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Dipsea Angel Gina Seaborg Runs in Memory of Her Brother

Gina lost her brother to cancer 11 years ago, and now runs the Dipsea and to "Paul's Pole" in his honor.

This Sunday will mark Gina Seaborg's 22nd Dipsea Race. She first ran the Dipsea course with her brother, Paul, and a group of friends more than 24 years ago. Paul died of colon cancer 11 years ago, and now Gina runs her race in honor of her big brother. Gina grew up in Ross with five older brothers and now lives on Buena Vista Avenue near downtown.

When she’s not on the Dipsea Trail or working at her job as a mortgage broker, you’re likely to see Gina wielding a tennis racket or golf club, enjoying breakfast at , or on the other Mount Tam trails with her Border Collie, Boomer, and her husband, Bill. 

MVP: What do you like about your neighborhood?
GS:
I love Mill Valley and I love my neighborhood! It’s the best neighborhood in the whole wide world. There are kids and dogs and families. The streets are nice and flat; we’re close to town. I love it.

MVP: Where do you like to eat?
GS: I like , and I love Dish. You should know that Peter Schumacher (manager of Dish, , ) supplies all the food to the Dipsea Race.

MVP: What year was your first Dipsea?

GS:  My first was in 1987 and I’ve only missed two. One time I was traveling and one time I got my application in late. Etta is strict on following the rules. She doesn’t budge.

MVP: Why did you start?
GS: I started because of my brother Paul. He and my other brother Steve ran it in the 70s. They were running in their Keds. When I eventually started running with Paul, there was a group of us and we started running the Dipsea Trail because it was so fun to run out to the beach. Then we made it a goal to do the race. Now I run in honor of Paul. I think every long-time Dipsea runner has someone that they’re dedicating it to.

MVP: How was your time that first year?
GS: A lot faster than now. Maybe 1:16 or 1:18. I was fast. Now I’m 1:28 or so.

MVP: And after all these races are you still nervous?
GS: Yes!

MVP: How many times do you think you’ve run that course?
GS: I probably run it 10-15 times a year so at least 200 times.

MVP: Does it get any easier?
GS: Hell no. There are always pieces that are really hard. For me, it’s right after the creek starting uphill in Muir Woods. You’ve been running downhill feeling so good, you cross the creek and then all of the sudden it’s... arghh. It’s steep and it’s just the beginning of a long, long uphill. You’ve just got to gut it out. Then I get to Paul’s Pole. I’ve dedicated a telephone pole to Paul.

MVP: Where is Paul’s Pole?
GS: In a meadow right in the middle of Hogback. It’s a telephone pole. First there was a tree that I dedicated to him but it was cut down. I knew they wouldn’t cut a telephone pole down. Everyone I run with knows where Paul’s Pole is and when I run with friends we stop and give it a hug. We all say 'hi' to Paul and keep running. I took last year’s medal and stuck it on Paul’s Pole and it’s still there.
It’s nice when my nieces hike the trail - they see their dad’s pole. He was such a fighter and he represented that strength to me.

MVP: He was a boxer, right?
GS: He was a boxer. He fought Sugar Ray Leonard in the 70s right before the Olympics. They wanted Paul to go as an alternate but he said Sugar Ray was so good there was no way he’d get in.

MVP: So when you’re running and it gets pretty bad, you can think of Paul?
GS: Yes, as we all know you’ve got to gut it out on that race. There are times when you think you can’t make it or you can’t go any faster. You just have to push through, and then you go around that corner after Cardiac, you see the water and the beach and all of the sudden you think, 'Oh my God.' It’s just amazing. It is so exhilarating.

MVP: Whenever I run that course, and I haven’t run it much, I think, 'Surely there’s not much further to go.' Then I’ll go around a bend and think, 'Oh yeah, I forgot about this part, shoot!'
GS: Then you look at people like Russ Kiernan and Melody Anne-Shultz and you think 'How in the world do they do it?'

