Entry opens on Tuesday October 1, 2024

The Bull Run Occoquan Trail meanders through a sea of bluebells.

Mark VanDyke

2024 Report

30th Running

VHTRC Bull Run Run 50 Mile Trail Run

Clifton, VA

Saturday, April 6, 2024

193 starters, 149 finishers

77% finishing rate


Dave Yeakle and Gary Knipling with the banner prior to hanging it over the trail alongside the Nash Rambler in the Do Loop.
📸 Cathy Kovacic

2024 saw the 30th running of the Bull Run Run 50 Mile race. The pandemic era led to the cancelation of two planned editions of the BRR, so the first “battle” was held 31 years earlier, in 1993.

The area itself is, of course, replete with its own history. Famously, much of the course was the setting for two major Civil War battles. Those battles have served as the underlying theme for this race since its founding. Earthworks from the war are still visible alongside the trail in the early miles. Sections of the course in the later miles are on the Washington-Rochambeau Route, used late in the Revolutionary War by a combined American and French force as it marched south to Yorktown and the climactic battle that allowed the creation of the United States.

The organizing club for the BRR, the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club, was originally created in order to provide the needed underpinnings (particularly the insurance) in order to put on this 50 mile race. The VHTRC has since grown into the one of the largest and most successful trail running clubs in the country.

“Mount Nashmore”: a tribute to the VHTRC’s “founding fathers” for this 30th anniversary BRR. 📸 Cathy Kovacic

Some of the more significant founding members of the club were celebrated at one of the more interesting landmarks in the race. The “Do Loop” is a particularly notorious section of the BRR course, with its series of moguls through numerous pocket valleys 2/3 of the way into the race. The runners know that they are about to enter the worst section of that loop when they pass the junked remains of a Nash Rambler. The Nash has been mysteriously provided with a fresh makeover for a number of years just in time for the race, and this year that makeover had the theme of “Mount Nashmore”. The five VHTRC members who were singled out for enshrinement on Mount Nashmore were Chris Scott, Anstr Davidson, Scott Mills, Ed Demoney and Joe Clapper. We thank them for all that they did over the years to create and nurture the VHTRC and the Bull Run Run!

Some wonderful additions to all that history were made with this year’s race. Of the 232 registered runners, 193 and a half made their way to Hemlock Overlook Regional Park to start on race morning, Saturday April 6. The weather for 2024 had settled into a generally concerning pattern as winter made way for spring: wonderful days during the week, followed by truly awful rainy, sloppy days on the weekends.

The Nash Rambler, redecorated to commemorate the 30th BRR.
📸 Cathy Kovacic

Fortunately, we caught an enormous break from that pattern for race week. Buckets of rain hit the Northern Virginia area, with over two inches saturating the notoriously muddy Bull Run-Occoquan Trail. But that rain fell at the beginning of the week. By Wednesday it had largely cleared out; and sunny and windy days followed, helping to dry out much of the course. Race day itself was dry, cool and at times windy, with temps ranging from the mid 30s to the mid 50s, making for just about ideal BRR race conditions.

The decision had also been to move BRR from its usual position on the race calendar of the second Saturday in April to the first weekend. This was done for one reason: climate change. The race had a mid-April date to try to match the peak blooms of the great bluebell stands through which much of the course is run. That peak period has inched up on the calendar since the race was created in the early 1990s. In 2023, those bluebells had bloomed weeks before the race. But in 2024, the runners again got to experience the full beauty of the course, as the flowers were still very much in full bloom.

Taking in the post-race festivities in their Champions Chairs are the 2023 BRR champ Jim Blandford on the left, and 2024 winner Brandon Fogarty on the right.
📸 Karen Blandford

Our overall champion for this year’s race was Brandon Fogarty of Pennsylvania. As a 21-year-old in 2023, Brandon had rolled through the first half of the course in third place, only to become a victim of the heat and the resultant cramping that led to his final position in 7th place. Cooler weather and another year’s experience led to a much happier outcome, as Brandon pulled into the lead early and held off Linford Fritz of Alexandria to take the win by just under two minutes, with a time of 7:30:59; Linford was therefore the Open division winner. Charlottesville’s Walt Barnett took third in 7:56.

Last year’s overall winner, Jim Blandford from Pennsylvania, snuck on to the entrants list early on race week, and then demonstrated his usual easy flowing running style on his way to a fifth place overall finish and first Senior, less than 20 seconds behind the fourth place Eliot Triantos of Maryland. The first male VHTRC finisher was Alexander O’Neill from D.C. (ninth overall); other divisional winners were Daniel Kiley from Pennsylvania (Master’s Division winner and Lucky #13 overall); and the first Super Senior, Utah’s Steve Anderson, who was also 50th overall.

