This is my favorite trail run ever. I used to run the Manassas Battlefield trails all the time when I lived in Virginia and DC over the years. This is the first time I’ve been back in about 5 years. It was as lovely as ever and just a beautiful place to be outside running.
It is a historic site, obviously, and has a lot to look at, outside of just nature. There are memorials all over the grounds and throughout the wood trails as well. I stuck to the 1 mile trail circling the main house and the Stonewall Jackson Memorial. I wasn’t sure how far I could go on the hills and I also didn’t trust myself to know where I was going through the woods on my own. Plus my running buddy didn’t know the trails and she is faster than I am so it was easier for us both to stay on the 1 mile loop.
We started off to the right of the parking lot in front of the main house and ran the trail counter-clockwise, circling all the plaques and cannons on the outside. I’m not sure why but that’s the way I’m used to running it. I just like going up the steeper trails (so I don’t fall) and avoiding the slower upward climb of a particular hill halfway through the trail. It’s all personal preference. As we began running, my run buddy asked me how the trail is going to be and if it’s going to be gravel or dirt. I go “….. um… we’re on the trail now.” We were running on what amounted to pressed down grass, and not particularly short grass either. Not to mention it was all soaking wet from the pouring rain the day before. Our shoes and socks were completely soaked. My feet were wetter than they have ever been running in Florida, and that’s saying something. My friend was not ecstatic about this revelation. I told her that the “trail” was more like the “trail” in “Trail of Tears” or “The Oregon Trail”, where it’s sort of an implied trail…. *crickets*… as she was probably cursing me in her head.
I told her that you can see where the “trail” is by where the grass is slightly shorter than the other grass. Stay within the cut grass, I told her. Hey, I thought this was a pretty clear and easy guideline, but I can see how others may disagree.
The problem with grass trails, as my friend pointed out a little later, is that they cover large holes that you can’t see. Ok, I get that. They also cover ankle deep mud puddles. Yeah, I realize that now. But hey, what’s a little mud and a couple sprained ankles?! Seriously it wasn’t that bad. Neither of us got hurt! And loads of other people were running the trail! That’s something that surprised me a lot. Back in the day when I would run the trails, nobody was out there, certainly not runners. I was worried I was being disrespectful to the Battlefield and monuments by running around them back in the day, since I didn’t ever see any other runners. But I talked to the nice Park Service people and they assured me that I was fine, especially since I would pay for the year pass ($20) for National Park visitation. And, of course, I completely respect the site as it stands as a memorial to the fallen on both sides of the war. And now, well, I guess everyone is on to this place as being a great place to run because I saw a ton of runners getting ready to head off on the trails, with CamelBaks and all sorts of things that implied a good, long distance run. It was great to see.
Oh and now they charge $3 a person for entry to the parks, vs $2 that I paid years ago. The main place wasn’t open when we got there to run since we were there very early, but we paid for our visit afterwards. I did more sightseeing on this run than I ever had before running the Battlefield. I wish I could have seen even more!
The main building is open from 830am but I forgot to see when it closes. It’s only really an issue if you need to use the bathroom facilities or need to pay. Also, I’m not sure when they close the gate to get to the parking lot there on the Battlefield.
The way I run the loop it’s about 1.25 miles each lap. I ran a total of 5.25 miles by looping around taking pictures every which way. My friend, who wasn’t taking pictures, got higher mileage. In retrospect, I should have kept running but I was happy with a 5 mile run and was worried that I would hurt myself or be too sore after all those hills. It’s stupid. I can’t believe I didn’t run more. In my happiness I was just content to have that run, as if I could just come back later and run more. Nope. 😦 But my friend was definitely stopping so it was easy for me to stop too. Plus we had a brunch date with friends back in the city.
If you live even remotely near the Manassas Battlefield, you have to check out the trails and the running! Apparently the Gainesville “Run Store” still has a team that meets every Saturday morning for a 6-12 mile trail run at 730am. We were there this past Saturday and nobody was there, but it was pouring down rain and we also didn’t run. After what I saw of the trails, nobody wants to attempt those slippery hills in the rain I’m sure!