to try something different to our existing jobs.”
Most tours are about five or six miles long, so I feel a bit apprehensive when we arrange to meet on the steps of the Minster for a taster session, especially after all this talk of scary ultra marathons – Mags and Chris have run 11 marathons between them, including four ultra marathons. To me, just the idea of running to the Knavesmire sounds exhausting.
How will I keep up?
Luckily, they’re quick to explain that every tour is tailored to the person’s level and ability. Relieved, I negotiate a “jog/walk” around the central tourist sights, and we’re off.
As we jog past the lawns of Dean’s Park, Mags, 42, is already in full tour guide mode. As I listen to the historical facts and figures I look around and admire the architecture and stained glass, managing to dodge the occasional tourist. The runs usually take place early morning or late afternoon to avoid crowd collisions, although there are plenty of other potential hazards, including traffic and slippery cobblestones.
We head towards Treasurer’s House and Goodramgate, peering at towering Monk Bar, and I can feel my lungs starting to work even though we’re sticking to a gentle pace.
“We want the tours to appeal to anyone of any level, even non-runners,” says Chris, 53, a management consultant.
“It doesn’t have to be a sprint. Just getting out for 20 minutes and increasing your heart rate is beneficial.
“We also want to show visitors the sights they might normally miss, like the hidden snickelways, The Racecourse or along the Ouse.”
We jog back towards Bootham Bar, taking in York Art Gallery, and then to the Museum Gardens, including the glorious ruins of St Mary’s Abbey.
I’m starting to see the beauty of this type of tour. We’ve covered so much ground in a short time and seen places we couldn’t access on a bus. Every minute’s been packed with interesting facts and quirky tales, and it’s energising being out in the fresh air.
While most runs continue towards the river, we head to Coney Street via Betty’s (“it’s important to show people where they can get tea and cake later,” according to Mags), onto Clifford’s Tower, and then between the leaning buildings of Shambles, with a flying visit to the shrine of St Margaret Clitherow.
“We wanted to offer something a bit different to the usual guided tours,” says Mags. “The idea is that people will go back and spend more time at the places we show them.”
The tours also include a cool down walk along the medieval city walls and free drink.
By the time we get back to the Minster, via the 14th century Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, I’m exhausted, but I can really see the appeal of the running tours.
I feel invigorated by the fresh air and my brain’s buzzing with historical facts about our beautiful city.
• Tours cost £10 for adults and £6 for 12-17-year-olds. For more information, visit yorkontherun.com
Top Tips For Running In York
• Wear something bright so people can see you coming. This can even be important during the day – collisions with people eating ice cream can be messy
• Know where you’re going in advance or run with someone who knows a good route
• Beware of cobbles: a run in the centre of York is not technically off-road, but there can be uneven surfaces due to its wonderful history
• Keep hydrated – even on cool days it’s important to make sure you’re drinking enough
• Go at your own pace. Remember, it’s not a race – just going on a run is much more important than breaking records. Besides, if you go too fast you’ll miss all the great sights of York
© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest Media Group