Federal Hat

Battle Report
Bull Run Run 50 Miler

April 8, 2006

Confederate Hat

The BRR 2006

Photo of Tim Stanley
Fourteen-time finisher Tim Stanley with Scott Mills (ninth overall)

Mud, Guts and Glory
Bull Run Run, April 8, 2006, Clifton, VA
14th Battle: 340 Starters, 281 Finishers

Photo of muddy feet
A runner in the mud at Wolf Run Shoals

Actually, we were due. With mild humidity and slightly warm temperatures the worst conditions over the first 13 years, finally having Nature stick it to us should have been expected. Persistent light rain Friday stopped momentarily for Saturday's start, but returned barely an hour into the run and hung around throughout the day. And while early temperatures encouraged some runners to go shirtless, shortly after noon a cold front noticeably dampened spirits and brought out long sleeves and insulating garbage bags. Spirits dampened, yes, but not resolve. Rain, mud, and cold only focused the runners to persevere for the glory of the battle, and perhaps slightly for the Civil War-themed gray or blue finisher's embroidered fleece jacket waiting for them back at Hemlock.

While Leigh Schmitt, Barry Lewis, Todd Walker, Bryon Powell, and Tom Nielsen held fairly tightly together through the first 10 miles, on the four-mile stretch from the aid station at Centreville Road back to the start/finish (and midway aid station) at Hemlock Overlook, Leigh opened a lead that worked out to a pace that was 30 sec/mile faster than his pursuers. Leigh then covered the remaining miles to finish with the same lead over Barry Lewis's second place finish. Leigh's strong performance is underscored by comparing finishing times from previous years: in '04 and '05, over 20 runners would finish under 8:30, while in '06 barely 13 would. The rain, mud, and cold affected everyone but Leigh.

Francesca Conte led the women's field from the start, while Bethany Patterson, Justine Morrison and Laura Bleakley jockeyed for their respective positions -- Laura held second well past 50K, when Bethany made her move to pass both Justine and Laura. The wise BRR veterans understand the race doesn't begin until the exit from the Do Loop!

In the age group divisions, only Vicki Kendall's edge indicated a sense of competition, while Sophie Speidel, Lucia Davidson, Scott Mills, and Frank Probst each held commanding leads over their respective chasers. Mud generally worked in favor of those in the lead, each succeeding pair of shoes only adding more mud and greater challenge to move up in the pack.

BRR also fielded 28 teams this year, in Men, Women, Mixed and Senior categories. Adopting a military operations approach to their performance, a team didn't "finish" unless all five members did -- one DNF cancelled the whole team. Only 14 teams finished -- all eight of the Men's, two of four Women's (both of them GAC of Topsfield, MA), three of 12 Mixed, and one of four Senior's. The Babies, Boomers and Beyond men's team of Brian Powell, Barry Lewis, Tom Nielsen, Scott Mills, and Gary Knipling totaled 39:27, about 5 hours faster than second place in the same division.

Roughly a third of each year's field are first timers at BRR. This year, unaware of how difficult the course would prove for the veterans, 113 of the neophytes found the finish line, walking away contentedly with spirits high and bodies warmed by hard-earned fleece.

A more obvious struggle occurred at each aid station. Runners moving can maintain higher body temperatures, while those in support must wait in place, like frigid foot soldiers stomping in foxholes, to feed the troops. It is to the dogged determination of those cold and wet aid station volunteers that the BRR combatants owe a wealth of gratitude. VHTRC prides itself in consistently offering such unparalleled service to the competitors, regardless of what Nature throws our way.

This was a unique chapter in BRR's battle history. Mud, guts, and glory. Hopefully, like a cicada's cycle, BRR won't again suffer such a weather challenge for another 14 years...

Chris Scott, Race Director

Back to Top of Page


by Anstr Davidson

"Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?"

So, other than the mud, how was the Bull Run Run? Mud was the central theme of the 2006 Bull Run Run. After 13 years of great weather, we finally paid our weather dues. The day started cool and drizzly. At first, it was not unpleasant. But in the late morning, runners and supporters alike suddenly noticed that they were (1) wet and (2) cold. It became a miserable slog through the mud.

The result was that, even though 19 more runners than last year started, there were 10 fewer finishers. The casualty rate was very high. BRR has never been billed as a "hard" race, like Hardrock or MMT, where merely finishing is a great victory. But this year, finishing Bull Run Run was a major achievement. Those who persevered through the mud and cold can feel great sense of accomplishment.

