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Running on fire-hot trails

Blistering heat made the hills seem even steeper Saturday for the 77 runners who entered the eighth annual Britt Woods Firehouse 10K Run in Jacksonville.

The Firehouse Run uses a staggered, handicap starting system that pushes most of the speedsters to the back of the pack, forcing them to play catch-up. The course follows single-track trails that cross two bridges over Jackson Creek, with steep, grueling climbs and many switchbacks.

"I should paint a target on my back," said Chuck Whitley before starting. "Those fast guys are going to be gunning for me."

Starting with the first group, 57-year-old Suzanne Ray of Jacksonville didn't have to play catch-up, but she played good defense, winning for the second year in a row in 52:49.

Nineteen-year-old Richard Zhu of Medford couldn't catch Ray but turned in the fastest time, breaking the course record in 39:03, finishing fifth overall.

Reach freelance photographer/writer Andy Atkinson at andya@roguephoto.net.

Suzanne Ray crosses Jackson Creek on her way to winning the Britt Woods Firehouse 10K trail run Saturday through the Jacksonville Woodlands.