Been there, run that
'Sight jogging' - touring a city from a running route - is a budding sector of the travel industry.
Suppose your ideal Roman holiday involves lacing up your Nikes and bounding up the Spanish Steps, raising your arms in a Rocky-like gesture of triumph before turning to soak in the view. Maybe you'd prefer a lakeside run that showcases the Chicago skyline, or some distance training that will earn you an eyeful of the Eiffel Tower.
If you find the panoramas as appealing as the perspiration, consider yourself a "sight jogger."
Plenty of business and vacation travelers pack athletic gear so they won't need to shelve their running routines. Some hit the hotel treadmill. But more now seem inclined to marry cultural enrichment with fitness - and a budding segment of the travel industry has responded, offering the gel-heeled set itineraries in which a run can be particularly enriching when enjoyed in the company of a guide, or alone on a well-planned route.
In Rome, for example, a year-old firm (sightjogging.it) offers nine different routes around the Eternal City for about $120 an hour for a couple.
"I don't think there's a better way to see a new place than on foot," says Jonathan Beverly, editor in chief of Running Times magazine. "And I think runners have always done that. But organized tours are rather new."
Mr. Beverly cites pacificrunningguides.com, founded in Vancouver in 1999, as being among the sure-footed pioneers. He credits the recent rise, in part, to simple demographics. Baby boomers run later into life - the average age of runners at this April's Boston Marathon was over 40, Beverly points out - and among the more casually fit it has become acceptable to run slower and incorporate jogging into everyday life, including vacation time.
Boomers might also place a premium on setting. Yoga clubs that offer classes in museums and art galleries are reportedly on the rise.
Sometimes - in a variation that has flourished for decades - running-based travel is keyed to an event.
"The more people have run the big-city marathons - New York, London, Boston, Berlin - the more they look for more of a 'destination experience,' " says Thom Gilligan, president of Marathon Tours and Travel in Boston (marathontours.com), which will serve some 7,000 runners this year. "As a result, we are now seeing strong interest in events in Antarctica, a game reserve in Kenya, Easter Island, and the Great Wall of China."
Marathon Tours has had a "seven-continent club" for about a decade, says Mr. Gilligan. For many members, he says, the marathon "almost becomes secondary" to the scenery. "People don't get too uptight about times."
In other cases, guided running can be more casually scenic. "Traveling on the Run," a book by Stewart and Barbara Sims, lays out walking and running routes in nearly 100 countries worldwide. Hotels can help, too. Westin hotels offer three- and five-mile route maps for visitors to their hotels.
"There are hotels that organize group runs for their guests and have a staff member take them on a morning jaunt," says Jim Kaese, the fitness expert who founded athleticmindedtraveler.com, a site that directs users to hotels with top-notch fitness facilities.
At the Argent Hotel in San Francisco, for example, individuals and groups of eight to 10 can head out early on weekday mornings and see the city.
"We talk a little bit as we go around," says Louise Garner, the hotel's director of revenue and one of its lead runners. "Runners request the famous hills, like Coit Tower," she says. "They also like to run by the Giants' new stadium."
For Ms. Garner and others, sight jogging isn't just one more way to multitask; it's a road to enhancement, whatever else the day might hold. "You get your exercise in and you meet some people," says Garner, "and you're showered and on your way by 8."