Bull Run Run 50 Mile
Changes, Important Points, Last Minute Details
Last Updated April 7, 2014
This page contains updated information, as well as information that bears repeating. This is the pre-race briefing that some of you will miss.
This page is final. If there is any other change from here, we will highlight it on the top of the page so you won't have to reread the whole thing.
Print anything you will need. These items will not be available at the event.
Here are the four most important rules:
- Enjoy the trail!
- Don't litter—nothing goes on the ground—anywhere
- Stay on course—watch the course markings
- Stay healthy—keep hydrated and be careful on the slippery bridges
To Remember Above All Else
- Arrive early and carpool if possible
- Be careful on slippery and unstable bridges
- Follow blue ribbons; don't cross red ribbons; never turn around at an aid station
- No awards will be mailed
BRR is about the trail, the bluebells, and fun. But because there will be over 300 people out there, we need rules, and you need to be careful. But please have fun and enjoy this beautiful trail! We have a page of rules that you should read, but we will highlight the important ones here.
Bunks are still available. You can reserve them or we will probably have room if you just show up. Meals go first to those who reserve. There may be some available at the door.
Points to Note
- Parking: Arrive early and cooperate with the volunteer parking monitors. Park closely to other cars, and don't waste space. Park only where signs or monitors allow you to.
On Friday, you should drive all the way into Hemlock. You may not park overnight there unless you are staying in park accommodations. On Saturday, you may not drive into Hemlock, but must park in the lot on your right.
Do not park anywhere on Yates Ford Road or in the Paradise Valley Winery parking lot. Be sure your crews or anyone else coming to the event connected to you parks responsibily. Our experience with parking this year will dictate whether we can keep the present size of the BRR starting field. See the parking page.
Carpool! The walk from parking to the start is between one quarter to one half mile, depending on where you park. You can shorten that walk by carpooling. Since it will be dark when you walk to the start, we suggest you bring a small flashlight.
- Breakfast: We will again have juice, bagels, and muffins for breakfast before the start. This will be available to runners until the start and open to all after the start. Sorry, we will not have coffee. Coffeeholics may want to stop at the 7 Eleven at the corner of Route 29 (Lee Highway) and Clifton Road.
- Personal Listening Devices: The VHTRC policy on headphones, iPods, or anything else that degrades your hearing strongly discourages the use of these devices. For Bull Run Run, we ask that you not use any personal listening device over the first part of the course (i.e. until you get back to the Hemlock aid station at 16.6 miles). We don't prohibit the use of these devices after that point, but all runners have a responsibility to be aware of their surroundings and to know when a runner behind is eager to pass.
- Your Bib Number: Wear your number any place you want to as long as we can see it from the front. Don't put your number on your back! Also, if you fold your number, please don't make it hard to unfold at the finish line. Don't pin the tear-off strip! Finally, be sure your number is not upside down! (One year, we had two number 86s, but a lost number 98.)
- Picking up your bib number: We strongly recommend that you pick up your bib number on Friday especially if you have never been to Hemlock. Finding the start for the first time in the dark is not easy. Also, we will have prizes and a special presentation at the pre-race briefing.
- The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority
- The NVRPA owns all the trails you will run on. For over 20 years, the representatives of the NVRPA have been helpful and supportive of this event. This year, the NVRPA made a concerted effort to fix the bridge at Ordway Road. Without the NVRPA, there would be no BRR. NVRPA Web site
- The Potomac Applachian Trail Club
- The PATC maintains the Bull Run-Occoquan Trail. That is most of the BRR course. Dave Fellers, the PATC overseer for the trail, has made special efforts to get the trail in shape for the run.
The PATC maintains most of the trails in this region. There would be no VHTRC without the PATC. PATC Web site
- Adventure Links at Hemlock Overlook
- Hemlock Overlook has always been the headquarters for this event. The event started because, in 1992, Warren Doyle, who then worked at Hemlock, encouraged us to have a run and headquarter it there. We took Warren up on his offer, and the rest is history.
