Race recap: 2015 Britt Woods Firehouse Run

Runners take off in the “exhibition” races.

The Britt Woods Firehouse Run in Jacksonville, OR (just west of Medford), with its unique handicapped start, was a race that I’d always been interested in running. In fact, I must have previewed it in detail more than once for the Run Oregon Blog, because I had this strange feeling that I had run the race before, even though I was certain I hadn’t!

The unusual format has runners starting in different waves based on age and gender. For example, 50- and 51-year-old men (my wave) got a 6-minute head start on 19-30 year olds. Older men and women got as much as a 22-minute head start. Trophies are awarded to the first man and woman to cross the line, and ribbons are presented to the Top 20 overall finishers, regardless of gender.

The handicapping system means that anyone could emerge as champion in any given year, at least in theory. You never know who will catch you, who you will catch, or when it will occur. It makes for a fun and unpredictable racing experience.

I arrived at the start about an hour early, and picked up my number, which was quick and efficient. The T-shirts were still on a UPS truck in Roseburg, to be mailed out by the race director. Based on the nature of the event and previous years’ shirts worn by other participants, I knew the design would be cool, and I was hoping to be able to show off my shirt back in Portland that evening. But it’s always nice to have something fun to look forward to in the mail, so I wasn’t too disappointed.

The course map was a little confusing for those unfamiliar with the Britt Woods trails, but it provided a general sense of what was in store: Two similar but slightly different loops, and LOTS of hills. The course itself was very well-marked with colored coded arrows for each loop, and volunteers stationed at every crucial intersection. The entire race was on trails, with no roads or traffic whatsoever.

More runners start the one-loop races.

The event got underway with a 100-yard dash for kids, followed by “exhibition” (i.e., no results) races on each of the two individual loops. Then it was time for Wave A to line up and take advantage of their 22-minute advantage, followed in 1-minute intervals by Waves B, C, D, etc., to the cheers of those still waiting to take off. I was in Wave T, so I had a lot of catching up to do (and a lot of maintaining my lead over my pursuers!)

The race started out with a short downhill, followed by a short, flat out-and-back section. Before too long it was time to tackle the first hill. The Britt Woods is a great place to run with a large area of dirt trails, a variety of loops, and of course several hills and ridges.

Having run mostly relatively flat, paved 5ks this spring and summer, the hilly, dirt 10k was a little more taxing than I’ve been used to, but despite the tired legs and slow pace, it was still a fun experience in a beautiful setting. In fact, the hills help distract from the heat (which actually wasn’t as bad as the 105-degree temperatures locals described from the week before). I managed to catch up to several runners and only got passed by three. Everyone was very encouraging, whether being passed or passing others.

After staggering across the finish, I took advantage of the water, bananas, oranges, and grapes, and hung around for the presentation of the trophies and ribbons. Despite trudging up a couple (OK, a few!) of the hills, I still managed to take home a unique teal-colored ribbon for 7th place.

I’m glad I finally got to run this unique race, and I’m looking forward to the T-shirt and its surprise design. I’m sure it will be as special as the race itself, and I’ll wear this souvenir from Southern Oregon with pride. For results, click HERE.

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