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RapidChat: Caroline Cook

Caroline Cook

There's no better time than a Pure Michigan summer to take in the sights of the city. Whether you're an out-of-town visitor staying at a downtown hotel for just a night or a lifelong resident  of West Michigan, Caroline Cook has a creative way for you to learn about Grand Rapids' historic bridges while raising your heart rate running across them. Jenna Morton catches up with the founder of Grand Rapids Running Tours in this week's RapidChat.
There's no better time than a Pure Michigan summer to take in the sights of the city. Whether you're an out-of-town visitor staying at a downtown hotel for just a night or a lifelong resident  of West Michigan, Caroline Cook has a creative way for you to learn about Grand Rapids' historic bridges while raising your heart rate running across them. Jenna Morton catches up with the founder of Grand Rapids Running Tours in this week's RapidChat.

Rapid Growth: What inspired you to start Grand Rapids Running Tours?
 
Caroline Cook:  My husband and I moved downtown in 2010 as empty nesters. I was immediately impressed by the interesting balance between honoring the extraordinary history of this great city, and the palpable creative energy in moving it forward into the future. To be a part of this renaissance was exciting to me, so I married all of my passions into a business idea – running/fitness, history buff, and “all things Grand Rapids." What you get is a Grand Rapids cheerleader who talks and runs.
 
RG: Are you originally from the area?
 
CC:  I grew up in Chicago and the Detroit suburbs. My husband and I met at MSU and moved to Greenville where we lived for 26 years and raised our two children.
 
RG: So why Grand Rapids?
 
CC:  Thanks to our forefathers, the history of Grand Rapids is intriguing. And thanks to the multitude of current citizens who give of their time, talent and treasure, our future is amazingly bright. There is so much to talk about! This is my neighborhood. I live here and I am proud to show it off.
 
RG: What inspired you to make the transition to move downtown?
 
CC:  Change is invigorating and exciting! By downsizing, we wanted to worry less about “stuff” and more about “adventures."  Urban dwelling in Grand Rapids is about being part of something positive and culturally satisfying, and about staying plugged in.
 
RG: Have you always been a runner?
 
CC: At the age of 42, running became part of my lifestyle. Thirteen years later, I can’t imagine my days and weeks without it.
 
RG: What do you do on your ‘off’ days, to give your body a break?
 
CC: I am an advocate for cross-training and strength-training to keep my body well balanced and injury-free. Running is best supported by other forms of exercise to ward off overuse injuries. I practice yoga to stretch, build strength and to relax…a total win/win/win. The biking is used as an enjoyable alternative way to work my cardiovascular system minus the high impact of running. And I added golfing in an effort to learn something new (brain muscles!) and spend time with my husband.
 
RG: What did you do prior to this venture?
 
CC: My degree from MSU is in advertising and I worked in marketing in many different capacities over the last 33 years. Currently I work part-time for Gazelle Sports.
 
RG: I imagine your background in marketing has vastly helped get the word out about GR Running Tours? 

CC: Yes! I understand the importance of a business plan that includes a communications strategy. And as a very small business, I appreciate the value of effective public relations and relationship-building.
 
RG: What is your favorite historic route?
 
CC: Lapping the Landmarks 5K. It is a “must do” for both visitors and residents who would like to learn more about Grand Rapids. We explore some of the city’s “first and finest."
 
RG: What some of GR’s “first and finest” landmarks? I’ve lived in West Michigan my entire life, and even I don’t know!
 
CC: Here are a few teasers...do you know where the Owashtanong is? So what exactly was the beef between Louis Campau and Lucius Lyon? Which was the first bridge constructed over the Grand River? True or false: Grand Rapids has the tallest all-residential building in the state of Michigan. What makes the Ford Presidential Museum unique? Where is the Grand Rapids “Temple of Music”? Which GR institution was founded in 1914 and was the first in Michigan? What is the most famous Indian path in Grand Rapids? And just who was Kendall? We have Peregrine Falcons? Oh my, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
 
RG: What is some of the best feedback you have gotten from your customers?
 
CC: The quote was more or less along the lines of... “The tour was SO much fun!! Caroline’s energy and enthusiasm was so contagious. I’ve lived in Grand Rapids my whole life but still learned a lot today about its history. I was able to enjoy running and appreciated my city on a new level today. Highly recommend.”
 
RG: If someone isn’t a trained runner, are there other options or levels of participation?
 
CC: All running abilities and paces are welcomed. We totally customize the event to accommodate the group or the individual.   We provide 100 percent walking tours as well. 
 
RG: Do you offer any other services in addition to the 5K?

CC: While most of our tours are 5K in length, we also offer four-mile, five-mile, six-mile, and ten-mile tours. Because of the customizability, if someone wants a twenty-mile run…I will design it immediately and run by their side with a smile on my face!

Jenna Morton is the RapidChat correspondent for Rapid Growth Media.
 
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