A few years ago, Adventure Links took over management of the park. Adventure Links staff has been very supportative of BRR. Adventure Links Web site
- Succeed S! Caps
- S! Caps are buffered electrolyte replacement capsules developed by Karl King. Karl gave us a significant price break so we can have a good quantity of the capsules available at the aid stations.
- Seeded Runners: Just like the military, we are assigning numbers by seniority. For us, "seniority" is number of prior finishes. Number 1 goes to Tom Green. Tom, along with Tim Stanley and Frank Probst, has run all Bull Run Runs -- 21 of them. We give Tom number one because that's what the computer did. Tom, Frank, and Tim run for the South. Bill Wandel runs for the North. He has finished BRR 19 times. He will receive number 201.
- Drop Bags: We don't transport drop bags, but you can set out a bag at the Hemlock Aid station, which is about 200 feet from the starting line and at the 16+ mile point on the course. We will mark the location so you can find it before the start. Look for it so your bag will be handy when you arrive at the aid station. We should have someone with a lantern to help you find the place for drop bags in the dark. You should leave all your belongings there and not in the dining hall. (Even if you don't want a drop bag, you should bring everything you will need all day to the start area. You don't want to walk back to your car after the run to get your towel for the shower!)
- Dropping Out: If you drop out, be sure someone in race management knows about it. If you drop at an aid station, tell the aid station captain. If you drop anywhere else, be sure that you tell the nearest aid station captain or you go to the finish to report it (or send someone to do it). We don't go home until everyone is accounted for. Please don't ruin our day!
- Bathrooms on the Course: There are none. Use the woods. Non-entrants in the event should not see you do so. Bury any solid waste. Don't go near or in water or high grass.
- Awards Will Not Be Mailed! You must pick up your award at the finish. This year, there are multiple awards in many age groups. There will be two main awards ceremonies -- one around 3 p.m. and the other at 6 p.m. Awards after that will be given out individually. If you think you have won an award but just can't stay, please contact an RD to see if you won anything and, if so, to receive it. No team awards will be distributed until the second awards ceremony. Winning teams must have a member or representative at the ceremony.
- Aid Stations: Aid stations will have a variety of food and drink. Only three aid stations have a source of water on site. We have to transport the water to all other aid stations. If you need water, take it, but don't waste it! The energy replacement drink is Gatorade. Each aid station will have a supply of S! Caps, but if you eat them like candy, you will need to bring your own. The aid stations will not have gels, GUs, or similar.
- Post Run Shower: We have them. Bring your soap and towel. There will be a garden hose outside the building. Please use the hose to wash the mud off before you enter the bath/shower building. Someone has to clean that shower!
- Post Run Food: We have it. Bring your appetite.
Bluebells. They are late this year, and will probably not be at their prime.
The Bull Run Run is supported by many volunteers and your entry fees. We have also received help from:
We are not going to repeat all of our rules here. There is a page of FAQs and rules. Please review it. Our rules are as reasonable as possible. Please abide by them. Remember, absolutely no littering!
Here are things you should watch out for.
Here is the updated schedule for the 2014 Bull Run Run.
- April 11 (Friday)
All at Hemlock Overlook Park (directions)
- 9:00 am
- Course Marking Volunteers Meet at Hemlock for course marking
- 3:00 pm (if you can, come after 4)
- Packet pick-up opens (We don't actually give you a bag, but we have them if you need one. You can save a bag if you bring your own.)
- 5:30 pm
- Dinner starts
- 6:00 pm
- First Briefing (We will do it twice, but the first one is better and will have the important presentations.)
- 7:00 pm
- Dinner line closes
- 7:15 pm
- Second Briefing
- 8:00 pm
- Packet Pickup Closes
- 8:00 pm
- Check-In for Accommodation Closes
- April 12 (Saturday)
Race Day! (Start/finish at Hemlock Overlook Park directions)
- 5:00 am
- Packet Pickup Reopens
Light breakfast (muffins, bagels, juice but no coffee) in the dining hall
- 6:00 am
- Packet Pickup Closes
- 6:25 am
- Quick briefing at start line
- 6:30 am
- Start (will be on time - set your watch)
- 12:38:14 pm
- Matt Woods (2011 event record) finishes
- 1:34:59 pm
- Aliza Lapierre (2012 event record) finishes
- 3:00 pm
- First Award Ceremony
- 4:30 pm
- North/South Winner determined
- 6:00 pm
- Second Award Ceremony
- 7:30 pm
- Course closes. Finishes after this are not official.
