Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bull Run Run 50

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9

The Bull Run Run is a 50 mile endurance run that travels up and down the Bull Run-Occoquan River Trail in Clifton, VA. I was fortunate enough to be able to complete the run for the second year in a row on Saturday, 18 April. This is a good run for me for a couple of reasons; the start is only 10 minutes from my house and I am very familiar with the trails, which I think is a huge mental advantage in long races. The race is sponsored by the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club (VHTRC) and they do an incredible job. This race has some of the best volunteer and aid station support of any race I have competed in. Thanks to all of the volunteers for their time and effort.

On to the race – Looking at the weather forecast, I knew that the day was going to start out beautiful but get warm quickly, and it did, with a high hitting almost 80 degrees by early afternoon. I break this race down into 4 sections; the upstream (16.7 mi), downstream (11 mi), Do-Loop (10 mi), and the home stretch (12.5 mi). At 0630, 314
"Photo © http://www.oellaworks.com/ Geoffery S. Baker"
runners started out from Hemlock Overlook Park and began the 17th running of the Bull Run Run. After a quick, and I mean quick, .7 mile loop around the park to stretch out the field, we jumped on to single track trail and there we would stay for the remainder of the day and started on the upstream section.
This part of the trail leaves Hemlock and travels up the Bull Run Creek to Bull Run Park. The field was moving very fast, just as it did last year. My feeling was the faster I run now the less I will have to run in the heat, that thought process was flawed,
however it sounded good at the time and I was averaging about 9 minute miles into the first aid station (7 mi). Leaving the first aid station we continued upstream to the turn around point and then started heading back to Hemlock. This portion of the trail, being a pure out and back, gives you the opportunity to see the entire field of runners, everybody was still looking good at this early part of the race. I climbed the big hill into Hemlock and rolled into the aid station (16.7mi) at 2h:39m and was told that I was in 42nd place. After a quick refuel I was onto the downstream section.
Leaving Hemlock we went down the same trail to the river and this time took a left and headed towards Fountainhead Park. This is the toughest portion of the trail, no big mountains just continuous hills of 50 to 200 feet up and down for 11 miles. My aid station time was great during the race and I was able to efficiently get in and out all day, averaging just over a minute per aid station. The Marina aid station was at about 21 miles and provided for a good top off of my water and a couple of Succeed Caps (I took about 15 of these throughout the day). After a couple more big hills I was at the Wolf Shoals Run aid station (26 mi) at 4h 7m and feeling good, all systems were checking out great and I new that it was only 2 miles to Fountainhead and the beginning of the Do-Loop section.

I got into Fountainhead about 20 minutes later and started into the 10 mile Do-Loop section which is actually a couple of loops. The Do-Loop itself is a 3 mile loop on some nasty cross compartment trails, after about a 5 mile approach we got to the Do Loop aid station and entered into loop. For me this section is not as bad as it is for others, I actually enjoy this trail. The hills in this section are short but steep and the trails were still covered in leaves which forced me to concentrate more on foot placement and less on how tired I was getting. After about 30 minutes around the Do-Loop I came back to the aid station refilled and headed back to Fountainhead (38 mi).
I left Fountainhead at about 6h 20m and started the home stretch. A short 2 miles later I was running into Wolf Shoals aid station and then before I knew it I was back at the Marina with only 5 miles to go. The heat was definitely taking its toll and my legs had been on the verge of cramping but they never did. I knew that during this section there were only 2 big hills that would offer me an excuse to walk for a while and I was able to run the rest of the way. The last 2 miles of the course are along the river and they dragged on for a long time and I was happy to finally come up on the last big climb up to Hemlock and the finish. I crossed at 8h 41m 31s, in 32nd place, 10 minutes better than last years time (Results).
I felt exhausted at the end, which told me I had put in a good, hard effort. I think that the speed work I have been incorporating into my workouts has helped tremendously. The Lord continues to bless me and it is once again to Him I give the glory of completing this race. My next event is a mere 2 weeks away, the 24 hour Adventure Trail Run sponsored by Athletic Equations. This event is directed by Alex Papadopoulos and Scott Crabb, big supporters of the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. A portion of the proceeds from this race are donated to the fund each year. These guys are a class act and I look forward to seeing them in a couple of weeks. Run Strong!
God Bless and Semper Fi,

Training for 13-19 April: Weekly Mi (63.0), Monthly Mi (134.2), Yearly Mi (697.1)
Mon: 5 mi - Crossramp
Wed: 8 mi – WO&D Trail AM Run Commute / ABs
Sat: 50 mi-Bull Run Run
Sun: Recovery


  1. Nice work, Mike! Congrats from a fellow BRR veteran.

  2. Excellent run --- thank you for the fine report, Michael! - ^z

  3. Enjoyed your post. I am considering the BRR as my first ultra. Would love your opinion. How technical is the trail?

  4. Well to be hones i wish i could've been there. It is an interesting spiritual journey.

  5. Its an ongoing adventure to participate in such a marathon. To be honest this kind of physical delight is good for the soul.

  6. On this bull run of 50 miles i don't think i could do it, i would crack on a half of the distance.

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