Mount Werner Classic returns to Steamboat with all new format

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— The Mount Werner Classic seemingly has always been Emily Conjura’s race.

She’s been race director for nearly half of the event’s 17 years, and she’s always striven to bring character to the competition.

So when she decided to take what was a tough event consisting of 5- and 12-mile slogs up Mount Werner and turn it into something significantly more demanding, no one was going to doubt her.

The Mount Werner Classic returns Saturday in name only. The venerable run up the ski mountain is now a lengthy trail endurance test up, over and back down the slopes of Mount Werner. It’s a 50-kilometer test that seems to be a part of a new trend in Steamboat Springs.

“I just thought it might be time to change it up for myself and for some of the runners,” Conjura said.

She’s gained plenty of experience as the volunteer coordinator in recent years for the annual Run, Rabbit Run Steamboat 50-mile trail marathon, and she said she was inspired to transform her own race into a similar test.

Steamboat runners looking for bucket-list tests need not look far this summer. The inaugural Steamboat Stinger trail marathon looms Aug. 12. The Run, Rabbit Run event is adding a 100-mile race this year as well.

Saturday’s Mount Werner race should serve a fine way to break runners into those great distances.

The race starts and finishes at the base of the gondola at Steamboat Ski Area. Between, runners will haul up the mountain, over the top and onto the Mountain View trail. They’ll turn around at Long Lake, about 15.5 miles in, and return to the ski area and descend on several different trails.

The event will still carry many of Conjura’s trademarks: it will be a zero-waste event with good handouts, big prizes and a post-race food spread.

About 125 racers took on last year’s 5- and 12-mile challenges. Conjura said she expects about half that total this year, but she’s hoping the new-look Mount Werner Classic proves a winner over time.

“I’m happy with how it’s coming together,” she said. “We’re just trying to get the word out. Next year and in coming years, it will be quite popular.”

Registration remains open for the event. To sign up, visit www.runningseries.com. The race costs $75.

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

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