"Streaks – Good Things/Bad Things" – My 18th Consecutive Bull Run Run 50 Mile Race

by Tim and Melanie Stanley

Tim Stanley
Tim Stanley on first portion of 2010 BRR course. Photo: Aaron Schwartzbard

In April of 1993 I joined 60 other ultra runners at the 1st Bull Run Run (BRR) 50 mile race on beautiful wooded trails that shared hallowed ground with the ghosts of our ancestors who fought in a war that once divided our country. As I traversed this virgin course hugged by wild bluebells and punctuated with unpredictable footing, I had no idea I would return to the Bull Run for the next 17 years for the challenge of completing 50 miles! At first I went back for the pure pleasure of running all day through the woods with good friends. The Bull Run Run is organized by the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club and each race is directed and carried out by an outstanding group of volunteers who know how to take care of the runners, their family and friends.

As each April saw me re-entering the BRR, the weather and other circumstances presented unique challenges. One year runners littered the finish line with IVs in their arms due to unusual heat. Another year, we all finished caked in mud due to heavy rains preceding the run. But I always returned. I found myself on a streak, and I was hooked. I have absolutely enjoyed each run and I looked forward to enjoying the company of Frank Prosbt and Tom Green who share this streak with me. Now we are greeted at every aid station by name, and we are encouraged along the course by runners we have never met, who know our names and the streak.

This year something changed for me. The 2010 BRR made me think about what Dave Horton wrote in the recent March issue of Ultrarunning, "Streaks are good things/bad things to get started." Flash back to March 10, I ran six miles after working an eleven hour day. The next day my right knee, that has never hurt…hurt! I did a short run on March 11 that was quickly interrupted due to the pain. I saw a doctor who took x-rays and "guessed" bursitis. I stopped running and I did not attempt the National Marathon in late March that I normally use as a long training run. I used a stationary bike to get an aerobic workout secretly hoping that this would keep me in shape for my 18th BRR. Although I said nothing I began to question if the streak was over.

Tim in 2006 with former RD Scott Mills

There was no discussion in our home pertaining to the 2010 BRR. I simply told Melanie, "I will start out slow, and if my knee hurts, I will quit." Nothing else needed to be said. When I joined 336 runners at the start line I had not run in a month but my knee felt pretty good. Soon after we started, I found Tom Green, and we ran together for miles. As runners enjoy doing we relived memories of previous races and rekindled our long time friendship. Although running slower than normal I got to mile 30 before my knee hurt. The pain got worse but how could I quit after running so far? The compelling power of the streak pulled me along the trail. I walked, "jogged" and dragged my right leg along through the next 20 miles. Melanie met me at the Bull Run Marina and encouraged me to take care as she jogged with me for a while on the trail. I crossed the finish line just over eleven hours after starting. I was one happy albeit tired runner. My right knee hurt and I would soon have a bag of ice on it. We enjoyed the finish line party with our family.

Tim and Melanie
Tim with wife Melanie after the 2008 run. Tim has worn that shirt at every BRR.

When I saw my orthopedic surgeon the week after the BRR he examined my knee and said, "So you are telling me your check engine light was on but you drove across the country anyways." The damage report was received in an e-mail from after getting an MRI: "Trabecular fracture at the medial tibial plateau. Bone bruising as well at the medial tibial plateau, intercondylar notch, and superior aspect of the medial femoral condyle. I would recommend crutches for limited weight bearing for 12 weeks." The MRI report certainly explained the pain I felt during the last 20 miles. I have never been on crutches nor have I ever wondered when I would run again. I wrote much of this article sitting on the couch with a bag of frozen peas on my right knee. I am reading everything I can about healing and my precious wife has told me she is buying me a new bike for Father’s Day as the doctor says biking is okay. I am looking online for century bike rides to do this summer and fall.

So what about streaks? I know I am not alone in my pursuit as I read that Hal Winton and Kent Holder completed their 28th consecutive Avalon Benefit 50 this year, and many of you reading this have a streak of some type that pulls you along at times.

As for me I have no complaints as I finished the race. Just in case any of you are wondering and I doubt you are, Melanie and I are already looking forward to the 19th BRR next April. Stay safe and enjoy your running.

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