Forget that cushy seat atop a two-decker bus. Active types know one of the best ways to explore a city is by foot, especially for runners who are as interested in local history and urban trivia as they are in a good workout.
That’s the idea behind Pittsburgh Running Tours, which 29-year-old Trista Yerks started two years ago after relocating here from the Minnesota.
When a new job brought the runner to Pittsburgh from Minneapolis in 2012, she expected to get to know the city‘s neighborhoods the same way a growing number are discovering other U.S. cities: on a guided group run. Even though a record 23,458 runners participated in the 2014 Pittsburgh half and full marathons, no such group run existed.
“So I decided to start one,” said Ms. Yerks, who works for a local foundation.
Her first tour, following a month of research, was on the North Shore, where she‘d been running the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. It proved so popular, four more tours soon followed: Lawrenceville, Oakland, the South Side and the Strip District. They’re held on Saturday and Sunday mornings year-round, rain or shine, and even in the snow.
Ms.Yerks might be a Runner of Steel, but no worries if you‘re not in marathon shape: Runs are at a comfortable, conversational pace (between 10-11 minute miles). Also, you get plenty of breathers, with six or seven stops along the way for her to talk history and point out official (and unofficial) landmarks.
“It‘s definitely not a race setting,” she say of the 3- 3 1/2-mile routes, which wind their way at a loping pace along trails, major thoroughfares and side streets and — depending on the location — up and down stairs. ?
Within the first 15 minutes of a tour in Oakland, for instance, you‘ll learn how the Heinz Memorial Chapel came to be and why the Gothic-style Bellefield bell tower isn’t attached to a church. You‘ll also receive a primer on the 15-foot sculpture and fountain depicting Pan being serenaded by a nymph at the entrance to Schenley Park. And that its architect also designed the Lincoln penny.
Her most popular tour, Ms. Yerks said, is of the North Shore with its many bridges, stadiums and fantastic views of the city skyline. But the Strip also gets rave reviews, even if the $30 registration fee ($35 with a shirt) doesn’t include a cappuccino from La Prima.
She draws mostly a Pittsburgh clientele through Active.com and social media, although out-of-towners and visitors from outlying counties also occasionally sign up.
While people are familiar with the city‘s landmarks, she said, they very often don’t know their backstory. “So they enjoy hearing about what‘s around them. ... It‘s a good way to get your run in and do something touristy at the same time.”
Info: pittsburghrunningtours.com or 412-256-8640.
Gretchen McKay: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.