Once a month – and more often during prime running months, like March, September, October and November – Chris Heuisler runs marathons across North America. For work.
Heuisler was hired as Westin Hotels’ first running concierge in August, beating out more than 1,000 applicants for the job. During marathons from Denver to Savannah to Montreal, he sits at a desk in the Westin lobby about 10 feet from the regular concierge desk, catering to the needs of some 50 to 75 guests who are there specifically to run. He sees those guests again on the trail – where he’s handing out extra earbuds, Band-Aids and sunglasses – and at the finish line, where he’s the recipient of plenty of sweaty hugs.
Hotels hiring specialty concierges to enhance the guest experience is a fairly new concept. In New Orleans, the Ritz-Carlton offers the services of a “recovery concierge” for guests after a rough night; at select Rosewood Hotels, a fragrance butler will bring various perfumes and colognes to your hotel room on a silver platter at any hour. But to Westin’s knowledge, no other hotels have a resident running concierge.
Graduated from: Penn State University, majored in public relations
Based in: Just outside of Boston
Previous jobs: I held some odd jobs in California, like bartending, figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. The one consistent theme in my life was running – it was my rock. So I worked as a personal trainer at Equinox for six years, in New York and then Boston, where I think is the mecca for running.
Years in the business: I’ve held this job since mid-August, but I’ve been running for 13 years.
How did you hear about the job? My wife saw it posted by a friend on her Facebook news feed. There were only five days left to apply, and I figured some celebrity would get the job – but then I made it to the top 10.
What was your toughest interview question? A senior VP at the company asked me how I would respond to a guest having a negative hotel experience. Up until then, I was just thinking about the running part of my job – not the concierge part.
In a few sentences, what do you do all day? I travel to Westin hotels where races are taking place and answer runners’ questions about logistics, the start and finish lines, checkout and traveling. I’m also on the course during the race with a backpack, providing anything to the runners they may need.
And the rest of the time, when there’s not a race? I research. I reach out to running groups to learn more about runners and provide that insight to Westin. I feel like I’m in grad school for running – and am getting paid to do that research.
Heuisler capture a marriage proposal at the finish line during a recent half marathon in Los Angeles:
What’s in your backpack you keep on the course? Gloves, a First Aid kit, safety pins (for runners’ bibs), hair bands, earbuds, socks, cough drops, sunglasses, hats, gum, an inhaler, Tums, tissues, lots of gels and bottles of water. I’m at the start line and finish line, as well as throughout the course.
Pre-race routine: I always run the course the day after arriving in a new city, before the race. I trust the concierge who has eaten at the restaurant, versus the one who just looks at the food.
Best part of your job: The finish line experience. I’m one of the first at the finish line, so I get big, sweaty hugs and high fives. When guests I’ve only met once pass the finish line, their reactions to seeing me are equivalent to seeing a really good friend.
Most challenging part of your job: When I go away on the weekends, I really miss my two kids. But on the flip side, I get to work from home when I’m not traveling.
What would people be surprised to learn about your job? When you see someone who runs the marathon in 5 ½ hours, he’s clearly running for something different. Every runner has a story; I never expected to cry this much when I took the job. There hasn’t been a single race where I don’t put on my sunglasses and take my tissues out.
Favorite running apps: I’m not a big fan of them in general. I think they detract from the experience. We’re so connected already, and running is our chance to detach. I really just use MapMyRun.com.
How many marathons have you run? 25. My older brother and I try to run one in every state; we’re trying to do one per year at this point. I’m running in Boston next year, which I think will go down as one of the most memorable marathons ever.
Dream job as a kid: A baseball player. But I specifically remember in fifth grade, when I changed schools, I gained cred when I beat the fastest kid in school at the 100-meter sprint. I didn’t run as much in high school – my asthma was bad – but then in college, I took it up for leisure. I ran my first marathon in my senior year of college, and that’s when I decided to get more serious.
Plus, I’m one of five kids, and my siblings are significantly better athletes, but I’m probably the best runner. So I had to find a way to stand out somehow.
LAUNCHING YOUR CAREER>>
1. You have to know your audience – mine is runners, first and foremost. So if I weren’t a runner myself, I wouldn’t be qualified.
2. Be open to challenges. Many people get involved in team sports in school, but that goes away. Joining a community that embraces sports – like a kickball team – is an important part of being a professional, and it’s good way to network and relieve stress.
3. It’s important to always be reading a book that involves something you’re passionate about.
NEXT UP: Meet the Quidditch Olympian.