Woken by howling wind at 3am, an intense day of spreadsheets-on-a-deadline, cats-and-dogs rain on the drive home and a growing sense of dread about attempting to run 5k after months of so little activity that even going up the stairs seemed an achievement. It’s a bit of a miracle (or maybe the promise of gin) that I made it to the Crown Plaza starting point at all, let alone on time for this tour, but I’m glad I did.
I’ve seen these tours advertised on Facebook for a while and really fancied trying one, having never actually played hometown tourist and done a tour of my own city. It was the inaugural Gin and Cocktail Running Tour that finally got me to sign up.
Friendly, helpful emails before the event included what we’d need to bring, timings, meeting place and the unexpected but welcome info that we could leave our bags in safe storage at the hotel and have a shower and change if we wanted at the end of the tour – brilliant if you plan to continue the cocktails afterwards.
The route was quirky and I like that I couldn’t second guess it even as a long time Cestrian – I knew most of the places but was perhaps expecting a more routine round-the-walls with points of interest tour, so it kept me guessing where we would go next.
The run was steady paced with short running sections and plenty of regular well-timed stops to take in some sights and fun facts. Gareth checks the speed and how everyone is getting on regularly, so don’t worry about getting left behind or being slower than anyone else – it’s social run not a race.
The history bits are well-researched, interesting, and Gareth’s passion is infectious. There are enough dates for detail buffs and plenty of gory stories for the gossip hungry. I won’t reveal too much here but there’s one fact you must find out – why the Bayeux tapestry is perhaps one of the first instances of ‘fake news’…
The projection on the old cathedral came on perfectly on time just for us. We teased Gareth that he’d booked it specially – we were even more convinced when the cathedral bells rung out as we made our way to the clock, especially when he confessed to being an ex-campanologist.
Our gin stop was about 20-30 minutes in to the tour. I’m not sure I’ve ever run after gin so this was a first – also a first that I was glad it wasn’t a double ????
Corks Out on Watergate Street was a great choice of venue, a crypt bar perhaps best known for wine but that showed off its gin credentials really well.
Portobello Road gin was served with a twist – kiwi not the more standard pink grapefruit, large glasses, tons of ice and the hard-to-find but glorious 1724 tonic (£2.50 to buy in the shop or £2.50 as a mixer in the bar – top marks Corks Out for being sensible with premium product pricing so it’s easier for us to enjoy life’s little luxuries i.e .the right gin with the right tonic). It’s then hard to tear ourselves away back into the cold to resume our run.
The tour circles back to the starting point after around 5k and a couple of hours (including gin stop) and we can choose a cocktail from the extensive and interesting menu.
Unfortunately, a couple of our choices aren’t available that night (come on Crowne Plaza, if it’s on the menu, please have it in stock!), but the fruity fizzy virgin cocktails we end up with are actually just right and we sit and chat about Chester while we drink, hydrate and warm up.
It would be ideal as kick start to a longer night out, but that’s not on the cards for any of us tonight, so we head home energised and a bit proud of completing our 5k.
Chester dwellers vastly outnumber out-of-towners on tours so far but we’d love to help Gareth change that and show off our city to visitors from around the country and abroad. I often run round a city if I’m away for work or on a city break – it’s a great way to get your bearings, and cover a bit of ground, and feel smug and positive as you crack on with the rest of your day with a spring in your step… having earned some local cake and delicacies to sample later in the day. This run-booze fusion could well be the way forward!
I’ll definitely go on another one, the content changes a bit so it’s not a ‘been there, done that’ tour. The Prosecco or Real Ale options sound tempting, though I’m not sure I’m brave enough for the Ghost Tour run – I prefer my spirits over ice mixed with tonic wherever possible.
For more details see the Chester Running Tours website.