Battle Report
Bull Run Run 50 Miler

April 18, 2009


Amy Sproston
Female winner Amy Sproston runs through the bluebells on way to second fastest female BRR time
Photo: Aaron Schwartzbard

This page has the results and information from the 2009 Bull Run Run 50 Miler. We expect new items over the next week so come back again.

If you have a comment about the run or something (pictures or reports) that you think should be linked from this page, e-mail Anstr at

North-South Competition

North-South Competition
Under 10 Hours
North 73 73
South 24 69.8
Total 97  

New this year was a competition between forces for the North and South. All runners who finished under 10 hours scored for the side they had enlisted in, or been conscripted for. There were 97 finishers under 10 hours. Of those, 73 were from the North and 24 were from the South. Since there were more Northern troops, we multiplied the South finisher by the fudge factor (about 2.9), we got 69.8. Consequently, the North won. While this was just a battle and a very faux one at that, this was not a "war." Consequently, the South does not need to have another 20 years of Reconstruction and the SEC doesn't have to go back to crappy football.

Initial Report

by Anstr Davidson
Running through the Bluebells
Homophones Leigh and Brian run through the bluebells.
Photo: Aaron Schwartzbard

The weather. It was all about the weather. The day was beautiful -- clear, dry, and warm. Ah, there's the rub. Too warm. The official high temperature was 79.6°F. On the last day like this around here, we had a different president! How do you prepare for weather like this? Third place Andy Hill from Canada noted that this was his first run of the year without wearing tights.

Other than the heat, it was a great day. The bluebells were in their full glory. The course was relatively dry and well-marked.

Leigh Schmitt ran 6:31:14 while Amy Sproston was first women running 7:34:05, the second fastest female time at the event. There were many other great performances.

There were 314 starters and 266 official finishers. (We need to check this. Those numbers might vary.

We will have a lot more about the event available soon. All will be linked from this page. Come back again to see!

A huge thanks to the many volunteers who worked so hard to make the day so great for everyone. Happy trails!

Wildflower Report

by Gary Knipling

Bluebells Another Bull Run Run, another April, another springtime ritual of trail running in Northern Virginia. The 17th BRR is now recorded in history. Although 79 degrees is not considered hot running, the clear skies and marginal leaf cover made for a hot day for runners and volunteers. Most of the runners were in warmer conditions than they had run in 5 -6 months. I asked for ice in my water bottle at least a half-dozen times. Without hesitation, “boom” I had it within a minutes time. Are those great aid stations, or what?? Every one has his or her method for keeping “cool” and the gamut was in form on Saturday. One particular runner (bib # 15) took a side path down the boat ramp at the Marina to completely submerge himself for his cool down for the last 5.5 miles.

Each of the 2009 champions was familiar with the BRR winner’s circle. Amy Sproston won her second BRR (1st in ’07) and Leigh Schmitt won his fourth crown (others ’05, ’06, ’07). Congratulations to both Amy and Leigh. The pressure will already be on them to return next year to defend.

There are countless incidents that happen to one runner or another during any ultra run. Some are mishaps, most are good incidents. One mishap I didn’t even know about until after I finished involved the homophones, Leigh and Brian (careful here – although Anstr already publicly labeled them this). Trail monitors who were to be positioned at the north turnaround at mile 9.4 were delayed getting to their spot because of having to replace down blue ribbons on the trail. (Why does this happen so often at trail runs?? Are there that many ornery or jealous hikers/people out there, or are they being so protective of the beauty of the trail to remove anything man-made??) At any rate, Leigh Schmitt and Brian Schmidt were juking it out in the lead and ran past the unattended turnaround. They ran about ½ mile past the turnaround before realizing their strayed position. They each recovered nicely to claim #1 and #4 finish places, respectfully, but about eight minutes time was lost by each of them.

Before the 17th running of BRR, there were four men who had completed them all. Now there are three. Michael Talbert, now from Oklahoma City, had been coming back to Virginia each April for 4 ~ 5 years to complete the run. He was registered for 2009 but had to change his travel plans [due to injury] just a day before coming back. Tim Stanley, Frank Probst, and Tom Green each finished Bull Run to keep their strings going. It is especially impressive to see that Tom Green finished in about 12:11 considering he had major achilles tendon reconstructive surgery last November. Congrats to Tim, Frank and Tom for finishing every year since 1992. Marcia Peters from Pennsylvania extended her record for most finishes among women with #12 in the books.

trout lillies
Trout Lilly

Even though there are always many familiar, veteran runners at Bull Run Run, I am surprised each year at the number of “newbies” to the event. This year the pre-run entrants with zero finishes comprised 39% of the field. This led to a very impressive 44% of the finishers in ’09 being first timers. It is a tribute to BRR that so many newcomers to the sport of ultra running are given the chance to compete, and the stats show that opportunity is taken seriously by the runners.