MVP How do they run so fast?
GS: They must have amazing VO2. I think if you really want to do the Dipsea for time you have to do serious training.

MVP: That’s one goal. But that’s not why I run. Of course you want a better time, but for me the fun part of running is chilling and unwinding - getting rid of stress, not adding stress.
GS: I know. I’m at a time in my life where I just don’t want that anxiety leading up to a race. I keep doing it because I want to get another year under my belt. I may not have the best time, but I’ve done it 22 times.

MVP: Do you have any striking memories of really good or bad races?
GS: I do tend to overexert myself and get sick.

MVP: How many times have you thrown up on the trail?
GS: A lot. When I first started running I would get so sick at the end of the race. I would push and push and start crying at the finish. For me it’s physically and mentally exhausting. I would put so much into it that it took over my body. There were many times I came across the finish line throwing up and bursting into tears all at once.

MVP: What about on the trail? Do you throw up on the trail?
GS: Usually at the top of Cardiac, until my friend, Catherine, gave me a Sharkie. They work wonders! Now I take a Sharkie at the top of Cardiac and that does the trick. Everybody, take your Sharkies, or whatever your choice of electrolyte is! And drink water!

MVP: I take a Cliff Shot at the top of Cardiac.
GS: Now that would make me throw up.

MVP: Have you ever been injured or fallen?
GS: I’ve certainly fallen but nothing bad. I’ve helped a lot of people. Last year I helped a little boy who was disoriented. Every year it seems like I end up helping some kid.

MVP: So you’re the Dipsea Angel! What do you think about the kids in the race?
GS: I think it’s great. I know some people don’t, but you know if they can do it it’s pretty cool.

MVP: What’s the worst accident you’ve seen?
GS: Once I saw one guy, a scratch runner, come through and on suicide he just went all out on his face and cut up his legs.

MVP:  The young ones come through, those scratch runners, and they have no fear.
GS: I don’t understand how they can take the downhills so fast. They just go all out. I kind of like that. It’s that young energy that goes all out with absolutely no fear, no interest in being cautious. I envy that.

MVP: What’s the rudest thing anyone has ever done to you at the Dipsea?
GS: A couple of years ago a guy pushed me. Right at the end before the road where they’re ringing the cowbell. It was rude! He scrambled by me and I almost had a really bad fall. I just screamed after him and he just said something like, “Get out of my way.” I just thought that was really bad behavior.

MVP: He must not live in Mill Valley. What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done?
GS: When I used to run with Paul and it would get tough our friend Benny used to say 'it’s just another walk in the park, Paulie.' So the first few years after Paul died I made these little signs that said, 'It’s just another walk in the park Paulie,' or I would put 'Running in honor of Paul Sherry' on my shirt with his dates. People would run by and say nice things. Once someone said, 'I bet he was a great guy.' And I said, 'he was!' That just made me feel good.
Also, it’s so fun at the very end and when there are only two or three people around and you try to run as fast as you can to beat them. I love to come around that corner and Bill is there and my brothers and everyone’s cheering and you think, 'I Love Mill Valley!' Then you want to do better next year. You hate it at the beginning and you love it at the end. 

MVP: It is such a mental undertaking.
GS: It’s one extreme to the other.

MVP: What do you like to do after the Dipsea?
GS: I like to stay at Stinson and have a picnic. I see people that I went to high school with. I only see them once a year at the Dipsea. This is where we all grew up. We had our Redwood graduation at the top of Mount Tam and here we are 54 years old together after the Dipsea.

MVP: When you’re running do you feel that Paul is with you? Do you have the feeling of his presence?
GS: I do. Except I wish he would help me out a bit more!

Joannie Stern June 11, 2011 at 11:54 PM
Have a great run, Catherine!
Melanie Pena June 16, 2011 at 03:54 AM
Wonderful article about a genuinely nice Mill Valley person, Gina Seaborg. Thanks for your stellar interview, Catherine. It almost makes me want to run the Dipsea!!

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