We first became aware of the St. Louis Running Tour sometime in January, when the big red logo popped up on Facebook. Like anything having to do with St. Louis and running, it caught our attention. A quick jump over to the group’s website told us that the tour is “an easy, well-paced, 4.5-mile run through the streets and on the levee of this great city. Modeled after running tours all over the world…this weekly tour aims to keep your pulse up while keeping your brain active.”

Sounds fun! Consider out curiosity piqued. Naturally, we wanted to know more, so we reached out to Joe Michaelree, the founder of the tour and a seasoned “middle-of-the-pack” runner, to learn more about this unique way to experience our wonderful and welcoming city.

When did you start the St. Louis Running Tour?

St. Louis Running Tour started in earnest on February 1 of this year, but I began the planning and research process for it over a year ago. In December, I took out a few people on tours for free just so I could work on the mechanics of where to stop, how long to stop and so on.

What was the inspiration or motivation behind the tour?

I also operate a market research consulting business, and part of what I do with that is provide post-race surveys for running events. While researching running clubs throughout the U.S., I stumbled upon a [program] in Las Vegas called Las Vegas Running Tours. I’d never heard of a running tour and started looking into it.

I’ve had few “aha” moments in life, and that was one of them. I called that guy, Jimmy Edwards, and like most runners, he was extremely gracious and told me a lot about what he did. Continued searching brought me to running tours in Minneapolis, New York, Memphis and several in Boston. I called them all, and again, they were over-the-top friendly and willing to talk to me.

Looking further, I found running tours all over the world. After all this, I settled on a model similar to what is done in Boston with the Freedom Trail Run, which offers runs every Saturday and Sunday at a set time and covering a set route.

What is your mission, or what do you hope to accomplish through the running tour?

St. Louis has a great story, and it’s fun to tell! If I can bring people out for the tour, show them some cool sites, and leave them sweaty and feeling they know more than when they arrived in St. Louis—and them wanting to take the same approach when they visit other cities—then I’ve done a good thing.

It’s also fun for me to make interesting connections between different points on the route, like Eads Bridge and W.C. Handy and Scottrade Center, or the Old Cathedral and St. Louis University and the site of the former Planter’s House Hotel and the statue of Friedrich Schiller and a brewery. I believe the associations make each point more memorable. Of course, I’ve also set this up to be a business and expect it to be profitable.

How has response been so far? What’s a normal outing like?

So far, the weather has not cooperated. People have come out, and I expected this to start slow, but I certainly would like a few more [participants] each time. Ideally, I’ll average five to 10 people each day, with a personalized tour one to two times a month.

Can you tell me a little about your background and how it helped you develop the St. Louis Running Tour?

Other than what I’ve stated above, I’m a runner, and many of my closest friends and family members will say I talk too much.

Do you have any future plans that you’d like to share at this time?

I’m looking into occasionally adding a breakfast as an additional part of the package and am talking to several locations. Ideally, it would be location right downtown, with a great view of the city.

A conference to be held here in March has contracted with me to lead some from its group on a shortened version of the St. Louis Running Tour, and I’ve entered into negotiations with a national running store chain about leading a tour as part of a meeting they’ll be having this year.

Hopefully, more of these conference opportunities come up in the future. Placing brochures in hotels and other locations will go a long way to help the marketing of the tour, as well.

Runs are currently scheduled for every Saturday and Sunday through the end of September 2014. The cost is $30 per person and includes a St. Louis Running Tour t-shirt, post-run drink, as well as group and individual pictures sent to you via e-mail.

You can find out much more about the St. Louis Running Tour, and register for upcoming outings, at www.stlrunningtour.com.

Author: Brad Kovach is the editor of Terrain magazine
Image: Courtesy of St. Louis Running Tour