Finding Roads for Working Out While Working on the Road
It’s a long road from being a chief technology officer to being an author, especially on foot.
Just ask Warwick Ford, a corporate business traveler who was on the road for as many as 150 nights a year for 20 years. Now he has written a book for people like him: travelers who need more fresh air.
Before beginning his latest career, he was commuting every second week from his home in Cambridge, Mass., to the Mountain View, Calif., headquarters of Internet infrastructure services company VeriSign Inc. A typical commute would involve flying west on Sunday night or Monday morning and -- ideally -- back home on Friday evening.
“More often than not I had to schedule weekend hours as well,” he said in a recent phone interview. Ford retired from the corporate world two years ago and now he and wife Nola split their time between homes in Cambridge and Aspen, Colo.
His biggest gripe about business travel was the lack of time outdoors. An avid jogger (“Many people would not grace my actions with the term running,” he said), he found himself subject to the challenges of jogging in a strange city. Was the route safe? If safe, how interesting was it? If he found himself at the end of a safe and interesting run, how would he get back to his hotel?
Still, with the advice of a hotel concierge and a map, he would set out on his adventures.
Ford’s life changed after a weekend layover in San Francisco.
He decided he wanted to run from Fisherman’s Wharf over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and back. It was not something his guidebooks recommended, and the concierge at his hotel wasn’t even sure that it was possible.
Nonetheless, he set off and found the experience exhilarating. The San Francisco Bay and the bridge were gorgeous in the fresh air. Although Sausalito was a bit tough to find, he ended up enjoying a laugh with locals over beer and a sandwich there. Afterward, he took a relaxing ferry ride back across the bay.
That day trip completely altered the way he viewed jogging in a strange city, and he set out to share that vision with others.
The result is his 2005 book, “Fun on Foot in America’s Cities.” It contains 50 well-researched and documented running or walking routes in 14 major U.S. cities for business or active leisure travelers, as well as for locals. Included are routes he designates as “classic,” which are his top picks for each city. It is the first book to be published by his Wyltan Books imprint.
The routes all meet four criteria that trace back to that jog across the Golden Gate Bridge (included in the book). They must be comfortable -- easy on the feet, safe and relatively traffic free; have attractions that are “environmentally pleasant and interesting”; feature starting points that are convenient to get to from city centers or other places travelers stay; and have some sort of destination to provide motivation.
Each city has a chapter with information on what it is like to be an on-foot exerciser there. Some of the routes are appropriate for fairly ambitious walkers; others more so for runners.
In New York, for example, there are six routes ranging from about six miles through Central Park to a 12-mile whopper from City Hall to Brooklyn.
Ford’s adventurous attitude toward travel comes through in his writing. He talks about the confusing starts and stops of the New York subway as if they were some kind of puzzle to be played.
In his discourse on it, he references Douglas Adams, author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” and advises about the subway: “The best attitude is to simply find a train going in the general direction you want, such as Manhattan, and assume it will all work out in the end.”
He finds the locals in New York “a ton of fun” and claims that even the pigeons in Central Park have attitude. It’s a remarkably Zen outlook for a retired engineer.
He doesn’t take the same laid-back approach to the research he does on the routes. Here the engineer is in fine form. He has meticulously researched each route, including running it with Nola.
“The majority of these routes, both my wife and I research them, which I think is important because the female perspective to be out on foot is different from the male’s perspective,” Ford said.
The book has become his new career and it too keeps him on the road about 100 nights a year. He and Nola are hard at work on an on-foot guide to New England and he plans next summer to spend several months doing research for one on California.
“The ultimate plan is to cover other regions as well,” he said.
Though his Zen attitude applies to much of the headaches and pet peeves of travel, he has a special bone to pick with travelers who lean their airplane seats back without at least checking first to see what the person behind is doing.
“If done thoughtlessly, putting your seat back can actually do a lot of damage,” he said.
His advice for fellow business travelers coming from the East Coast to the West is to get up at your regular Eastern time and go for a jog for an hour. You’ll feel much better and be more productive than if you just lie in bed waiting for the alarm to sound.
And it’s never too late to start healthy business travel exercise habits. Though always a fan of the outdoors, Ford, 57, came to his convictions about exercise later in life.
“As I got older,” he said, “it became obvious to me how important fitness is as the years advance.”
James Gilden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
Job: Independent book publisher and author
Business travel: 100 nights a year
Frequent traveler programs: United Mileage Plus (million-mile member), US Airways, Hilton, Marriott, InterContinental Hotels
Preferred airline: United
Preferred hotel chain: Hilton
Next planned business trip: Portland, Maine, for book research
Next planned leisure trip: Toronto for daughter’s wedding
Source: Times research