ASHLAND — They ran pushing strollers carrying babies and youngsters. They ran while juggling pins and alongside their dogs.
They ran wearing red, white and blue headbands and socks. They ran for causes, including a Southern Oregon team trying to raise awareness for people afflicted with allergies. Young children sprinted from the start and oldsters were content to keep a steady pace.
Somebody had to win the 41st Ashland July Fourth Run, but it seemed all had fun Tuesday in a tradition dating to 1977.
Jared Hixon, who lives in Ashland after briefly training in Eugene, crossed the 10,000-meter finish line first with a time of 33 minutes, 17 seconds.
Madison McCarthy, who has called Ashland home for the past three years, was the first female finisher of the up-and-down 6.2-mile course with a time of 42:38.
It was the first time either has won the annual event, which raises money to support the Ashland and Phoenix high schools cross-country programs.
“That was a real climb at the end,” Hixon — who grew up in Palmdale, California — said after he finished ahead of runner-up E.J. Holland of Ashland. “I just tried to relax. That guy was with me step-by-step and pushing me.”
Holland ran in the state cross country championships last year as an eighth grader in Ashland. He also finished second last year in the Ashland Fourth 10K race.
The course finishes with uphill climbs that can punish runners who charge too fast out of the gate for the first several downhill and flat miles. But Hixon, 24, has a history of strong finishes. He won the 1,500-meter NAIA national championship last year running for Southern Oregon University. He ran for the Raiders for five years and now works for Rogue Valley Runners downtown.
Hixon said he was familiar with much of the route, having trained along the Bear Creek Greenway, but “I had never put this (course) all together” until Tuesday. He said it was not his best 10K time, clocking in at 32:01 in another race last year.
McCarthy has raced since she was 8-years-old in the San Francisco area. Her ultramarathon training of distances as far as 50,000 meters and training on hilly trails helped to make this race seem like a sprint rather than just an endurance race.
“I went too fast downhill at the start, then I grinded it out on the uphill section,” she said. “I was sure glad to see the water stations. I felt mentally strong at the end.”
The annual Ashland Fourth road run includes two-mile competition. The top male finishers were John Erik Anderson of Tacoma, Washington (first, 12:22) and Zachary Williams of Ashland (second, 12:30). For the women, Sophia Stubblefield of Medford won (15:33) and Karina Rayl of Ashland was second (16:02).
Many runners were making their first attempt at the 10,000. Michelle Johnson, who grew up in Ashland and now lives in Portland, agreed that the second half of the race was the biggest challenge.
“But you get a little burst of enthusiasm when you see the finish line,” she said. Would she run the course again? “Maybe,” she answered.
Jordan Saturen of Ashland juggled all the way during the two-mile race, but admitted he dropped the pins a couple of times. The longtime teacher said he once finished a 10K run without once dropping them.
Hixon and McCarthy have a lot of long-distance experience. McCarthy ran cross country for the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Both expressed joy at winning the Ashland run.
“That’s so cool,” McCarthy added. “I never win.”
But she did on this Fourth of July.
Ashland July Fourth Run
1, Jared Hixon, Ashland, 33:17; 2, E.J. Holland, Ashland, 33:51; 3, Brett Hornig, Ashland, 36:21; 4, Jacob Berkner, Medford, 36:35; 5, Bob Julian, Jr., Phoenix, 37:01; 6, Aaron Reed, Ashland, 37:13; 7, Chris Mayer, Tolland, Conn., 37:15; 8, Noble Boutin, Ashland, 37:17; 9, Hal Koerner, Ashland, 37:25; 10, Gerald McCormick, Santa Rosa, Calif., 37:50; 11, Kyle Carson, Ashland, 38:28; 12, Henry Williams, Ashland, 38:48; 13, Steve Lee, Fairbanks, Alaska, 39:03; 14, Brent Davol, Ashland, 39:22; 15, Jeremy Eisen, Ashland, 39:31.
1, Madison McCarthy, Ashland, 42:38; 2, Bekki Early, Ashland, 43:12; 3, Laura Breu, Medford, 45:27; 4, Molly Mullane, Talent, 46:22; 5, Michelle Christian, Ashland, 47:12; 6, Stefani Ritter, Talent, 47:39; 7, Sarah Strickler, Central Point, 47:44; 8, Shauna Pirotin, Oakland, Calif., 47:51; 9, Erin AufderHeide, Houston, Texas, 48:24; 10, Dorsey Dobry, Ashland, 48:43; 11, Livvy Ramos, Talent, 49:18; 12, Johanna Scheurman, Ft. Collins, Colo., 49:21; 13, Sophia Dobry, Ashland, 49:36; 14, Danielle McKelvey, Ashland, 49:57; 15, Rachel Cooper, Ashland, 50:08.