The Race

Just about all the protagonists from last year's battle were back. Could Leigh Schmidt repeat his victory now that everyone was waiting for him? The simple answer, yes. At Fountainhead, he looked strong and fast. Everyone of his pursuers lacked that spring in their steps. Leigh won going away by over 15 minutes. Ageless Barry Lewis, 46, was second and Todd Walker was third. Bryon Powell was fourth in a breakthrough performance.

Photo of Francesca Conte
Francesca Conte Takes Woman's Crown

The women's race was bit closer. Francesca Conte led from start to finish, but was pressed over some of the course. Laura Bleakley came out of nowhere to push Francesca through Fountainhead. But she fell back on the way home. Bethany Patterson gained a great deal over the last part of the course to finish a strong second. Justine Morrison got third, pulling ahead of Bleakley's fourth place.

The age group competition saw some great performances. Sophie Speidel led a large group of talented forty-year old women. The forty year old men were all at the front of the pack, with former champion Tom Nielsen taking second behind Barry Lewis.

Vicki Kendall, declaring that she wasn't going to "race," won the women's 50 year old division. Lucia Davidson became only the second woman 60 or over to finish the event.

On the men's senior side, Scott Mills was the first in the 50 and over age group. Scotty was ninth overall. He is ready for Western States! In the hottest competition of the day, Frank Probst beat Gary Knipling for the sexagenarian title. Gary had beaten Frank a few times lately, and this was payback.


The BRR team competition has become a big deal. This year, 28 teams competed in four divisions. Many teams, however, fell by the wayside because of the rule that all members must finish. This rule has the effect of making very team member important -- especially on this cold, muddy day. It is interesting to note that no male team DNF'ed. Several teams in the other classes did.

The winning male team, Babies, Boomers and Beyond, was appropriately composed of runners who did not need to introduce themselves on the starting line. The other VHTRC winning team, the Over The Hill Furbutts, won the Senior division. The other two divisions were won by non-VHTRC teams. GAC Betties won the female division. In fact, both wining female teams were GAC sponsored. The winning mixed team was the Red Cup Rats from PA.

Many teams, including at least one Dream Team, crashed on the shoals of reality when one or more members floundered in the mud. Cherry picking doesn't always work!

Other Accomplishments

The four runners who have finished all Bull Run Runs, Frank Probst, Tim Stanley, Mike Talbert, and Tom Green, all finished. Tom, however, cut it a bit close and only made it because a helpful aid station person took the empty cups out of a trash bag at the Marina and gave it to Tom for a jacket.

Rob Apple, Gary Knipling, and Marcia Peters all earned ten-year jackets. Marcia became the second woman, along with fellow Pennsylvanian Dale Weitzel, to finish ten times. Rob, by the way, really does start in DFL. On the loop around the parking lot he was letting all go ahead of him so he was dead last.

The Course

While the course was wet and muddy, it also was beautiful. The bluebells and spring beauties adorned the fields in Bull Run Regional Park. There were also bursts of redbud here and there. We expect to receive our usual wild flower report from Dr. Knipling, aka, Gary.

For awhile, the trail held up under the strain of 300+ pairs of feet and the rain. But by the afternoon, and in some places much sooner, the course was a brown mush. Runners had to expend much more energy to move much more slowly in the mud.


Photo of Wolf Run Shoals Crew
Staff of the Wolf Run Shoals aid station. Just a bunch of fruits.

The Wolf Run Shoals aid station again had a theme that was a secret until race day. They were "Fruit of the Loom." The station, like the others on the course, catered to the runners every need -- or almost every need, anyway. This year, the supply of ice cream sandwiches was more than ample. Not too many people were thinking of ice cream in this weather.

The BRR Style

We pride ourselves in offering something special at BRR. Something you don't usually get elsewhere. This year, the special treat was a hose to wash the mud off your feet at the finish. Don't want to get under cold water at that point? No problem. The hose was hooked up to the hot water tap!

Photo: sign about hot water hose
Seen outside the showers.

Of course, we had the usual fire place, hot coffee and chocolate milk, and showers. And for the finishers, a nice jacket to keep you warm!

The Volunteers

As usual, many people gave many hours of their time to help the runners in their quests to complete the course. Most aid station volunteers and all captains have been here before. Several people spent many hours before race day to plan the event and arrange the many goodies a runner receives. BRR is a big deal, planning it is not trivial.

We Were Due

A VHTRC member who studies the weather said on the day before the event, "It seems that Bull Run often attracts difficult-to-forecast weather." We have had several different types of weather at BRR, but never something like this. But look at it this way. Would you want to say, "I have only finished Bull Run Run in good weather."? No. You want to be tested. This year's BRR tested the entrants. Their victories should make them proud, their defeats should not ashame them. You can't just go out and run in only good weather. This year's event taught us all that we can organize and participate in a 50 mile run in any weather. That is very empowering. But it still sucks.