The women’s podium for the 2024 Bull Run Run 50 Mile: champion Nora Jodrey, flanked by second place Steph Hill on the right and third place finisher Nelle Fox on the left.
📸Keith Knipling

The women’s race saw a wire-to-wire win for Nora Jodrey of Bethesda in 8 hours and 12 minutes. Alexandria’s Steph Hill was the second woman and seventh overall, coming in just six minutes back of Nora. Nelle Fox of Bridgewater, VA, took third (and finished 12th overall) in a time of 8:56.

Divisional winners among the women included West Virginia’s Elizabeth Cortez who was the first Master (fifth woman and 24th overall); Becky Convery from Ft. Washington, MD, who took the Senior division while finishing eighth among the women and 44th overall; and Susan Sheets from Virginia Beach, who was escorted in to her finish by a group of runners as the first Super Senior in 11:39, in a four-way tie for 78th overall.

Nearly 80 percent of the starting field made their way to the finish - 151 1/2 out of the 193 1/2 starters. Two of the runners completed their 50 mile runs after the 13 hour cutoff, so they are not credited with official finishes, but they are congratulated on covering the full distance. The “1/2” runner is credited with a Bull Run Run 50k; she overslept but still came out to start, and then ran the second portion of the course from Hemlock.

At the Centreville Aid Station, we have 25 time finisher Dave Janosko (right) and 25 time finisher Tim Stanley (left, with his trademark purple BRR race shirt).
📸Melanie Stanley

Two runners who did not make it to the finish nonetheless had outstanding efforts in 2024, building on incredible legacies that cover the decades that the Bull Run Run has been presented. Dave Janosko and Tim Stanley once again pinned on bibs and gave the race a go. As is customary at BRR, Dave and Tim got the first two bib numbers, with local runner Tim insisting that Dave, who comes down from the Cleveland area to race with us each spring, get bib number 1 this year (Tim had it in 2023). Each of them has logged 25 finishes over their incredible careers on the Bull Run trails. We look forward to welcoming them for years to come.

Bib number 3 went to Suzie Spangler, who overcame jetlag from a late flight back from visiting family in Australia to notch her 20th finish. Darin Dunham is now a member of the 15-time finishers’ club at BRR, and Darin did it in style! He had finished DFL in 2023 to keep his streak alive, in a time 12:59:44 (16 second under the 13 hour cut off). This year there was no such drama, as he finished nearly 3 hours earlier, 53rd overall. And perhaps of even more importance, he came in roughly four minutes ahead of his son, Nathan. Congratulations, Suzie and Darin! And congrats, Nathan, on our very first BRR finish. We assume you will want to carry on in the family tradition and build a streak in the years to come.

The VHTRC takes great pride in putting on top-notch events, and this reputation has been built on the incredible cadre of volunteers that come forward not just for this race, but for the club’s other races and its myriad less formal timed events. This year was no exception as 125 volunteers stepped up to help those 193 runners. RD Katie Keier was, as per usual, the volunteer coordinator, and she appreciated the usual strong response from the club and area running community to the call for help at Bull Run Run.

Two people in particular need to be singled out, as they have taken on high-level roles for the last five years. Keith Knipling is the race timing guru, and is the webmaster behind the scenes who keeps the club’s site humming, including the Bull Run Run 50 Mile section. He is also an exceptionally talented photographer, and we have all benefited greatly from his talent and his eagerness to capture so many of the people and the scenes that make up this race from year to year. In particular, from his post at the finish line, he is able to create tremendous images of finishers and of the activities around the finish line. Thank you, Keith!

Newly-minted member of the 15-time-finisher club Darin Dunham, getting the patented Gary Knipling Hug.
📸Keith Knipling

The other person who has devoted a great deal of her time to the race during these past five years is Carol Cohen. She was the half runner in the field this year, and she very much enjoyed running the 50k distance while socializing with so many of those racing the full distance. Her experience may have been a precursor for giving more serious consideration to adding a shorter distance to the 50 mile event in future BRRs. Her contribution prior to oversleeping on race day has been as the Swag Queen. She has identified and purchased the great finishers premiums that we have offered these past five years: a long sleeve Patagonia Cool Daily shirt in 2018; the incredibly popular seat covers in 2019; the fitted Under Armor hoodies in 2022; the big blue Under Armor duffel bags in 2023; and then her crowning achievement in 2024: the giant 30th anniversary-themed blanket, featuring all three logos that the race has had over its history. She has also arranged for the entrants shirts each year, and for a number of other runner and volunteer giveaways, such as beanies and gloves. Thank you, Carol!