- Warm Weather: While brutally hot, summer weather is unlikely, warm weather is not. Most runners are not acclimated to warm weather at this time of year. Please be careful and monitor your hydration. You are starting out healthy, you should finish that way. You are responsible for your health. We will call medical help only in an emergency. There is no medical help on the course or at the finish. It is not considered brave or commendable to run yourself into medical emergency.
- Bridges: Be very careful on the bridges! The good news is that there are several bridges on the course that will help keep your feet dry. They are often, however, slippery and unstable. Be careful on the bridges.
- Under the Road at the Marina- Watch Your Head! Again this year, you will not have to brave the only real road crossing on the course. Unless the water is very high, you will go under the bridge just after (outbound) and before (inbound) the Marina aid station. This worked very well in the last four years. The route under the bridge is rocky. Go slow and look for places to put your feet. It's a short distance. Be careful! Tall people, don't hit your head on the bridge! (See photo.)
- Rocks: There are not as many rocks as on some courses (e.g. Massanutten), but the rocks that are there can be difficult. While you are at it, be careful of the mud.
- Poison Ivy: At earlier versions of BRR it was difficult to run the course without exposure to poison ivy. Things are much better now. But you still should take a soapy shower after the run.
- Ticks: Check for ticks after the run. You are very likely to pick some up.
New bridge at Ordway Road
Just duck your head! This is the highest the water should be.
Following the Course
The course should be well-marked. But you need to pay attention. If you come upon a turn, and you have any question about which way to go, stop and think about it. Here are some rules that might help you.
- Follow blue ribbons. They take precedence over blazes. Most of the course is also blazed, but the color of the blaze varies as well as the condition of them. Follow the ribbons. If you are on a path with neither ribbons or blazes, you are probably off course.
- Don't cross a red ribbon. Red means "no." Red ribbons are horizontal and often on the ground.
- Ignore other ribbons and markings. There may be other stray events out there and there are, of course, blazes. Our ribbons take precedence.
- You shouldn't go far without seeing a ribbon. In places where there are no places to turn, ribbons will not be frequent. You can't run from ribbon to ribbon, you won't always see the next ribbon from the current one. But if you have not seen a ribbon for some time, you should stop and see if another runner comes by. If not, go back the way you came.
- Turns should be marked with double ribbons on the side you will turn.
- There are a few complicated intersections. They will be marked heavily. If you have any confusion, stop, think, and wait for the next runner.
- Be careful in the aid stations. You never turn around and go back at an aid station. You always keep going in the same general direction after you leave an aid station. Be sure you leave the aid station the correct way, which is to continue on ahead.
- You will be at Hemlock (the start/finish) three times (start, intermediate, and finish). You always go down from Hemlock on the same trail and go up to Hemlock on the other trail. When you climb to Hemlock to the intermediate aid station, remember it. You will do that same climb to finish.
- In the first part of the course, there are three stream crossings with concrete cylinders used as stepping stones. You do each of these crossings out and back. After you get back to Hemlock, you will never again cross a stream on concrete cylinders. If you do, you made a big mistake.
- The soccer fields are hard to mark, but easy to get through. Use the dirt road to go through the middle of the soccer fields. If the fields are one big rectangle, you want to exit from the opposite corner that you entered. Both times. You do not follow the blazes around the soccer fields. (You can if you want, but it's longer.)
- You do the Do Loop counter-clockwise. If there is a runner on the trail running toward you on the Do Loop, one of you is wrong. At two places in the Do Loop, you can see runners through the woods close to you but on another part of the course. Do not cut over to them. Focus on the trail immediately ahead of you. Be careful at the entrance/exit to the loop.
