I first started running ultras in 2007, and in August of that year, my third race was the North Face 50K at Great Falls, VA. Still new to ultras, my race strategy was terrible, I started way too fast. When the temperatures hit 98 degrees, I really suffered, limping home in 6:33. But I still love the course, and run there whenever I can when visiting home. Saturday, 9/1 I got up in the wee hours and parked alongside Difficult Run about a mile up from where it empties into the Potomac River north of Washington DC. It is about a mile of scampering and uphill climb to reach the river at the bottom end of the gorge below the falls.
From there, it is several more miles of stiff climbs and descents on the rocks to the fall themselves.
The views are beautiful, and the sound of the falls dominates everything as you wind your way closer. It was especially rewarding to run this section of the park before it opened to the public (I had come in through a back way on the trails), and pretty much had it to myself before the throngs began to arrive. Not one mile above the falls, the water is serene, and in the early morning sunlight, no warning of the downstream dangers were apparent.
From there, I continued north, but cut inland where some of the hills includes some wicked climbs and descents, although none very long. I eventually hit the river again north of Riverview Park and returned south on the riverside trail that was mostly flat almost all the way back to the car. The temps and humidity were cooler than Florida, but not by much. I was glad I had taken both my camelback and 2 handhelds for the longish trek as I emptied everything during the run. 19.5 miles in 3:45, and another satisfying run (with no horse manure sightings the entire run).