Get to Know Running Guide Radim Prahl

Radim Prahl works as a social worker for a refugee agency in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. He’s also a runner. A few years ago, he was heading out on his morning run while on vacation in Barcelona when he spotted a group of tourists getting ready for a “sightseeing” run around the city. That a-ha moment led to the creation of Running Tours Prague, where Prahl combines his passion for running with his passion for the city he grew up in. Now working part-time as a running guide in Prague, he shows visitors the city’s famous sights and hidden gems  — at a pace that works up a good sweat.
How did you get into your field of expertise?

I’ve been in love with Prague for 40 years — was born here and always lived here. My father is a professor of art history so my environs was naturally art respecting. I am quite an extrovert and an avid runner so I put these two together.

How did you make the transition to becoming a guide?

I asked the authorities for a business identification number, which establishes you as a provider for the purposes of taxes. I also studied hard and went through a great many books concerning different aspects of Prague to be able to reach the heart and soul of the city, to put it across in short sentences as you run by the places. The aim is to be knowledgeable and entertaining at the same time. It helped me a lot to look at the familiar streets, lanes and squares as if for the first time, as if you are a newcomer to the city. It is the only way to share the passion for the city with your running guests.

What makes your city tours unique?

It is extremely personalized, as the meeting point, pace and duration are up to the client. We speak about it in advance and also during the run. No problem to adjust it in the middle of the route — my motto is to be flexible. I do not want visitors to repeat what they have already seen so I ask them which districts we should possibly avoid. Others do not want to run uphill to reach the castle, which, again, is excellent to hear prior to the run so that the clients get exactly what they want. On the other hand, as you can imagine, some want to go (hard), keeping a very fast pace, often in preparation for a half marathon — for these I need to arrange a route that is without traffic lights, crowds (and) ideally flat.

Whats the best part of your job?

Seeing everything as if for the first time. I actually still discover sights — at least five cute lanes that I now often use are completely new to me; I did not know them a year ago. I also enjoy acquainting (myself) with this huge variety of runners. Running means totally different things to each of them — from the occasional jogger to ambitious performance athletes, as well as travellers.

Do you have a certain style of guiding?

I start and finish at their hotel provided it’s somewhere downtown, so it’s never the same route, it’s always unique, and that’s what I really enjoy because it’s a challenge for me to make the route effective and entertaining. Some are focused on the workout and if they see some sights on the way they don’t mind, but most of my customers ask to see the sights and hear the stories. … If there’s a person who’s interested in chatting about beers, I don’t hesitate to say, ‘Over there there’s a little pub, could we stop for five minutes’ (and) we have two small beers and then we run on. It’s very Czech.

Every job has its ups and downs. Are there any aspects you aren’t keen on?

It’s a start-up, so I have no budget to invest in (promoting the business) and I’m not an experienced marketing guy so the issue for me is to spread the word around. It’s an issue of the whole concept — there’s a worldwide association of running tours (and) the priority is we all need to promote the concept.

As an experienced guide yourself, can you explain the benefits of hiring a guide?

If you start your trip with it, you can go to places afterward at a slower pace, just walking around or (sitting) in a café. In 90 minutes they get a key orientation of the place, which makes it easier for people to walk freely and confidently on their own. I also think people can get a quick taste of many places — we spend five minutes at Prague Castle and then move on; we go to churches and cathedrals, open the front door and breathe in the air of an old medieval place and sneak quietly out and run again.

Tell us something about your city that only a guide would know.

If you run in a strange city you can (use) your smartphone to make it back to your hotel, but my route avoids crossroads as much as possible, which means we cross busy streets only a few times. You (can) get stuck among crowds … which is no good for runners. I can take people to places that are important and at the same time get lost in one of those little streets where nobody goes and run through deserted courtyards and see the parks. … If you have time and can allow yourself to get lost and found again, then it’s no problem (to run on your own), but my customers very often are busy or have schedules, which means they want a concentration of experiences without being disappointed.

Do you have any tips for people interested in booking a guide like yourself, but aren’t too sure what to look for?

If the booking process is too complicated, asking about your personal best times, it’s rubbish. … The service (should) adjust as much as possible to the unique customer, which means it should also be welcoming in a way that even people who run occasionally are invited to join, not (just) super athletes. It should be for anyone who’s ready to move.

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