Forget about the horse carriage, the tour bus, and the Segway. Tourists can get a workout and see the city's attractions at the same time, thanks to Rockin' Running Tours.
Started in 2010 by Germantown residents Mel Baddorf and John Litner, Rockin' Running Tours has gone from a side business venture to a full-on tourist attraction. Baddorf and his two sons lead runs around the city multiple times each week.
When the company launched, Baddorf and Litner began advertising on websites like Trip Advisor and Groupon, gaining the interest of tourists from as far away as Australia. But after Litner moved to Dallas, Texas, last year (where he started doing similar running tours), Baddorf and his sons inherited the company.
"This isn't exactly the type of business where you make a lot of money, because we're dealing with a very specific type of tourist," Baddorf said. "But you'd be surprised at the number of runners who contact us about seeing the sites and learning the history of Memphis."
Enlisting the help of Baddorf's sons wasn't difficult. Both ran for the Houston Mustangs' state-championship cross country team before accepting full track-and-field scholarships to Samford University. Baddorf joked that having such talented runners in his family comes in handy when Rockin' Runners gets an unusual request.
"The other day, a lady wanted to do a 10-mile run because she was training for a marathon and six miles was too short for her," Baddorf said. "I let my son take her on that one."
Rockin' Running Tours only covers downtown and Midtown, with three-mile or six-mile run options. The three-mile run starts in Tom Lee Park, where runners can see the Pyramid and the site of the Sultana's sinking. Baddorf then takes runners to Beale Street before they zip past the Gibson Guitar Factory, the old Hotel Chisca, Main Street, the National Civil Rights Museum, and Central Station.
"Typically, the three-mile run is more of a walk because it takes time to see everything on the tour," Baddorf said. "But we go at whatever pace people need us to go in both the three-mile and six-mile runs."
The six-mile run covers everything in the three-mile run, but Baddorf includes Sun Studio and Victorian Village. Baddorf also includes more information on the Civil War in the six-mile tour. If a group that books Rockin' Running isn't interested in an educational workout, Baddorf also offers "pub crawl" tours that take visitors to three or four bars in the Midtown area.
"Every once in a while someone will want to do a pub crawl," Baddorf said. "People will go in, order a beer or whatever they want, and when they're finished, we jog for another mile until we get to another bar. We don't do a huge number of those, and obviously it's not a good idea to run very fast after you've had a couple beers."
With running tours sprouting up in different cities across the country, Baddorf said he likes when people call him for advice.
"People will call me sometimes and tell me they've starting a running tour in a new town, and I'll give them advice and tell them things that I've tried," Baddorf said. "Hopefully, other people are learning from our experience."