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Winona Forest’s snowshoe race becoming more popular

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MANNSVILLE — Nearly 60 snowshoers hit the ground running Sunday in Tug Hill’s winter wonderland.

The Winona Stonewall Classic 5K Snowshoe Race was held at Winona State Forest’s Civilian Conservation Corps Camp, a run that race director Matthew G. Westerlund said is becoming more popular every year.

“It’s quickly becoming one of the biggest 5K snowshoe races in the Northeast,” he said before the race.

Mr. Westerlund began directing the race three years ago after being inspired by races in New England.

Participants have come from all over the state, from Rochester to Albany, to race on the freshly groomed trails and natural obstacles.

“This course is unique,” he said. “There’s a few small fallen trees and creeks that people have to jump over. We also have a mile of perfectly groomed trails for people to finish on. Because the course takes you off into the woods off the main trail, you get to see things you’d never get to see.”

Those nature-made obstacles are what make this 5K a difficult one.

“I’ve done races this year and last year and the year before that,” said 14-year-old Ezra J. Hulbert from Mexico. “This is one of the hardest ones, because it has hills, and the hills are steep.”

The trails are not the only unusual part of the race. Every year, a person has followed with a radio in case a racer falls or sprains an ankle in the middle of the forest.

“I do snowshoe races every weekend, and we’re the only race I know that has that,” Mr. Westerlund said.

As with most road marathons, both veterans and novices took to the trail. “I would say the field is broken into thirds,” Mr. Westerlund said. “A third of the people are really hard-core racers. The last third would just be here to walk the trail.”

Dawn M. Leone, Mexico, was new to snowshoeing, but not new to running.

“I do road races, so I wanted to give this a try,” she said. “I liked it. It’s a little more difficult just because you have those things on your feet.”

John E. Turner from Baldwinsville is another road runner who became interested in snowshoeing.

“This is my second race,” he said. “It just keeps me fit in the wintertime. It gets me out. I don’t like treadmill running.”

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