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Chilliwack’s Conquer the Vedder growing into two-day event

15K trail run added to multi-sport competition at Cultus
Gary Robbins, centre, high fives competitors Catherine Brent and Kett Panther at the Conquer the Vedder 2023 at Cultus Lake as they cross the finish line at the same time. (Scott Robarts photography)

Trail running is on the rise, in Chilliwack and beyond.

It’s been one of the main components of Conquer the Vedder, a multi-sport competition held in and around Cultus Lake since 2022. Now in its third year, Conquer the Vedder is taking the natural next step, with organizers throwing in a 15-kilometre, 650-metre elevation trail-run competition.

Gary Robbins and Geoff Langford, co-founders of Coast Mountain Trail Running (CMTR), are excited to add in this component to an already well-loved racing event.

“It’s truly one of our favourite events,” Robbins said, out of a full roster of hardcore races that take athletes from valley floors and up to peaks all across the region. The two runners also lead the team behind the 13-km Run Ridge Run (this weekend), the 50-km ultra Diez Vista, as well as Survival of the Fittest, Buckin’ Hell and the Squamish50.

It’s also the next event on the CMTR calendar that’s open for both registration and sponsorship opportunities.

They want to get the word out that the event has been expanded, so that all runners have the chance to register. The demand for running events is higher than ever.

“We’ve been doing this for 12 years, and every year has been busier,” Langford said. “There has been this surge, specifically for trail running.”

There are a few different races to consider within the Conquer the Vedder weekend, May 25-26. Saturday involves the solo multi-sport race, which sees competitors go through 48 kilometers of endurance sports. That’s six km by SUP, 15 km of off-road biking, 12 km running trails on Vedder Mountain, and then another 15 km of off-road biking (SUP-ride-run). There’s also an open water category with nine kilometres of paddling in the lake (paddle-ride-run).

Saturday is also the day for the 15K trail run competition, which takes runners through a figure-eight course to the top of Vedder Mountain and back down to the Smith Falls campground.

That’s where the entire weekend is based out of, Robbins said, and the atmosphere is an experience all its own.

“It’s a really fun, interactive, social event,” he said, with sponsors, athletes and their supporters able to hang out and encourage each other.

On Sunday, the focus is on the three-person relay, which begins with the six-km SUP leg, then moves into a 32-km, 750-m elevation off-road biking leg, and finishing with the 15-km, 650-m elevation trail run.

The event’s website lists all of the guidelines, rules, suggestions and even encouragement that participants will need to get ready, including downloadable maps with elevation gain and GPS information.

Winning times from 2023 were 3 hours, 44 minutes for the solo race, and 3 hours, 24 minutes for the relay race.

Both Robbins and Langford are looking forward to seeing the race roster fill up. Trail running has grown by 345 per cent in the past 10 years, stats are showing.

“The majority of that growth has really been in the last three to four years,” Robbins said. “We have a really strong, tight community, a lot of regulars, but also a number of new people we’ve seen in the last couple years. I ask people to raise their hands if they’re new to running, and the number of people raising their hands has just been so noticeable.”

They say that trail running is easier on your body than road racing, and is likely being picked up heavily because people are realizing it’s a great way to connect with nature while taking care of yourself.

“I just think it’s a primal need as humans,” Robbins said. “We have to be outside. It’s been known for a long time, the benefits of being in the forest. So to be able to do that while working on your fitness is the best of both worlds.”

To learn more about the Conquer the Vedder and other Coast Mountain Trail Running events coming up, visit

Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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