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Just as many of the neighboring stores in downtown are winding down for the day, Vertical Runner of Black Mountain gears up for one of the biggest events of the week — The Posse Running Club, which gathers each Wednesday at the store.

Known to members as simply “The Posse,” this running group was started in October 2011 by Peter Ripmaster, former owner of the Black Mountain Running Co., the running store that he sold to Vertical Runner late last year.

Since then, the Posse has served as a weekly meeting of runners from all over the Swannanoa Valley.

“The Posse is very important for the store as well as the community. It brings people together and forms friendships and connections along the way,” Shaun Pope, the store’s owner and the current leader of the club, said. “It makes the idea of going out for a run a lot easier, knowing you have company to join you.”

That feeling of community and support is the main draw for many of the now dozens of runners who routinely come together to run.

Ed McDaniel, an original member from back in 2011, said he was eager to run with a group after running mostly by himself for some 30 years. “I keep coming back,” he said, “because the Posse gives me an opportunity to connect with others who share a passion for running.”

Semia Ostrover, a Black Mountain runner who has regularly joined the Posse for , for nearly a year, credits the Posse with encouraging her to sign up for challenging races like the Black Mountain Monster, a distance-and-timed event held last weekend

“I love the group runs. They’re my source of inspiration and motivation,” she said. “(The Posse) gives me support to try and be the best runner I can be and not worry about what others are doing.”

Meeting at the running store every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., the group runs a 4- to 5-mile loop through the trails of Montreat College and the Black Mountain Recreation Park.

After a short group jog through town, the runners begin to split into different pace groups.

The Posse often hosts many of the fastest runners in the area. But it is just as welcoming to beginners and slower-paced runners.

“We stand out from other local running groups because we cater to a wide variety of runners,” Pope said. “Paces of all types are welcome, and we never ignore a new member.”

Mike Guyer, who takes lead in making sure all runners know the route, laughed when he said, “We have some speedy folks and some turtles. Depending on my race and training schedule, I could potentially be either one week to week!”

He’s often found looping back to pick up those running at a slower pace.

While the route begins at the Vertical Runner storefront, the Posse ends each run at local brewery Lookout Brewing Co. There they continue to socialize and swap race stories over a cold beer — something many of the runners look forward to each week just as much as the run itself.

The Posse Running Club

Meets: Vertical Runner, 106 W. State St., Black Mountain

When: 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays

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