It’s a crisp October evening, you’re on the grounds of Aquinas College, marveling at the eery beauty of the Holmdene manor house through the glow of a flashlight. A running ambassador tells you about the decades of history behind the estate. Running ambassador? Oh yeah, you’re doing this while on a three-to-four mile run with Grand Rapids Running Tours.
For the past three Halloween seasons, Caroline Cook, chief tour ambassador and founder of Grand Rapids Running Tours, has been hosting seasonal running and walking tours in the spirit of the spooky holiday.
Cook currently hosts three Halloween themed running tours, the newest being the Saints and Spirits Tour. During this tour, runners and walkers tour the former Lowe estate on the Aquinas College campus. Abundant with history, they learn about the many former uses of the manor while exploring the property. The tour also highlights historically intriguing places on the campus that possess supernatural mythology.
The other Halloween tours are the Grand Rapids Most Haunted Tour, which features 10 landmarks in Grand Rapids rumored to be sites of paranormal activity, and the Fulton Street Graveyard Tour, a run or walk through the Fulton Street Cemetery, which features grave markers of some of the city’s pioneers.
Whether it’s a campus filled with supernatural superstitions, ghost stories or a graveyard, the Halloween tours offer something for every brave soul.
Cook is self-proclaimed “Grand Rapids number one cheerleader and a downtown dweller.” She started Grand Rapids Running Tours in the winter of 2014 after combining her love for the history of Grand Rapids with her experience running routes all around the city as a Gazelle Sports speed-training coach.
Her tours are not limited to the fall season. Grand Rapids Running Tours offers tours year-round. In December, a Twinklin’ Holiday Lights tour takes runners and walkers through the colorfully-lit downtown to enjoy the sights and spread holiday cheer. Tour-goers have the opportunity to hand out meal vouchers along the tour to those who made need it.
Twinklin’ Holiday Lights is just one of over 20 tours offered throughout the year. “I have 20 plus different tours in the books and about 20 more in my head,” said Cook.
While these tours are generally planned and scheduled, Cook is very accommodating towards what groups specifically want or need. “I even offer a chat-free run for someone who needs to get in maybe a 10-mile run but doesn’t know the area. If they’re visiting and are staying at the JW the concierge will put them in contact with me and I will customize a run,” said Cook.
A standard running tour is around an hour and 15 minutes in duration and covers between three to four miles, but this does not mean guests have to be trained runners. “We start and stop repeatedly as we see the sights and I narrate, so it’s available to beginner through advanced runners,” said Cook. Walking tours run a little longer at around an hour and a half.
Visit Grand Rapids Running Tours for more information or to register for a tour.