(Marin Independent Journal (CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) June 04--While not all 50 states are represented in the annual Dipsea Race, Minnesota has at least five runners who can't get enough of the historic footrace.
Sixteen years ago, Mike Gallagher, 50, a senior executive for cyber security companies who lives in Minneapolis, found himself in Silicon Valley quite often on business trips. He came across a flyer for the famed 7.5-mile footrace from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach and sent in an application.
He received spots in the race for himself, his brother Steve Gallagher and friend Jill Waters -- she met Steve in college and all three played on the same touch football league team. Now all he had to do was convince Steve and Waters they should join him in this new endeavor. After a little coaxing and "two beers", according to Waters, they were sold on the idea and have been going ever since.
Sunday will mark Mike's 16th, Steve's 15th race and Waters' 14th. The group has also expanded.
Chris Petersen, who recently moved to Austin, Texas, is making his 14th appearance and relative newcomer Julia Angevine is running the Dipsea for the sixth time.
"We love the run ... It's a beautiful trail run," said Mike Gallagher, who has spearheaded the yearly sob stories writing campaign to the Dipsea Committee to regain racing bibs. "The people treat us so well. We stay in the Mill Valley Inn and book (our rooms) a year in advance."
While the trail run is a unique one for the Minnesota crew, which doesn't have many mountain ranges to practice on where they live, it's the entire atmosphere the race offers that keeps them coming back.
"When you pick up your (race) packet and number and everybody's excited. ... It's a Super-Bowl-like feeling," said Petersen, 47, who said the Minnesota winters helped contribute to his move to Texas, but will be going back there to coach one last season of high school girls soccer in the fall. "I keep expecting to see Howard Cosell out there to commentate (the race)."
Steve Gallagher, 49, also looks forward to the race because the hilly advantage gives him an edge over his brother.
"We've been running for 25 years, probably ran in 300 races," he said. "If the race doesn't have hills, Mike beats me ... hands down. If we go to the Dipsea or (a race in) Colorado, I have beaten him more than he's beaten me. It's an equalizer at least once a year."
Waters, 49, who missed the past two Dipseas while dealing with colon-rectal cancer, is ready to return to the race now that she has a clean bill of health again.
"This will be lucky number 13 (Dipsea)," said Waters, who teaches second grade. "After the first time, I was hooked. Wouldn't want to miss it. There's nothing about the race I don't like."
Even a bussing snafu one year that left the group stranded at the finish line at Stinson couldn't dampen their spirits.
"They booked the buses back for the wrong weekend," Mike Gallagher said. "We went to Highway 1 and hitchhiked and it only took us 20 minutes to get a ride (to Mill Valley)."
Angevine, 48, a physical therapist, missed one race in six years when she had neck surgery. She is perhaps the strongest runner of the quintet, qualifying several times in the invitational field and finishing in the 300s the past three years.
She met Waters while playing soccer and broomball and eventually joined the touch football squad where she heard the yearly stories about the Dipsea.
"They talked about how great it was every year and I finally caved," Angevine said. "I had to do it. It's the most challenging run I've done and the most beautiful one. I look forward to it every year."
What's her favorite part?
"The end," she said. "It's such an accomplishment to finish it."
The trail has left an indelible mark on the group.
"It's incredible. There's nothing like that run in the world," Petersen said. "I've done marathons. It doesn't compare to the Dipsea."
The Dipsea Race Foundation annual Hall of Fame dinner is Friday night at the Mill Valley Outdoor Art Club. No-host cocktail reception begins at 6 p.m. followed by dinner at 7 p.m.
Individual tickets are $50, $35 for teenagers, with proceeds providing financial support for young Dipsea runners and volunteers through the foundation's scholarship program as well as maintenance of the Dipsea Trail and the Dipsea Hall of Fame.
For tickets or for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.dipsea.org and click on "Dipsea Foundation."
What: 104th annual 7.5-mile footrace from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach
When: 8:30 a.m., Sunday
On the web: www.dipsea.org.
Last year: Larkspur's Diana Fitzpatrick became the winner of the closest Dipsea since 1988 when she beat Chris Lundy and Brian Pilcher by a few seconds.
(c)2014 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.)
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