Saturday, April 7, 2001 -- Clifton, VA
Bull Run Run 50 Miler (iPO Event Id#: 2661)
Story by Brad Yurish (writer, racer, and newbie ultra-runner) with photos by Karen Diehl
The Bull Run ultra takes place at Hemlock Overlook Park in Clifton, Virginia, and runs along the famous and historic Bull Run and Occoquan River. However, do not think for a minute that this is a flat riverside trail. It is anything but flat. With trails continually winding far above the water's edge and back down, this run had plenty of hills of all shapes and sizes for everyone.
The run started at the park promptly at 6:15 A.M. and ran 8.5 miles North along Bull Run. The first aid station was at Centerville Road (rt. 28) at mile 6.5. The race then went another 2 miles out and turned around. This is the first section to really begin testing a person's determination. The mud along this section was as thick and greasy as any mud this writer has ever seen. It might have been easier to run on ice at this point. However, this only added to the entire experience and gave runners plenty to talk about as everyone carried on through the rest of the race. I'm sure there were many instances where people went down along this trail, but one incident that I saw sort of summed up the feeling at this point in the race.
There came a point where a low spot in the trail had most everyone
trying to jump the 'mud pit' and land on the other side. One fellow,
who will remain nameless (only because I didn't get his name!)
planted his right foot smack dab in the middle of this pit. Well, his
foot came out but his shoe stayed in the mud! He made it out of the
muck to get to the other side, but when he turned around to retrieve
his shoe he slipped and landed smack in the mud right next to his
From this point, the trail wound all through the woods back up to the start/finish at the Hemlock Overlook Park for mile 15.5. At this aid station there were cookies, candies, sandwiches, salt, fruit, and tons of other foods and drinks. The volunteers at these aid stations did an excellent job of helping runners find whatever they needed.
From here the trail dropped off the plateau of the hemlock park to run
on some great singletrack trails. At one point, the trail goes right
through about 10 soccer fields, all of which were being played on.
This was definitely an interesting moment in the race. Hundreds of
people were cheering and screaming for the kids on the field just as
the runners were coming through after having ran 20 miles in the
relative quiet of the woods.
As the trail went further South, it would be another 10 miles before
there was an aid station where crew' members could meet runners.
However, 5 miles down the trail there was an aid station, but it was
unlike anything most non ultra-runners have seen. About a mile before
the 'space station' were signs alluding to an 'Odyssey 2001
Adventure'. Beside these signs were black shutters with one entitled
"The Dawn of Man", a stuffed monkey, and another one proclaimed ice
cream 1/2 miles ahead. Having not seen the movie, this writer had no
idea what was going on. For a moment, I thought I was starting to
become delirious. However, running into the 'space station/aid
station' all fears of going mad were put to rest. Volunteers were
dressed in white NASA overalls with aluminum foil covering their
heads, and anything else the suits didn't cover. The theme for this
station was of course, the movie '2001:Space Odyssey' and all of the
volunteers did a wonderful job playing their respective parts.
A 2.5-mile loop that was included in the southbound leg was not included on the northbound leg, much to this writer's surprise and delight. But there were still some hard miles ahead and a final monstrous climb to the finish line.
At this point, the sun decided to come out to heat up what was an
already hot and muggy day for the first week of April. However, once
again this was just a test to see if runners could complete the
challenge of the Bull Run ultra. I'm sure many people walked a number
of the steep hills in the last 12 miles, although the aid stations
really helped runners stay fueled up and their spirits high. Without
the cheering and enthusiasm from the volunteers and spectators at this
point, it would have made an already tough run even tougher. After
making it back to the last 2 miles of the race, runners had to
navigate the most technical sections of the trail. At this point, most
persons were having a hard time staying on their feet, let alone
scrambling over and under this super technical rock garden! The
change in the trail actually felt good for this runner and again,
added to the overall experience. Once this was completed, runners had
1 mile of fairly flat trail and a 1/2 mile hill to climb to the finish
After most everyone had finished, Scott Mills gathered everyone together to give out awards. But since not all runners had finished, each time a runner came toward the finish line, the awards ceremony was stopped and a huge round of applause broke out.
Howard Nippert won this year's race and even with slow trail conditions, broke the course record with a time of 6:25:37. Michele Burr placed an impressive 9th overall, and won the women's division with a time of 8:05:05 in a field where women took 5 of the top 20 places. Scott Mills, Anstr Davidson2 and the rest of the VHTRC put on an excellent race that was as organized as well as any event I have ever seen, especially one with 300 entrants, six aid stations, and a start that began in the dark! The aid stations and volunteers should also be commended for doing an excellent job of feeding the runners and keeping our spirits high.
1 'The trail, as it is, was done by horse people before the BRR ever happened. It is usually ill defined so we have to "make" it each year. This year, someone swept the trail with a broom. It was never this well marked before.' Anstr Davidson, Race Director
2 'Thanks for the mention of me, but I really don't deserve it compared to a lot of other people!' Anstr Davidson, Race Director