Of the many ways to explore Austin, Lee Ackerley has picked one that might seem awfully strenuous for some. But for him and other fitness buffs around town, it’s actually a lot of fun.
That fun comes in the form of running while acting as a tour guide and talking so much "there’s barely a breath in between," he said.
Ackerley, missing his home state of Texas, moved to Austin after finishing college in Boston. He had been a guide for City Running Tours there and decided to bring the tours here, becoming the Austin branch’s manager in February and leading runs across the city that always, no matter what, begin at the Texas Running Co.’s West Fifth Street location.
The most recent one was on Saturday, a 10K that wound around the Capitol, the University of Texas campus and Hyde Park and finished at the Black Star Co-Op, off North Lamar Boulevard, for a couple of rewarding beers and some pub food.
"It’s a great way to see your city and knock out a 10K at the same time," Ackerley said, explaining that he and the other guides provide a steady stream of commentary on passing landmarks, listing facts and answering any questions about Austin that their fellow runners, a mix of locals and tourists, might have.
Though that particular run doesn’t actually stop for beer during the tour, another one called the Texas 5K Beer Run does. This route dips down to the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail, then stops at Shiners’ Saloon on Congress Avenue, where tasters of three different beers await. From there, the runners head up to the Cloak Room, a low-lit dive bar near the Capitol that politicians frequent. The tour ends at the Kung Fu Saloon on Rio Grande Street.
Other tours focus on Austin’s music scene, its many parks and the 40 acres of the UT campus. Ackerley said that though some of the runs attract only about one to four people, more popular ones such as the beer 5K can draw as many as 20 sometimes, especially on weekends. These tours all come with a fee.
Austin’s attention to fitness delighted Ackerley when he first moved here and noted how common it was for local exercise aficionados to have done Ironmans, grueling triathlons. A finisher of 15 marathons and one Ironman himself, he enjoys the Lady Bird Lake trails, the Shoal Creek trails and the course at Pure Austin Fitness on Braker Lane.
Another type of workout he likes is yoga at Wanderlust Live, on East Fourth Street, in part because it incorporates live music into the exercise. He’s a fan of venues such as the Mohawk and Emo’s East because they feature some of his favorite bands, and he’s started a music blog and written for magazines such as the ATX Music Mag.
He credits Austin as one of the reasons he’s been able to pursue his hobbies on top of his day job.
"It’s the most opportunistic city to get into what your passions are, but still get by and not financially drown," he said.