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Good run

JACKSONVILLE — His list of titles runs long, and so does Doug Naversen.

Up until six weeks ago, the local man had not missed a day of running since June 16, 2007. A knee injury snapped the streak.

Having to stop was frustrating, the 66-year-old Naversen says, but life goes on. It must, especially if you are Doug Naversen.

He’s a dermatologist, a race director, a physical fitness advocate and a philanthropist.

On Saturday, Naversen will host the 14th annual Britt Woods Firehouse Run, which he created.

Time is important to Naversen — times, rather. He’s documented many of his. His records show he’s participated in 33 Pear Blossom Runs, beginning in 1982 when he moved here from Ohio. Residents of his old neighborhood in the Midwest would throw objects and bellow at him as he jogged as a youth. He found the citizens of the Rogue Valley to be much more appreciative of the activity.

“These are my people here,” he says. “I tell my wife I have my biological family and my running family.”

His history with the Pear Blossom in particular is quite attention grabbing.

Naversen didn’t know he had to pre-register for his first Pear Blossom in 1983.

“I ran as a bandit,” he recalls.

In 1989, Naversen finished 111th and ran the Boston Marathon a week later. In 1993, he pulled his right calf muscle at the four-mile mark but still managed a 90th-place finish. That injury was prettier than his condition in 1996, when an out-of-shape Naversen dry-heaved at the finish.

His streak of 23 straight Pear Blossoms came to a halt in 2006, when Naversen underwent right knee surgery. He has since completed the last nine.

This year he ran the 10-mile race and 5 kilometers, where he earned third in his age group.

The longer of the two competitions provided Naversen with his beloved buzz, the runner’s high.

“I started off pretty easy, got to the turnaround and passed 250 runners and nobody passed me,” he says. “That was a nice double. If that was my last road race it was a good way to finish.

“That feeling is zen-like. You feel like you can go forever.”

Hours and hours Naversen has spent pounding away on dirt, gravel, grass, concrete and asphalt, in races around the city, state and nation. More often, he’s been out for fun, without anyone watching.

Knee soreness six weeks ago ended Naversen’s daily running streak. He has since focused mostly on walking, swimming and cross training. Old habits die hard, though — Naversen jogged a quarter of a mile last weekend. When you’ve only missed 30 days of running the last 17 years, the routine sometimes just wants to kick in.

“Doug, he invented tough,” says Rich Stanfield, Pear Blossom director and Rogue Valley YMCA board chairman. “He’s dedicated to running and he doesn’t let much get in his way. On the other side of that competitor, he is the most gracious and giving guy.”

Ask Naversen about running and he’ll speak as if he’s giving an impassioned PowerPoint presentation.

“Running is an awesome sport,” he says. “Anyone can do it. All you need is a good pair of shoes. It’s great for weight control and excellent for cholesterol, fighting diabetes and obesity. It’s also great for the physique.”

Naversen says he got hooked on running when he was in the ninth grade. He was a prep standout on the track, but was also the Ohio Marine Corps League state champion in sit-ups.

Naversen went on to run at NCAA Division I Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. He was voted outstanding cadet in physical fitness for the class of 1970 and additionally coached flickerball and handball.

In fact, he was later the campus-wide singles and doubles handball champion at Ohio State’s medical school.

During his dermatology residency at the University of San Francisco, Naversen competed in three Dipsea races. The annual event is the oldest cross-country trail run and one of the oldest foot races of any kind in the United States. He has since run in 20 of those.

While Naversen was in Alaska working as chief of dermatology at Elmendorf Air Force Base, he ran in weather as cold as 30 degrees below zero. He set a personal record in a 10-kilometer race in Anchorage in 20-degree weather in 1981 (35:50), and has since run over 100 10Ks in under 40 minutes.

“It was so cold you had to run fast to stay warm,” he says.

Naversen has finished over 25 marathons, including the Boston, New York and — his personal favorite — Eugene.

His list of athletic accomplishments is, suffice it to say, impressive. So, too, is his resume of generosity.

The Firehouse Run, set on the woodlands course, raises at least $1,000 a year for Jacksonville Engine Company No. 1.

“The thing about Doug, he is probably one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet,” says Southern Oregon Runners vice president Chuck Whiteley. “He spends a lot of his life promoting the sport and helping people.”

Naversen’s efforts organizing the Firehouse are demanding. Work includes grooming the trail a week before the races, completing tasks like removing roots and rocks that might trip up participants.

“We have some great helpers,” says Naversen.

Race directors are often faced with unforeseen challenges or setbacks, says Steve Buxton, Pear Blossom and Stagecoach race director and Firehouse volunteer and participant. Naversen handles problems with ease.

“There is always something that isn’t going to work,” Buxton says. “He slides right on by, and he may just say, ‘We’ll make it work next year.’ He is a terrific guy to work with.”

Naversen funded the building of the Naversen Family Trail in Forest Park and the Jane Naversen Trail in the Britt Woods.

He’s assisted in provided many scholarships for young athletes.

“He contributes a lot of money and could just cut the check,” Buxton says. “He does the grunt work, too.”

If Naversen has to slow down, it’s to help others. Just ask Patricia Severson, who has been a Naversen patient for over 20 years.

“He is very considerate and really cares about his patients,” she says. “He cares about what they need and he doesn’t hurry along.”

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt

Doug Naversen (center) will host the 14th annual Britt Woods Firehouse Run on Saturday in Jacksonville. PHOTO BY ANDY ATKINSON