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Running on plenty

The second-annual Britt Woods Firehouse Run impresses with a unique format and scenic course

JACKSONVILLE ' Much like the quaint town laid out below its course, the Britt Woods Firehouse Run prides itself in being different.

After the second-annual running on a sunny Saturday morning, it's also apparent the race is well on its way to becoming a runner's favorite, a la Jacksonville with tourists.

A scenic-yet-grueling 6.2-mile route through the Rich Gulch Historic Mining District above the Britt Gardens is not to be taken for granted, but the Britt Run is especially attractive because of its unique format.

— Competitors' starts are staggered, according to age and gender. The only other such race Britt organizers know of ' and where the idea was lifted from ' is the Dipsea Race in California's Marin County.

The first runner, comprising Group E (there were none in A-D), was a 57-year-old woman who got a 20-minute head start on the 19-30-year-old men in the scratch batch.

Thus, Your age isn't a handicap, it's actually an asset in a way, as 63-year-old Barry Solof, Saturday's third-place finisher, put it.

Same can be said for gender, not that women like Amber Simmons, who took second, need much help.

Isaac Stoutenburgh's 14-year-old legs took advantage of a four-minute head start on Justin Loftus ' at 31, in the next-to-last group ' to win the overall title.

The Crater High sophomore to-be trailed just Medford's Solof following the first, 4.85-mile loop, and Stoutenburgh sped into the lead up a hill during the final, shorter lap.

He finished in 57 minutes, 18 seconds, or 40:18, without his 17-minute handicap.

It's a tough course, said Stoutenburgh, who didn't do the race a year ago. (The format) makes it more interesting. You try to catch people.

Stoutenburgh, who ran the 1,500 and 3,000 meters for Crater's varsity track and field team in the spring and starred on the Comet cross country squad last fall, estimated he passed about 20 people during his push to first.

Simmons, 21, began at the 14-minute mark with women 19-39 and completed the course in 58:58. The Crescent City, Calif., native who has two years of eligibility remaining in the Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo track and cross country programs said the Britt is destined to become a popular event.

It's a challenge 'cause you can kind of hunt people down and pick 'em off as you go, Simmons said. It really, really helps (your time).

Heck yeah (the race will get bigger), the more people know about it. Runners are fun people ' they love to get together for the social atmosphere and working out together.

Ashland's Loftus finished fourth in 1:00.57 and had the best non-handicapped time, 39:57, for the second straight year.

Race director Doug Naversen of Jacksonville was pleased with the turnout of about 60 for this year's main event. An exhibition run in which participants chose between 1.85- and 4.15-mile treks and a 100-yard kids dash preceded the big race.

A former director of the Dipsea, which is the world's oldest cross country race, and current administrator of Jacksonville's Stage Coach Run, Naversen said organizing the Britt had been on his mind for years prior to last summer's first edition.

I just basically wanted to share this wonderful trail system with the rest of the population and get them fired up, said Naversen, a dermatologist who's lived in Jacksonville since 1982.

My wife (Jane) is a heart nurse, and she sees a lot of people come in that are overweight and smokers, that lead stressful existences. If someone turns into a runner, they're probably gonna quit smoking, they'll lose weight, they're gonna start eating healthier. We wanna be as youthful and as vigorous as we can for the duration.

That's right up the alley of lifetime runners like Irish Mike Barrett, 65, who runs the Rich Gulch trails with a group every Wednesday morning and was at his jovial best before Saturday's race.

You get variations in your breathing, which makes it a little bit different kind of a run than just strictly a track run or a road run, where you lock into one pace, said Barrett, noting the course's shaded hills that hide historic gold mines. This way, by constantly shifting gears, it makes it a much more fatiguing effort.

The challenge of it has motivated a lot of people to come out here and run on it weekly.

nature, runners are always up for a good challenge.

The Britt's unusual demands, from trail to staggered start, should keep them coming back for years.

Top-10 Finishers

1, Isaac Stoutenburgh, 14, Central Point, 57:18; 2, Amber Simmons, 21, Crescent City, Calif., 58:58; 3, Barry Solof, 63, Medford, 59:39; 4, Justin Loftus, 31, Ashland, 1:00.57; 5, Mike Miller, 56, Phoenix, 1:00.59; 6, Joe Griffin, 43, Central Point, 1:01.02; 7, Bob Julian, 35, Ashland, 1:01.39; 8, Kent Gutches, 43, Central Point, 1:03.29; 9, Len Jacobson, 43, Central Point, 1:03.56; 10, Ben Triblehorn, 18, Medford, 1:04.11.

Amber Simmons, of Crescent City, Calif., runs through a trail shaded by madrone trees ahead of Marilyn Kovtunovich, of Ashland, during Saturday?s race. Mail Tribune / Andrew Mariman - Mail Tribune Andrew Mariman