Back to Top of Page

Runners Wait in Line for Hot Water Hose to Clean Off

Back to Top of Page

Team Results

Teams were scored on the total combined time of all members. If one or more of a team's members didn't finish the race, the team was not qualified to compete and is listed as "DNF."

PlaceTeamTeam Members
Male Division
1Babies, Boomers and BeyondTom Nielsen, Gary Knipling, Barry Lewis, Scott Mills, Bryon Powell
2Philly BrigadeRick Palmer, Kevin Bligan, Joe Kulak, Christopher Mortensen, Steve Noone
3Flying FurbuttsRuss Evans, John H Anderson, Michael Campbell, Prasad Gerard, Keith Moore
4The Eh TeamLes Michalak, Vincent Charbonneau, John Connor, Geoff Sheppard, Moe White
5Men's Joy Luck ClubAlexander Papadopoulos, Scott Crabb, David Quivey, Robert Saraniero, Mike Smith
6GAC BeatTheBettiesMarty Sullivan, Peter A. Copelas, Edward Mulvey, Jason Patch, Randy Wetzel
7Team Runs with BeerDaniel Govern, Randy Dietz, Al Kershner, Bill LaDieu, Garry Rarer
8GAC - JjedsDan Walsh, Jim Gilford, Scott Homan, Jerry Kennedy, Edward Wogan
Female Division
1GAC BettiesLori Lebel, Susan Collins-Pulick, Martha Gilford, Kristin Mastrodomenico, Cheryl Mulvey
2GAC WannaBettiesJeanne Christie, Sarah Heck, Penny Matel, Sara Shinn, Laurel Valley
DNFBabes in the WoodsKirstin Walcott, Lucia Davidson, Challen Edwards, Joyce Fendley, Rayna Matsuno
DNFVhtrc Dirt DivasSophie Speidel, Laura DeWald, Marty Lindemann, Justine Morrison, Donna Utakis
Mixed Division
1Red Cup RatsDaniel Schaeffer, Libby Crockart, Dave Gallen, Marlene Rarer, Ken Seale
2TrailDawgs a la BuzzO Hunt Bartine, Margie Hughes, Paul Melzer, Gerard Prilutski, Diana Widdowson
3Hot BunsMary White, Hillary Cardin, Raymond Durgan, Dan Kress, John Prohira
DNFMCRRC Flying BatteryCathy Blessing, Ernesto Casarez, Ron Ely, Philip Hough, Joseph Kilcoyne
DNFGAC WannaBeesSusan McCarthy, John Carey, Norman Richardson, Kenny Rogers, Randy Witlicki
DNFGAC Trail SweepersVicki Blais, Luis Bergstrom, Darlene Foley, Melanie Kalafatis, Dave Mahan
DNFDa Do Run Run Bull Run RunLaura Bleakley, Mike Feldstein, Timothy Mangan, Joy Valvano, James Blaakman
DNFBeth and the BoysDarin Dunham, Quatro Hubbard, Adam Matheson, Bethany Patterson, David Snipes
DNFMCRRC Foot CavalryAngelo Witten, Lorrin Harvey, Brian Ivins, Pete Pontzer, Catherine (Katie) Poole
DNFStale Buns 2Dave Sek, Bill Hearne, John Melville, David Newman, Teresa Sukiennicki
DNFC2H5OHStephen Platt, John Dodds, Wendy Fite, Tim Foley, Jaret Seiberg
DNFEight Balls and Two dirty Pillows (AKA RATS)Greg Deland, Corinne Balestrier, Anthony Laino, Philip Lechner, Don Mengel
Senior Division
1Over The Hill FurbuttsEd Cacciapaglia, Tom Corris, Frank Probst, Bill Turrentine, Linda Wack
DNFCap'n Charlie's Fading FurbuttsCharlie Miracle, Steve Bowles, Vicki Kendall, Dru Sexton, Graham Zollman
DNFGAC GeezersJeff Washburn, Jim Barry, Peter Bonaccorsi, Debora Cole, John Mathews
DNFFabulous Feisty FiftiesSharon Lapkoff, Alan Gowen, Pam Gowen, John Nelson, Carole Smith

Back to Top of Page

Photo of Bull Run Cake
The cake at the pre-race meal

BRR Home Page | Top of Page

Virginia Happy Trails Running Club
Home | News | Events | Membership | Members Only | Photos
Bull Run 50 | Massanutten Mt. Trails 100 | Training Runs | Links