I wasn’t even signed up for the BRR – Bull Run Run (50K), but I was at their first training run the past weekend.
In our area there is a famous Civil War battlefield, actually there are a few, but Bull Run is probably more so because it was Confederate first victory and the Union retreated in disarray in our backyard.
The race is not about a remembrance on the war or its history at least to my knowledge. It is just a run that happened near the famous battlefield. No race is held on the actual battleground itself (I think that is the National Park’s rule across the nation that forbids running or similar activities in a National Park or on a hallowed ground).
The BRR will take place along the Bull Run Trail starting from Bull Run Park and along the namesake river. And I think it will be an out and back. I am not familiar with the details because I never got a chance to run it. I think that generally the direction.
As for the trail, I have been training on it since last year for other races because it is the closest trail to my home, maybe about 4 miles away. To my joy, it is one of those trails that is not being “improved” on. All, if not all our urban trails are paved and widened so they are no longer are natural trails any more. I understand doing so allow greater access, but it takes away the joy of those who like the tough terrains. This one Bull Run Trail still has dirt and mud and all the nasty stuff (and feels authentic) and it is quite long (as least long enough for a 50K) and out of the way of development, so it gives the feel of being in the wild. Occasionally, we do see some houses or bridges.
I have been eyeing and wanting to run the BRR (the race) when I first was interested in ultra/trail running, but the race is usually full by the time I find out about the sign up. As so, this year, I heard it is sold out. I have never gotten a spot. Also, back then I was nervous about doing it too and usually don’t pay a closer attention to the sign up date, because I think it was outside of my ability (I hadn’t run a 50K then). Now, my perspective has changed, after all I could run a 100k or more. I am no longer scared of a 50K. But BRR now has less a draw on me.
I happened to saw their training run announced on Facebook, and no sign up was necessary. I jumped at the chance to run it with my local runners. A training run is almost like the real deal.
My scheduling worked out. My other race, the Waterfall 50K was canceled for a 2nd time (a bit of a disappointment) but it opened up my Saturday.
We had probably one of the coldest day this winter this Saturday. People said it was 16F but I think it was around 9F (-12C) when I started the run. The cold just sucked all the heat from me. I don’t remember if ever I was outside when it is this cold. Luckily it was not windy. I started at the trailhead near my home and ran to the training rally point, about 5 miles downstream. We were to meet at the Hemlock Overlook.
I overestimated myself and did not arrive to the training place on time. Also initially I thought it was only 4 miles. I was dragging my feet somewhat in getting out the house, due to the cold, and I wanted to make sure I had everything for the day. Luckily another runner was also late. She came from Baltimore and had trouble finding parking. The group had left before she was ready. I ran with her till we caught the tailend of the group. It was good to have a companion.
She ran at a much faster pace than I could keep up, so by 10 mile in, I needed a break, when we happened to be back at where my car was. Unbeknown to me the aid station was only maybe 3 miles further. I stopped at my car to change out my clothes and pants and lubed up. My shirts were soaked and the sweat on my hair was frozen. It was that cold. I got some rub burn I had to take care of – usually is the case when the clothes are wet. I felt better after changing and I ate some bread I had in the car.
I caught back up with my new friend since she and her group stopped for a toilet break. On the way back, we stuck with her new group. Later though, one of the ladies was moving much slower, so I slowed down too and stayed with her. I became the group sweeper (meaning being last person). We got back to Hemlock and other people were waiting for us. We somehow took a longer route back (1.5 miles longer).
My run continued into the afternoon because I wanted to add more miles. The day warmed up to 32. The ice on the ground melted and the trail became slushy and muddy. I finished with 27 miles. I originally intended to do a 50K (31 mi), but toward near the end I was low in energy and since it was not a race, there was no point to grind out another 4 miles to get the bragging right.
Experience: I would say I enjoyed the training run maybe even more than if I run in the race itself. We had good support. People were nice. Even toward the end of the day, I was still meeting a few stragglers. Some started even later than me. I think it was special to bring out a bunch of ultra runners and it felt like a race day.
I was not training for BRR since I did not secure a spot in the race. No one minded. The thing is we could just show up and do the training. I felt good to gather with other runners. I noted this is my first social run since the start of the pandemic.
Note for self. I met an older lady during the BRR-TR who has done the MMT 100. Her advice to me is do all their training runs – especially the Chocolate Bunny (around Easter I think), which is a midnight run on the mountain. I think it is something I’ll be looking forward to do. This is important because from now on, all my trainings will focus toward the MMT.