By Mathew Brock

Pilot Sports Writer

Through the woods, cross the rivers and over the mountains to the Oregon coast they went.

Roughly 1,000 runners finished their exhausting 218-mile journey at Azalea Park on Saturday after starting the 2018 Wild Rogue Relay on the shores of Applegate Lake near Jacksonville, Oregon.

While the event’s arrangement with the forest service forced them to downgrade this year’s numbers from the usual 1,200 to only 1,000, the event saw 99 teams of six to 12 people run the 36-leg relay this year.

First place was taken by Jacksonville Physical Therapy, a 12-person team of friends from the the Medford-Ashland area who have been running off and on together for years, but entered the Wild Rogue Relay together as a team for the first time this year. Their members were Jared Furiman, Kurt Smet, Kyle Carson, Victoria Mayfield, Phil Hanson, Anthony Rodriguez, Josh Minchow, Phil Reed, Aaren Reed and Justin Carson.

“Everybody ran way faster than we were supposed to. We were aiming to cross the finish line in about 24 hours and ended up at 24:24,” said Kyle Carson, team captain of the Jacksonville Physical Therapy team. “We started as the very last team too, so we were really excited.”

Carson says the team intends to compete again next year to defend their title and are looking for more relays and marathons to run in the meantime.

Shannon Christopher from Brookings also competed in this year’s relay for The Mole Skins, who came in at 55th place with a time of 34:00.09. While her teammates were strangers from as far as Southern California, she was glad for the opportunity to bond with some new people and experience the race for the first time together.

“I was pretty apprehensive and nervous at first, but afterwards I feel it was really a life changing kind of experience,” Christopher said. “This kind of thing really changes us after it tests us physically and mentally. I feel like I view the world in a better way after such a challenge.”

Christopher said that the hardest part of the relay was getting so little sleep between her three legs. Her favorite part was the nighttime portion of the race where she ran through forests and trails during pitch black and eerily quiet conditions.

While uncertain if she’ll compete again next year, Christopher says she wouldn’t say no if invited back. She plans to find more races to run in the meantime.

According to Race Director Jim Brendle, this year’s race went fairly smooth The medics saw almost no incidents on Friday and responded promptly to only a few issue on Saturday. The Wild Rogue Relay hopes to increase the number of volunteers and stations along the race route next year, as well as working to educate its runners on some of the intricacies of running such a long race and varied race ahead of time.

“The volunteers and all the people who put on the race made a really big difference this year,” Brendle said. “There’s a few rules we need to abide by from the government and the biggest one is to not block traffic on the roads.”

Brendle said that most runners instinctively want to run against traffic, but that instinct makes several portions of the relay problematic due to narrow roads and heavy traffic coming from one direction. Next year he plans to invest in some signage to advise both runners and traffic on the best way to travel certain legs of the relay.

Brendle also said that many sponsor have begun taking an interest in the relay, with United Rentals and Cal-Ore Life Flight playing a huge role this year by helping transport racers to their respective legs and providing rest areas for volunteers.

Registration for the 2019 Wild Rogue Relay will begin about a month. For more information on the relay visit http://thewildroguerelay.com/ and for a full list of results visit www.webscorer.com/.racedetails?raceid=141012.

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