I had the great pleasure of running the Bull Run Run 50 miler in Virginia on Saturday. Pleasure and pain, I should say. I haven't ran a 50 miler since last year. I ran ok, finishing middle of the pack, though I definitely have run stronger. Sometimes you have to throw yourself out there and see what happens, or at least that's my theory.
Bull Run is special. I believe I read that it is the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club's oldest race, and one of the older trail runs in the country. Terrific club--I got to meet a few of their stalwarts, some of whom will be coming west in August for Cascade.
All day there were positive vibes in the air--hellos and smiles on the out and backs, great cheers and support from the aid stations. Very encouraging. There was even fresh pizza at the 32.5/35.5 aid station! And they gave me an ice cream sandwich at the end--I have never tasted one so good. Finishers received a terrific Patagonia half-zip, which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Bull Run.
The Battle of Bull Run was the first major land battle of the Civil War. As a kid, when I grew up in Virginia, we went to Bull Run and carried out a little reenactment of the battle between the North and South. I died, taking a Nerf Ball to the shoulder, during an all out charge. In this race, you have to declare your affiliation and you can sign up to be on teams for either side. All good fun.
The course itself is beautiful, and we had perfect running weather. Spring is one of the best times of year to be back east, as the famous Virginia bluebells are in bloom, along with all sorts of other foliage. The course meanders along different creeks, called "runs," like Bull Run. The trail is single track, with flowers to the sides, and brown leafs on the ground. Topographically, the course ascends and descends frequently, and in the aggregate is probably 4 or 5k in elevation gain, as per one Garmin report I saw. The up and down wore on me after a while. Not too technical, though there are a few spots.
The course goes south of the battlefield to begin with, on a 17 mile out and back. The mud factor was high, with every step requiring that little extra pull to raise the feet. It rained a lot the day before, like a monsoon. The rain can be really mean here. There was a busted bridge we had to cross early on that was a real hazard. I slipped crossing it, and had to crawl to reach the other side. Someone else went all in. There were also a number of creek crossings--the feet got wet.
The second half of the race was drier, and would've allowed for more speed, if I had it. The course wanders over nobs and by muddy waterways, through deciduous trees, and across the green battlefield. The sound of muzzelloaders going off could be heard, probably as part of some reenactment drill. They make this loud crack, that kind of hangs in the air, and if a bunch of them go off, it is really something. This added that extra little flavor of history to the run, Stephen Crane style. I think the protagonist in his book ran, away, and then later returned to fight.
Toward the end of the out and back, at Mile 32.5, there was a little three mile loop, called the Do Loop, I think. A little up and down affair, over every possible ridge. I bonked here, and lost a lot of ground on my time. After that, I just kind of sucked it up and finished the event, frequently walking, running when I had it.
One thing that made the event particularly special for me is my sister Anne came out with her fiancee, both locals, and supported me as they could. This was my first time meeting John, and we got to spend some time together, between the start and the wonderful barbq afterwards. Add to that the time I've spent with the rest of my family, a little bit of work and visits with friends, and it has been a wonderful visit.