The BRR aid stations were once again the source of universal praise, from those captained by returning veterans Kevin Sayers (Centreville); Alisa Springman and Jim Daniels (Hemlock); Carrie Drummond and Eric McGlinchey (Marina); Eric Levy-Myers (Do Loop); as well as Ivory Lira, who quickly stepped up to fill a late vacancy at the pivotal Fountainhead aid station. More on that vacancy later. A final note of thanks to Allison Holko and her Bluebell Loop water stop crew for their assistance at the northern end of the course.

Chunxin Wang and his crew take a pause to pose at the Marina Aid Station.
📸 Carrie Drummond

The inimitable Alex Papadopoulos also returned for another year to captain the circus that is his Wolf Run Shoals. Every year Alex chooses a theme for his aid station, and this year his pirates ruled the trails. Alex also enjoys giving inbound runners the chance to prank the RDs by having them bring a theme-related token to the finish line, generally to present to Quatro. This year the runners had fun showering him in gold doubloons, and many went to great lengths to fish those gold coins out of their running gear, despite their natural inclination to focus on finding a chair, getting a refreshing recovery beverage, or reuniting with their supportive family and friends. In recent years, Alex has had his Chippendale dancers pass along small dollar bills to insert into Quatro’s pockets at the finish; and his Mardi Gras celebrants bestow the runners with beads for their final miles.

And then there is the Furbutt Café. For many years the club has put on a great finish line party, and 2024 was clearly no exception. Led by “White House Tom” McNulty and Brent Martin, this great group not only kept the runners well fed post-race with both a pork and chicken Brunswick Stew, but also a vegan version of stew, to boot. As per tradition, the feast was not restricted to the runners alone. Their supportive friends and family were also able to partake in Brent and WHT’s delicious feast from their perch atop the grassy hill that overlooks the finish line area.

Jack Kurisky at the finish of his 12th BRR with volunteer Gary Knipling, who served quite ably and enthusiastically (as only Gary can!) as the official finish line greeter.
📸Keith Knipling

In conjunction with the Furbutt Café, the swag sales team of Mary Shaw and Wendy Valdes returned to make sure that everyone who wanted to represent BRR and/or the VHTRC brands would get some great gear. Mary also was among the crew of volunteers who got the show going at 0400 ahead of the 0630 race start time, firing up her 100-cup coffee urn brewer, and dishing out light fare at the continental breakfast held in the Lodge. The other early volunteers were made up of seasoned VHTRC and BRR vets: Stan Spence and Bob Gaylord’s gang ensured that all who drove to the race could readily attest that Parking Is Great at this race. Jane and Derrick Carr and their registration crew picked up the ball left on Friday evening by Michael and Aleka Campbell’s pre-race bib pickup volunteers.

Your Bull Run Run race directors, past, present and future: Lauren Gabler Masterson, Katie Keier and Quatro Hubbard.

A huge shout of thanks to this year’s three-person Trail Boss Team. As usual, the trail marking team was led by BRR (and longtime MMT 100) trail boss Kevin Bligan, who drove down from his home in Pennsylvania to be on the course on race day, despite undergoing the latest round of chemo treatment in his courageous battle with cancer. Helping to ensure that the marking and sweeping crews were efficiently led throughout the race weekend were Kevin’s son, Carl Bligan, and the former Stone Mill 50 miler RD, Barry Hauptman. The course markings were, once again, first rate for the race, as there were no reports of bonus miles this year! In fact, many runners were showing Quatro their watches at the finish line with distances that were almost all in the 49 mile and change range. Could it be that the course is actually now a touch short?!

A huge, huge thank you to all the volunteers!!

The good news for those who miss the old 48 mile Bull Run Run 50 mile race course is that Quatro “50.2” Hubbard and Katie Keier were directing this race for the fifth and final time in 2024, and thus Q won’t be searching for another quarter mile to get back to a solid Garman 50 Mile distance for this race. As usual, your Garman may vary: at least one runner showed a 54 mile track, and another had 47 miles and change, all from the same course.

Q and Katie are beyond excited as they leave their joint directorship of this race by the prospect of the greatness to come from their appointed successor. Lauren Gabler Masterson is even more excited to be taking on the Race Director role. She has been the long-time co-captain of the Fountainhead aid station at Bull Run Run with Maria Bertacchi, and Lauren has co-directed (again, with Maria) the very successful PB&J 50k and 25k races in Prince William Forest Park late in October for a number of years. Lauren looks set to hit the ground running for her debut in 2025. And after what by all appearances was a highly successful 2024 race, she is hopeful that all participants, both runners and volunteers, will be eager to come back next year. The date for the 2025 BRR is set for April 5, and entry will open on October 1, 2024, at 9 AM.

Anstr Davidson has put together a gallery of photographs from earlier editions of the Bull Run Run. You can view those photos from this SmugMug link.

Photos taken in the Bluebell Loop by Tracey Thibodeau

Photographs from Keith Knipling and others at the finish and at points along the course.

📸Denise Freeman

Last updated April 18, 2024