Representing the North in this Civil War theme event nestled in the woods just outside Washington, D.C., Vassili Triantos won the First Battle of Bull Run Run. Consistent with history, there was a lot of mud and blood and confusion, as the inauguration of this trail race was plagued by some poorly marked sections (which sent most folks scampering in different directions, Ron Shaw getting the worst of it), but proved to be a challenging run with the trail bringing many a sure-footed runner to the ground (even Tom “Mr. Methodical” Green!), the scratching foliage causing bloody legs, and the several creek crossings subsequently muddying the legs. The trail weaves through the rolling hills along Bull Run, requiring no major climbs or particularly difficult running conditions. By the same token, there are no long downhills on which to pick up time. The balance results in slower times than one would expect, but a high completion rate for those patient and persistent enough to tough it out.
Vassili and runners-up Tom Smith and Dave Horton held together for most of the race, either when lost or when cruising smoothly on course. Vassili and Tom pulled away after 40, and only across the short rock scramble a couple miles from the finish did Vassili stretch his lead over Tom. With a North-South orientation for awards, Vassili and Dave won their respective Bluecoat and Graycoat Open Division categories, with Art Moore and Frank Probst winning the same titles for the Seniors category. Debbie Roth, like the lead pack of men runners, moved comfortably over the course to finish first among the women and just eight minutes in front of another North entrant, Diane McNamara. Barbara Fitz topped the Southern women’s list, showing the same tenacity used last Fall during the Del Passatore 100K. Rounding out the winners’ circle, Mike Strzelecki and Erica Russell won the Clydesdale divisions, proving horses can in fact fly. And of the half dozen first timers, all but one finished, and she arguably could have, had certain sections of the course been marked more heavily.
The weather gods were benevolent, keeping temperatures moderate and humidity low, with a thin layer of high clouds through most of the day. With these conditions, the runners could better focus on motoring over the course. Starting on the ridge line, the runners drop to the water and cross the first of several streams, this one less than a mile from the start and causing a bottleneck backup not unlike the Punxsutawney start. After five miles of rolling hills, and at one point passing beside a bunker for a Civil War artillery battery, the course lies flat for four miles through a forested area laden with colorful bluebells and other wildflowers. It was in this section that most runners were drawn off course, which was further complicated by having to return to the start through the same mis-directed route. The southeastern end proved less troublesome, with the exception of the loop at the course’s other end. The least mature of the sections, here the trail again pulled some runners off course, with a couple people repeating the loop. Between the finish and the southern end, runners eased along the meandering path, over more streams, through or around active soccer fields, and through enthusiastically staffed aid stations. These oases popping out of the forest provided motivation to more than a few runners to keep plugging along in search of the next watering hole. At the Bull Run Marina station, which also includes a snack bar for boating patrons, one runner was treated to a hot dog with sauerkraut for the final push home!
Organizational foibles of the first offering aside, the prevalent beauty of spring, the superb support of the aid station people, and the challenging though conquerable trail network kept the runners loping (or at least progressively crawling) toward the finish. Next year we’ll improve the course markings and refine the split times collection process. But the streams will still be there, as will the flowers, the rolling trails, and ghosts of battles past rooting for or hooting against the running combatants in the Second Battle of Bull Run Run.
60 Starters: 27 Rebel Survivors, 27 Yankee Survivors
Chris Scott, RD