Big-name runners start trail-running tours

Fred McCormick

The new business venture by well-known trail runners Peter Ripmaster and Doug Hay was inspired by one tremendous view of Black Mountain below.

Taking a break on High Top Mountain south of town, the runners concluded that more people need to see the beauty of the terrain from above. And thus WNC Running Tours was born.

Hay and Ripmaster connected when the latter was hosting weekly group runs that met at Black Mountain Running Co., the store that he used to own on State Street. Hay began running with the group when he moved to Black Mountain in 2014.

The two became friends while running hundreds of miles along the trails that line the mountains in the region.

“We both became stuck on the idea that we could lead groups and take people up to these great locations that we run to when we are out running together,” Hay said. “There are hiking tours and all of these other tours around town, and we thought it would be great to be able to offer people that kind of experience, running.”

Hay began running trails at Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., before he moved to North Carolina. He established a blog called “Rock Creek Runner” shortly after discovering his passion for the sport.

“Trail running is what has kept me running,” Hay said. “After running marathons for a while, I got injured and kind of burnt out, and it was trail running that reinvigorated me.”

Hay sees WNC Running Tours as a way to help introduce others to trail running, which he said has become significantly more popular in recent years.

“Just 10 years ago not nearly as many people were doing these kinds of runs, like ultra-marathons and trail races,” he said. “They just weren’t as popular.”

As interest in trail running grows, WNC Running Tours will provide more than just tours.

“We will also be offering monthly clinics that focus on different aspects of trail running,” Hay said. “The clinics will be rated by level of difficulty.”

Sessions for those with less experience will focus on the fundamentals of trail running, while clinics for veterans of the sport, like Master the Mountain on Dec. 20, will involve a higher degree of difficulty.

Hay brings a laid-back approach to the tours, while Ripmaster is well-known for his intensity on the trails.

Ripmaster has run a marathon in all 50 states to raise money for cancer awareness.

He completed Alaska’s 350-mile Iditarod Challenge for the last two years.

He is currently training to run the 1,000-mile version of the Alaskan race in February.

With that run, he hopes to raise money for Asheville’s Hope Chest for Women.

“I’ve never lost touch with what it was like to be a beginner,” Ripmaster said. “I’ve always kept that attitude that I’ve never really arrived and I’m still learning. I’ve learned a lot of tricks that I can pass along to folks.”

For more about tours and clinics offered by WNC Running Tours, visit