The Bull Run trails are truly amazing. This was my first time visiting since elementary school and I immediately fell in love. So much that it has become my go to training place to prepare for races with a bit more climbing. The hills are not long enough nor steep enough to break you but present enough up and downs to make you work. The trails provide a wonderful mix of single track, rocky sections, and otherwise prove very runnable. Even though the course is described as flat, as one might say if compared to races out west or other parts of Virginia, Bull Run has plenty of hills.
VHTRC is a fun group and an excellent race host. They have a lot of neat races elsewhere, especially MMT 100. Everyone is super friendly, determined to have fun first, and not get too caught up in the competitive nature of racing. While we’re all starting to gather near the start, the RD explains the crack in the road as the start line. No timing system, corrals, or rules beyond get behind the crack. I loved all of this.
Aside from the hills, the several creek crossings proved lots of fun. All of them can be navigated without finding yourself knee deep in water. Most have stable enough rocks to tip toe across. I love creek crossings because they are fun. That’s it. As adults we get so few chances to play like we did as kids. Trail running provides more of that joy, whether it’s crossing creeks or zipping down a hill. It’s all so wonderfully simple and fun.
What I learned
Patience. Because of some early bridges and creek crossings to navigate, there were more than a handful of human bottlenecks. One of them resulted in a line! A line of people in the woods! I do these things to be alone in the woods and not stand in a line. This was a real patience tester but also a lesson learned to better understand the course. Know what you’re going to face and do your best to manage all of the race elements.
Toe the dang line. This one was tough. I sprained my ankle on an easy 5 mile trail run just days before the race. My wife still reminds me how stupid I was to even start this race. I was on crutches the days before and did everything in my power to heal my ankle. Everyone told me to skip the race and let the ankle heal. They weren’t wrong but they also don’t understand the DNA of most runners. I started the race prepared to run 1 mile or 50. I ended up running 35 slow and painful miles. Lots of other things started to hurt as I was clearly favoring and compensating for the entire 35 miles. So yes I quit but at least I gave it shot. I’ve used this as inspiration for other races facing similar setbacks and have finished those races.
Run more hills. A theme from this blog is that I never claim to be smart. I ran my first trail race without ever stepping foot on a trail and ran my first hilly ultra without sniffing any real hills. I had done some hill repeats but quickly learned the convenient trail that rips through my neighborhood is just not enough. The ankle injury didn’t help but I found the Bull Run hills to be humbling. I had a race in Colorado two months after Bull Run with over 12k feet of gain. I knew I was in for a world of hurt but had some time to get ready. Once my ankle healed, I quickly returned to Bull Run to get in some hill training. I’ve since learned those hills were not enough and have graduated to far bigger climbs. More on that topic after Mountain Masochist.