For me, the 50 miles of trail and the full day in the woods has so many categories of positive experiences. Some of these categories include social, appreciation, encouragement, endorphin ups and downs, helpful fellow runners, tremendous volunteer effort, and beauty of nature aspects. Any sighting of flora or fauna in its natural setting is a gift to me. Unfortunately, I also witnessed a sad sighting when I came upon a fisherman who had just killed a mature two-foot-long northern water snake just south of the Marina bridge on my return trip. I challenged the man telling him how unnecessary it was to kill a non-poisonous beneficial snake like that. I knelt down to try to point out the beauty of the reddish-brown blotchy patterns on the back of the now-dead body. There were several barriers in our conversation including language, social and nature appreciation. I wonder if anything I said made a difference to him? I also heard of happy snake sightings as Sharon Lapkof and Dave Yeakel each reported seeing garter snakes slither gleefully across the trail to the safety of leaf cover.

For the 13th time, I trudged up the last tough climb to the finish at Hemlock. In any ultra run I cherish the feeling and accomplishment of that last glorious mile. That is the “one” I have been thinking about, coveting and looking forward to all day long. There is always time to reflect on the good and bad you have experienced, no matter if you are running, shuffling or stumbling toward the finish line. I had been chasing Kirstin Corris and Bill Wandel for a couple miles near the final stretch along the River. When we started up the climb, I thought I had some reserve energy to challenge them for their positions. Wrong !! They both took off such that when I reached the open field at the top, I had it all to myself. Just about then, I smelled the strong sweet fragrance from some Autumn Olive blossoms from bushes growing on the field edge. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself for the blessing of yet another gift from the trail. I learned at the finish that BOTH Bill and I got “chicked” by Kirstin as she dusted her fourth BRR finish in a PR 11:13.

bluetsAfter having been pampered by wonderful volunteers all day long, the “A Team” of VHTRC and BRR leadership was assembled around the finish area to further welcome and care for the runners. Even though 2009 is the first year Anstr Davidson has had the title of Race Director, he has always been so closely associated with the operation of the event. Anstr and his many dedicated helpers and volunteers have not only continued, but have added to, the fine reputation and experience of the Bull Run Run 50 Miler.

I heard several comments from runners and trail markers about how thick and healthy the bluebells were in 2009. Marty Lindemann suggested that high water in the floodplain from last year’s storms may have added sediment and nutrients to the soil that this spring’s flowers benefitted from. Whatever the reason, I cannot remember a year when the bluebells were prettier.

In order for Anstr to let me clutter the web site with my report, I must at least list some flowers that I saw out there. With my safety valve of “as far as I remember”, those flowers that I saw (or was told about ) are as follows:

  • Virginia Bluebells – the reason for running BRR; perhaps the prettiest display of the 17 years of BRR.
  • Spring Beauties - five white petals with small pink veins; formed dense ground cover on the northern loop; common elsewhere in smaller clumps.
  • Rue Anemone – 6-10 white petals and dainty 3-lobed leaves; near Civil War trenches on northern loop and on white loop near Fountainhead.
  • Violets – blue/lavender/yellow; common in small clumps
  • Early Saxifrage – small white 5-petaled flowers at tip of hairy stem; growing in shale and rocky places on northern loop.
  • Cut-leaved Toothwort - 4 white drooping petals; bird foot shaped leaves; common
  • Star Chickweed – 10 small white petals forming flower ~ ½ “ diameter; opposite leaves; commonly mixed in with Toothworts and Anemones.
  • Bluets – small blue flowers with yellow centers growing in clusters along the trail; also called “Quaker Ladies”.
  • Periwinkle – 5 deep blue petals forming a propeller shape; only see it at base of Hemlock climb but it is there every year.
  • Purple Dead Nettle – brownish/purple low growing flowers in mats; at Rt 28 aid station lot.
  • Gill-over-the-Ground – tiny blue flowers with shell-shaped leaves; in Fountainhead clearing and at Rt 28 lot aid station.
  • Hairy Bittercress – small white flowers at end of weed-like 6” stem; near Marina.
  • Pussy Toes – small white fuzzy flower clusters at tip of 6-9” hairy stem; northern loop.
  • Trout Lily – beautiful drooping yellow flowers with reflexed petals and two mottled elliptical leaves; I didn’t see these but Joe Clapper saw them in rocks north of Rt 28 aid station.

The 18th running of the Bull Run Run 50 Miler will take place in April, 2010. To make your 2010 spring complete, plan now to throw your hat in the ring for an entry. Until then, Happy Trails !

Gary (bib # 4)

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Running Though the Bluebells
Running through the bluebells.
Photo Charlie Miracle

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