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Asheville Running Tours combines racing, beer, wine

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11/15/2012 - Asheville Running Tours combines racing, beer, wine
by Karen Chavez - Asheville Citizen Times

It was a no-brainer that Marty Harwood-Edes and her friend, Lisa Wheeler, couldn't believe had not yet been dreamed up in the entrepreneurial hub of Asheville.

With Asheville's moniker as "Beer City USA" and the swelling number of runners and 5K races splitting the city's seams, the only logical next step was to combine the two passions into one business, which the two women did this summer.

Their new company, Asheville Running Tours, mixes their love of Asheville's culture, history and scenic beauty with running, beer and even wine.

"We like to go on runs and we like to drink craft beer," said Harwood-Edes, founder of Asheville Running Tours with co-owner Wheeler.

"We did a lot of research before starting the business. We looked at what was available, and nobody in the area is doing anything quite like this. We have so many breweries. We're getting two marathons next year. There's a lot of running in Asheville."

Harwood-Edes, 34, a personal trainer and physical education teacher, married to Holly Harwood-Edes, is a marathon runner who leads a women's running group and also does one-on-one marathon training. She likes to travel around the country to run marathons, and on her travels, thought running would be a great way for people to tour cities while on vacation.

She threw the idea around with friend and personal training client Wheeler.

"We thought this would be a great time to bring people here to Asheville and show off what the city has to offer with beer and wine and crafts and history," Harwood-Edes said.

Wheeler, 46, is a former runner who now walks and a physician's assistant specializing in sports medicine, working in healthcare consulting.

"We're always bouncing things off of each other," Wheeler said. "She was looking for other people to co-own and I said 'I'm in.'"

The business launched this summer with a schedule of 5K, or 3.1-mile, Beer Runs. Tours range from one to 12 people, who take in a scenic tour of downtown and the River Arts District, each with a plastic beer mug in hand, and stop to sample at partner businesses including Asheville Brewing, Craggie, Green Man Ales, Lexington Avenue Brewery (LAB), Wedge Brewery and other stops at places such as Beer City Bikes and Second Gear, that are "uniquely Asheville."

Wheeler heads up the walking tours, aka "Wine Waddles," where tours walk from wine bars, such as Sante in the Grove Arcade, to wine shops such as Weinhaus on College Street, tasting wine, and soaking up local culture and flavor along the way, sort of a slower, tastier trolley tour.

"There's such fantastic opportunities with wine bars and cocktail lounges," Wheeler said. "We were thinking, how can you walk around Asheville and make it fun? We'll show you the beautiful places and let you enjoy wine at the same time."

These are no slurp and burp tours. Beer and wine aficionados will be pleasantly surprised to receive as much of an education as they would at any standing-up-only tastings.

Jacque May, of Asheville, who calls herself a serious wine enthusiast, took a Wine Waddle with some friends this summer.

"We began at the Grove Arcade and walked to different partners and wine bars, including Sante and Strada," May said. "The wines we were served were interesting and varied. The partners knew their wine. I was impressed."

May, who has lived in Asheville since 1998, said she was also surprised by how much she learned about the history and nuances of the city along the tour.

Harwood-Edes and Wheeler have set schedules of Beer Runs and Wine Waddles during the summer and fall peak tourist seasons, and have recently added Booty Buster tours with personal trainer Tera Pruett and New Beginnings Fitness, who will take folks looking for high-intensity, non-alcoholic workout runs. The company will also do custom tours, like the recent bachelorette party they hosted.

A group of 10 bridesmaids ranging in age from 27 to 34, with a bride getting married in Raleigh, were looking for a unique, active, stripper- and alcohol-free bachelorette party.

"The bride (Bonnie Scoggins) didn't want to do the typical bar scene," said her maid of honor, Morgan Greene, of Raleigh. "She's a marathon runner and she's super passionate about running."

Greene said the group was thinking about coming to Asheville to have the October party at the Biltmore Estate, but when she started scouring the web, she found Asheville Running Tours and asked if they could do an alcohol-free tour since two bridesmaids were pregnant.

"It was perfect," Greene said. "They did all the planning. We started at the Grove Arcade and ran through the historic neighborhoods in Montford and they told us stories about people who lived there (including an old ghost tale of a man who returned from the dead). We went to a park and stopped at the Basilica."

At each stop, the running guides surprised the bride with a gift, such as a tiara, a sash and a wand. The 5K tour ended with an alcohol-free "champagne" toast and a reservation for breakfast for 10 at Tupelo Honey Cafe.

"It was a unique party, it was very fun and very catered to the bride," Greene said. "They went above and beyond."

So far, glowing reports such as the bridesmaids' have kept ART humming, Harwood-Edes said. They have done little marketing other than an ad on the race registration site Active.com and lots of social media. Mayor Terry Bellamy even retweeted a photo of ART's bridal party in front of the Basilica of St. Lawrence a couple of weeks ago, which brought ART more attention.

Women's Running Magazine will feature the business in its January-February edition. But ART tours are not just for women.

"We have a good mix of men and women," Harwood-Edes said. "We run at a social pace -- about a 13-10-minute mile, so people can talk while they run. We try to make it comfortable so you can enjoy your location. There's always two guides -- one at the front and one at back to keep the group together."

Wheeler said the business is safety oriented and all of the contract guides must have CPR and first aid training, and Wheeler is always on call in case of a medical emergency.

"We are very clear about safety," Wheeler said. "Anyone on beer or wine tours must be at least 21 and we emphasize drinking water on the tours."

The women said they had a strong launch and are now in a planning phase. They expect to hold a fund-raising run early next year to benefit Girls on the Run of Western North Carolina, but said they will hold tours throughout the winter if people request them.

"We're excited," Wheeler said. "We were taken aback by the interest we've gotten, in a very positive manner."

"I love the idea of fitness, travel and flavor," Harwood-Edes said, "and this is a way to tie them all together."

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