Barry Hauptman

STONE MILL 50 MILE …. an overview of my 10 years as Race Director

Doug Sullivan, along with his wife, Kerry Owens, Michelle Harmon, Joe Clapper, and, no doubt, others created the Stone Mill 50 miler (SM50) in 2010 to be an affordable option to those that were looking for something in the fall without the letters “JFK”.

Kerry Owens and Doug Sullivan

The initial running of SM50 was in 2010. Doug’s vision was a run from Damascus to the Stone Mill and back using the Seneca Greenway Trail, as well as the Magruder extension. The Seneca Stone Cutting Mill was completed in 1868, and supplied the sandstone used to build the Smithsonian Castle among other buildings. Upon learning that it was 28 miles one way, the initial event held both 52 and 56 mile options.

Each of the following years saw tweaking of the course, including moving the start/finish to Watkins Mill High School, using an initial out and back, and introducing the use of other trails including the Muddy Branch Trail.

In the summer of 2013, Doug asked Daryl Hultquist and I if we would be interested in taking over Stone Mill starting with the 2014 race. Doug, Kerry, and several other long-time VHTRC members were making an exodus to Sedona, Arizona. We knew Doug from having run the race ourselves, and he had just finished Hardrock 100, which to us made him a celebrity.

A last year competing at Stone Mill before taking over the reins in 2014: Daryl Hultquist and Barry Hauptman

Ironically, Daryl and I had met in 2007 at JFK 50 when I plopped down next to him in the gym pre-race, and asked, “Have you done this? What do we do?” Daryl and I created the first trail training program for the Montgomery County Road Runners Club (MCRRC) in 2012, designed to introduce locals to the trails within our county, as well as target and prepare them for the Greenway 50K race in March. We also created and directed the Farm Park Challenge.

In 2013, Daryl and I helped with the race preparation, but both raced the event knowing it would be our last opportunity to do so.

As I started preparation for the 2014 event, it quickly became apparent that Daryl’s heart was with the Farm Park event. Even though we called ourselves Co-Race Directors, Farm Park became his and SM became mine. In my first year, I didn’t change anything, following what Doug had done the previous year. I leaned heavily on some VHTRC experienced volunteers for guidance, and not jokingly have told both Rob Colenso and Bob Gaylord they were my assistant directors that first year. The winners of that year’s race were Paul Jacobs and Lori Cooper.

Paul Jacobs repeats as the SM50 winner in 2019

The 2015 race brought on the move up (literally) the hill to Stedwick Elementary, when MCPS denied our permit for Watkins Mill High School due to a conflict with a school play. That move enabled us INSIDE for the first time with these added benefits: bathrooms, warmth, and a place for runners to leave a change of clothes! For the vast majority, the change was an upgrade. I received one email from Keith Levasseur complaining about missing the final grunt climb that had been a signature of the original race’s finish.

By the time preparation for the 2016 event rolled around, I had the confidence to institute some changes. First, we moved our race date up to the second Saturday of November. I felt that our initial identity as an alternative to JFK needed to be altered to our own identity as Stone Mill. We also took out the initial out and back portion and replaced it with a loop around Clopper Lake in Seneca State Park. These changes are still intact, excluding modifications needed to hold our 2020 Covid Year Event.

Unfortunately, that first year we utilized the lake, my volunteer course marshal opted to no show, and multiple runners missed the lake section. Rob Colenso noticed at the mile 11 aid station and called me in near shock. We came up with what we thought was the fairest plan for those that missed the lake. A sign was made, and an honor code was installed, that runners who missed the lake in the morning, would need to do it in the afternoon. Most were pleased, but, of course, there were some accusations of not abiding.

I can’t recall the exact year, but our other infamous imperfection was the year the MCPS employee failed to show up to open the school prerace. While most ultrarunners took that in stride, I have no doubt multiple “surprises” were left on school grounds.

Mike Edwards making his way through the mud on the 2018 course

We are up to 2018. It was a bit muddy that year. OK, it was a lot bit muddy that year! But what is little known is that after a surprise snow storm, our permits were pulled by the county. I can be a tad bit stubborn, and refused to accept that. I worked with Ashley Z, the MCRRC manager, and she said to write an appeal. Done, denied, one step up, done, denied. Finally, we got high enough up the chain of command and got an appeal accepted - it was race on! Phew. Although the day was slow, and frustrating to many, I have little doubt looking back, the day is now epic in our memories.

2020: there was this virus, causing panic, causing cancellations. Stubborn me always felt outside is safe. Montgomery County hadn’t been allowing any gatherings of more than 20 people at a time. I saw a path. I wrote up a proposal to the health department, and shockingly it was accepted after a couple of revisions. We would move back to Watkins Mill, only using outdoor spaces. Aid stations were two tables wide, all masked and gloved, and only volunteers were allowed to touch anything. I researched, seeded and corralled runners into 20 person starts every 5 minutes, and boom, we held an event. My favorite part…after he ran the event…I took Keith L to the grunt hill and made him run up it before calling him a finisher. FYI - Keith Levasseur is the only one to have finished all 14 Stone Mills.

We were named the RRCA National Championship Ultramarathon for 2020, but that was conveyed to 2021. While I had hopes of drawing some elites, I quickly realized trail runners don’t care about such things, and our 2021 field was no more competitive than any other year.

My last two years, we came pretty close to that impossible goal of pulling off a perfect event. My job as Race Director had evolved into being a maestro to some of the finest volunteers anyone could ask for. I kept thinking I had to have more to do, but nope, it had become almost automatic. This report could not be complete without the mention of some of these All Stars, if not downright Hall of Famers.

The INfamous Water Stop, helmed so ably by Sarah Smith, assisted in 2021 by Jon Jester, Keith Dunn and Gary Knipling.

Rob Colenso, Bob Gaylord, Larry Feidelseit, Larry Huffman, Kevin Yates, Team Watkins (Robin and Adam), Sarah Smith … all have been with the race as aid captains throughout … some all 10 years. And I’ve yet to figure out how the water at Sarah’s “Water Only” stop ranges in color from clear to amber to brown.

K. Mike Edwards. Mike has been the course boss each of my years. That not only involves building a team to both mark and sweep the course, it also involves course maintenance. It also involves making sure the back of the pack and those that drop get to where they need to be safely.

Ron Ely. Few know Ron is even a part of the team, let alone a KEY part. Ron designed our road safety program, and institutes it every year. Ron also spends race day all over the course as the supply and demand guy for the aid stations, working alongside our truck drivers.

Danny Talmage. Danny has been our primary timer and merch man for all 10 years. Although an acquired taste, his heart is always (!!) with our mothership.

RD Barry receiving a Thank You gift from the MCRRC as he completed his 10th year directing the Stone Mill 50

Phil Epstein and his Muddy Shoes gang, leading our training runs and also an aid station the last 4-5 years.

Why I am leaving …10 years is a good run. It is time for someone new (Ryan Cox) to add fresh ideas, as I did initially. It is also time to have a tech-savvy person who knows our modern world of social media to take charge, as old school word of mouth promotion does not quite cut it alone anymore.

It’s time for me to expand my volunteer time to multiple events in multiple roles, as I’ve recently LOVED running aid stations, crewing and pacing special friends, and marking and sweeping courses.