Running Tours: The Best Way To See A New City

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By Stuart
Goulden

Avid runner. 10x marathons. Daily 10kms. Award-winning journalist when not moving (about me)

If you’re craving new adventures and routes, a running tour can be just the ticket.

It’s something I experienced for the first time on my recent trip to Oslo. A chance to combine my two loves: travel and running.

In the hour I spent with my running tour guide, John, I managed to take in a week’s worth of sights, discover the stories behind them, and foster a deeper connection with my travel destination. So much so, I’ll be building them into every trip I do in the future.

So, if you’ve ever considered doing the same, here’s what you can expect…

What Is A Running Tour?

Running companion along London's Southbank

Running tours are a unique way to explore a new city while getting exercise at the same time.

From short city runs to multi-day trail runs, they offer a different perspective on a destination’s landmarks, hidden gems and local culture, all while keeping up a good pace. A more authentic travel experience on fast forward.

Private running tours can typically cater for runners of all ages, abilities and experience. A few miles to a full marathon distance. Many tourist destinations will have a mixture of preset routes you can choose from or offer to meet you outside your accommodation and go from there.

Running tours can often be themed too, including whirlwind tours of historical sites, pre-work warm-ups, non-touristy districts, and even foodie stops. Perfect for anyone on a tight schedule or keen to see a different side to a city.

Related Reading: Running In The City Reveals Its Soul

Running Tour Oslo Review: My First Taste of Speedy Sightseeing

I discovered Oslo Running Tours via the official VisitOslo website.

A few Facebook Messenger exchanges later and I was meeting my tour guide, John Brenne, in front of the tiger statue outside Oslo Central Station at 7:30am.

Runner tour start point at the Olso Tiger statue
Runner tour start point at the Olso Tiger statue

I’m a big believer in the power of a morning run to start your day off to the best possible way, with holidays being no different. The early start also presented an opportunity to experience the energy of Norwegian rush hour and the untouched snow on what turned out to be Olso’s first white day of the year.

The Itinerary: 1 Hour, 8km & 10 Landmarks

Other than our meeting point and time I had no idea where we’d go or what would unfold on our run. There was something quite liberating about letting John, and the weather, decide.

I was asked what pace I’d like to run at (answer: medium in road shoes in snow) and off we went.

Despite having already been in the city for 48 hours, the first half of the tour took me to parts of Oslo I’d not yet visited.

The parliament of Norway, Oslo, in the snow
The parliament of Norway at Karl Johans gate

At Karl Johans gate we took in the parliament of Norway and Oslo’s National Theatre, The Royal Palace, and various statues of former kings. Each coupled with a mini history lesson from John that I later reeled off to my other half.

We then headed to Oslo’s Tjuvholmen (aka Thief Island), so called as a former execution ground for smugglers and thieves. Now a regenerated shopping and business district, it was deserted this early in the morning. A treat when it came to photo opportunities, be it urban beaches or sea water saunas, against a backdrop of endlessness of the Oslofjord and the ruggedness of its hills.

Oslo Kok Sauna overlooking the Opera House in snow
Oslo Kok Sauna overlooking the Opera House in snow

Next up, Christiania torv, known for its fountain with a sculpture of a hand pointing to the precise spot King Christian IV decided to rebuild the town after the great fire of 1624.

Christiania torv statue in the snow
Christiania torv statue where Christiania torv promised to rebuild Oslo

A few spontaneous ice-induced detours later and we also visited Akershus Fortress, the Opera House, and the Munch museum. Each offering spectacular viewpoints we had almost entirely to ourselves.

Akershus Fortress cannons and tower, overlooking Oslofjord
Akershus Fortress cannons and tower, overlooking Oslofjord

I’m not doing the tour justice by simply listing stops. I really appreciated seeing Oslo through the lens of my tour guide and getting an insight into John’s own travels. It turned out we’d even worked and lived in the same part of England, some 10 years apart. A small world!

Running isn’t just about traveling through – it’s about engagement, too. Learning things. Discovery. Connection. Transcending mere exercise and opening up to experience the world around you in a more meaningful way.

The running tour turned out to be one of my most memorable and satisfying travel experiences. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but have always been put off by others in my group not sharing in my enthusiasm for running. No more.

Plus, I can’t think of a better way to work up a appetite for my hotel breakfast!

Related reading: Tips for running in the cold

In Summary: Running Tours Offer An Insider’s Guide to Any City

John’s tour reminded of the joy of running as a means of travel and exploration.

It proved a unique way to see and savour several sights in one go, without feeling at all hurried. Sure, I retraced some steps from my first 2 days in Oslo, but I learnt a ton more and was better able to connect the dots and navigate the city unaided. The new experience also gave me a bit of my running mojo back.

When so much tourism is often reduced to generic guidebooks and ‘must see’ tick lists, it’s also good to get under the skin of a local and experience a different side of life in Oslo. Running tour guides are very generous with their local intel and great to tap up for restaurant recommendations.

Plus, what’s the alternative… visiting somewhere stuck onboard a red sightseeing bus? 

Olso Running Tours cost 600 DK (approx €50), bookable via their Facebook page.

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