Group running tours showcase Philly’s history

Alumnus started his own business giving running tours of historical themes of Philadelphia.

Ian Thomas, owner of SeePhillyRun, shares fun facts about Philadelphia’s history with runners on the corner of 6th and Walnut on Aug. 28, 2019. | EMMA PADNER / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Last Wednesday about 50 people lined up on Market and 12th Street at 6:30 a.m., ready to start their stopwatches and take off running.

But the group wasn’t racing, they were getting ready for a tour of Philadelphia, led by Ian Thomas, a 2017 MBA graduate. 

After pursuing his masters at Temple, Thomas was bored with his 9-to-5 consultancy job and itched to start his own business. He combined his love of business with passion for running and founded SeePhillyRun, a company that offers themed, guided running tours of Philadelphia.

“I think there’s a certain part of running that’s been in my blood,” Thomas said. “Even at various points in my life when I couldn’t do it as much as I wanted to, it has always come back.”

Thomas said his business allows him to be an ambassador for the city. 

Thomas soft-launched SeePhillyRun a year ago. He officially went full-time mid-February. 

“People do not want to feel they are getting a big-box experience, people want to feel like what they’re doing is very different,” Thomas said. “We can do it differently every time because we’re on foot.” 

Thomas primarily gives tours to individuals in groups but is beginning to book tours for companies, conventions, and large events throughout the city. 

Mike Durst, chief technology officer of Inspire, a clean-energy technology company, went on a tour with his coworkers this spring.

“We do a lot of happy hours, team building activities, and it was just starting to feel a little dry,” Durst said. “So we wanted to try something different, get people moving a little bit, see parts of the city, so we decided to run.”

To add some fun to Inspire’s tour, Thomas split them into groups and asked Philadelphia trivia questions at each stop, Durst said. 

SeePhillyRun offers five different routes throughout Philadelphia, including a Philadelphia Highlights tour, a Rocky Run that travels through South Philly to the Rocky Steps and a Beer Tour. Thomas also offers a customizable run, where customers can create their own route depending on what they want to see. 

Tours are about 90 minutes each and range from $30 to $39.

“They’re gonna be experiencing the city in a way that they enjoy which is kind of breaking a sweat, a light jog, seeing things up close and personal,” Thomas said. “You can see a lot of the city in a short amount of time and you can pat yourself on the back for getting a workout in.”

Dara Solotoff, a Queen Village resident, has done both the Philadelphia Highlights and Rocky Run tours. She said she was drawn to SeePhillyRun because as a runner, she thought it would be a great way to learn more about the history of the city. 

“Being able to do them while also exercising makes it really unique, rather than a boring walking tour,” she said.

Solotoff added she enjoyed learning about the different architectural history, like learning that a building on the corner of Walnut and 5th Street was the first state prison in the country.

Barrett Simmons, a senior entrepreneurship major said that one of his favorite things about Thomas’ runs were the interesting facts he shares on the tours. 

“After a tour, I’ll go to my friends [and say], ‘Hey did you know that William Penn [on City Hall] actually weighs 27 tons?” he said. 

Simmons has worked as Thomas’ business strategy intern since May after Thomas visited his Engagement Management class. The two worked on a finance study for SeePhillyRun together. 

“[Thomas] is really energetic and really passionate about this company,” Simmons said. “He really embodies what it is to be a successful entrepreneur and … he sees the vision of what he wants to make this company and the way that he wants to move the company forward in the future.”

Thomas said that he liked showing runners that Philly is not just a rough-around-the-edges, gritty city.

“It’s a super enlightened city … and there are a million ways to tell the story,” he added. “This city is way more multifaceted than so many people internally and externally give it credit for.”

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