Kristy Duckworth (far right) followed examples in other major cities around the globe to start Atlanta Running Tours.
ATLANTA -- Before the temperature tops 90, and before most of Atlanta wakes, Kristy Duckworth meets with a small group of runners. The rising sun bounces off the buildings surrounding Centennial Olympic Park as she turns to the group.
"You guys lead the way. It's your pace. We can walk if we need to," she said. "Let's do it." They break into a jog and head for Ivan Allen Boulevard.
This is what a risk looks like.
Kristy Duckworth left her full-time job as an environmental consultant to launch Atlanta Running Tours. Running tours are popular in Europe and present in every major U.S. city: New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and Washington D.C. Until now, Atlanta hadn't made the list.
"I was wondering, 'Why is there nothing like this here?'" Duckworth said. "We have such a huge running community. The Atlanta Track Club is one of the largest in the country. Run down Peachtree any day and you'll see it crowded with runners."
This week, she met for a final practice run as she opened for business. Local running bloggers offered her feedback. It was overwhelmingly positive. Then, it was my turn. We started our three-mile loop at Centennial Olympic Park.
She filled the time with a mix of history and local lore. From the origins of the Westin to the damage of "The New South" movement, the jog covered all of the "must-sees" in the Downtown area. The tour costs between $30 and $50, depending on the distance. The price includes a post-run cold water, snack, t-shirt, and digital photos along the way (and if you think those aren't a big deal, browse Facebook. Every runner has pictures from their running vacations).
The number of international tourists in Atlanta grew 25 percent in 2010, but most attractions reported a small bump or flat attendance numbers.
Kristy believes people are looking for an active way to explore. She says seeing the Atlanta by foot is the best way to show off the city (given the lack of available taxis and confusing one-way Downtown streets, many tourists might agree).
The running community in Atlanta, and worldwide, is highly organized and highly social. Runners share race reviews, routes, and training plans. They use Facebook, Twitter, and an ever-growing list of blogs to find running partners, shop for gear, and plan running vacations. Kristy says that element, added with a little sweat and a lot of local knowledge is a formula that will work in Atlanta.
"It's something people want to do," she said. "At least I'm hoping," she added with a laugh.