Steamboat Springs Running Series returns to Mount Werner

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If you go

What: Mount Werner Classic 5- and 12-mile running race

When: The 12-miler starts at 8 a.m. Saturday; the 5-miler starts at 8:30 a.m.

Where: Base of the gondola at Steamboat Ski Area

Cost: Registration remains open into this Friday evening for $25 at www.runningseries...

2011 Running Series schedule

— The Steamboat Springs Running Series returns Saturday with what’s long been one of its most popular races. And in recent years, it has become one of the most unique.

The Mount Werner Classic kicks off from the base of Steamboat Ski Area at 8 a.m. Saturday, challenging a large field with two difficult races, 12- and 5-mile runs.

Both races end at the top of the gondola at the ski area.

This year’s race will continue Emily Conjura’s effort to make the day a zero-waste, sustainable event — as green an event can be had.

Two years ago the event went cup-less, meaning runners carried their own water bottles to fill at aid stations set up along the course. Last year Conjura managed to compost or recycle all but one gallon-bag full of trash.

The event’s giveaways have been created using recycled material, and the post-race food will be eaten with the help of reusable utensils and plates.

This year’s race featured paperless registration — a process that’s still available until about 8 p.m. Friday for $25 at www.runningseries.com.

The same tough course that’s been pushing runners in 16 previous years will return, but with a few potential alterations in the face of muddy spots. Runners in the 12-mile race will tear up Mount Werner to the top of Storm Peak, then back down to the gondola.

Those in the 5-mile race will “only” have to go to the top of the gondola, a gain in elevation of about 2,100 feet.

“It’s really hard,” Conjura said. “You don’t sign up for this if you’re looking for a Saturday stroll in the woods.”

That hasn’t stopped a crowded field from registering. As of Thursday, 116 of the 125 U.S. Forest Service-approved slots in the race had been spoken for.

“I’ve been quite surprised to see the numbers consistently grow,” Conjura said, “but people are constantly looking for things that are harder than the last thing they did. We’re getting a lot of out-of-town racers as well as locals.

“This race is just a challenge.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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