- Roads vs. Trails: There are a number of places where the trail is following an old road but turns off it. The old road goes straight, the trail turns. It is easy to go straight if you are not paying attention. If you find yourself running on an old road without ribbons or blazes, you probably missed a turn. This issue is probably the most frequent way that people get lost!
These are actually at Little Rocky Run, just about a mile before (and after) the Centreville Road Aid Station. You cross cylinders like this at the beginning but not the end of the race!
Course Conditions and Weather
If you want to fixate on the weather, we suggest two Web sites. The first is the National Weather Service site. Once you figure out how to mouse over stuff and what the things mean, it is very helpful. For a more traditional site, there is the Weather Underground:
The course conditions and the weather are closely related. Predicting the weather is difficult. (Remember, the weather man works for the Department of Commerce.) The biggest worry is not rain the day of the race. It's rain the day before the race. If there is a lot of rain immediately before or during the race, there will be several places with mud.
Typical stream crossing
Stream crossings are another thing. The watersheds for the Bull Run and Occoquan are not large, but you never cross those rivers anyway. You do cross several feeder streams. They have very small watersheds (that include, by the way, parts of suburban Fairfax County—don't drink out off them!) so that they will drop relatively quickly after rain. The result is that if it does not rain on Friday, you have a good chance of making it across most streams with dry feet.
Several small streams have no bridge. Wet feet at some point are very likely. (If you have wet feet when you get back to the aid station at Hemlock, you can change shoes if you want, but you will be wet again soon.)
We and the PATC have done work to clear the trail of brush and blow downs. While this is a never ending task, the trail is in pretty good shape. It's likely however that a tree fell down last night!
You can thank Gary Knipling for much of the work on the trail. If you see Gary (and you will) thank him. Here are some pictures of Gary's trail work and a few bluebells thrown in. These are from last year.
One final comment. No matter how hard it rains, most of the trail can handle it well. It won't ever be all mud. Much of the trail is on the bluff above the river where there is little mud. This trail has improved greatly over the last 20 years.
Typical Trail Section. You can run that!
|Bull Run Run Cutoff Times|
|Bull Run Marina|
The event starts just after sunrise and ends just before sunset. We have to get everyone off the course before nightfall. Consequently, we have cutoff times that we must enforce. The cutoff times, including the overall requirement to finish under 13 hours, assume a pace of about 15:20 minutes per mile. You have an hour and a half to do the last 5.5 miles. Assuming you leave the Marina right at the cutoff, you only need to do 16:21 miles to finish on time. (The paces listed on the chart at right are for the entire course to that point.)
If you miss a cutoff time on the course, you may not continue. (At the Do Loop, you must walk or run back to Fountainhead. You can't drop out there unless you have, or can fake, serious medical problems.) If you miss the cutoff time at the finish line, but have made all the others, we will give you the finishers award and list your time, but you will not be an official finisher. If you are on a team, it will be disqualified and the run won't count for the multiple finishes list. The cutoff times are at right.
All awards will be distributed at two awards ceremonines at 3 and 6 p.m. and after that for awards earned later. Awards will not be mailed. If you have won an award, please attend an award ceremony to receive yours. If you can't do that, we will give you your award if you ask for it. Team awards will not be available until the 6 p.m. awards ceremony. One team member or representative must attend the ceremony.
Here are the awards:
|Overall||First three male and female finishers||40 oz engraved Hydro Flask||6*|
|Age Group Champ||Open/Masters/Senior/Super Senior
(Male/Female and North/South)
|Team||Each member of a winning team||Fleece blanket||20|
|Army||Each finisher of winning side—North or South More Info||BRR car magnet||Up to 240|
|Veteran||20 year finisher||Personalized finisher award||Up to 1|
|Veteran||15 year finisher||Personalized finisher award||Up to 1|
|Veteran||10 year finisher||Personalized finisher award||Up to 13|
|Veteran||Five year finisher||Car magnet||Up to 31|
|Finisher||Finisher||Beach towel||Up to 349|
* This year, there will be duplicate awards. The overall winner will also receive an age group award.
** Distribution of Age Group Awards