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Dipsea Winner Rivers: 'There's Nothing Like It'

The 60-year-old has made her mark on the race's record book, but one goal remains: To hit the tape hand-in-hand with her 64-year-old husband Roy someday.

Three full days removed from last Sunday, Mill Valley’s was still recovering on Wednesday.

The physical toll takes on a 60-year-old woman? No, not that.

A little too much hooting and hollering in the aftermath of winning Marin’s most famous running race for a second time left Rivers with a sore throat. 

“I have a thing: ‘Woo-Hoo,'” she said of an exuberant yell she saves for special occasions. “The moment I crossed the finish line, I started looking back to see who was coming in behind me.

“I think I did too many ‘Woo-Hoos’ -- for (her husband, who finished ninth), for the Pelican Inn Track Club, which won the team championship, for my friend , who had the fastest time again this year, for my friends who ran the Dipsea and did so well …

“It’s done a number on my throat.”

Rivers, a nurse at UCSF Medical Center, has done quite a number on the competition during her 22-year history of running the Dipsea. Through the scratchiness, the 16-year Mill Valley resident shared her thoughts on everything from growing up a swimmer on Guam to the dream of an even greater achievement than finishing first in a Dipsea.

Mill Valley Patch: You won the 2007 Dipsea, yet finished 622nd last year due to a hamstring injury. What were your expectations this time around?
Jamie Rivers: I tell you what: I had no expectations. I was only competing because of my passion for the Dipsea, for the trail, for the whole dynamic of the tradition of what that race represents. This year, after the injury last year, I was just happy to be pain-free, which occurred about six weeks out from race day. At that point, I was telling Roy I was very excited because I knew I could run a solid race this year. I didn’t know if I could run so well to be in the black (the top 35 finishers are awarded black t-shirts). But deep down inside, I knew I could run a strong and solid race.

MVP: At what point were you aware you were winning the race?
JR: As the people that you are passing start thinning out, you know you’re getting among the leaders. I knew I was running second or third when I got to the top of Cardiac (Hill). But I didn’t know who was in front of me or how far ahead he was.

MVP: How did you take the lead?
JR: Going down ‘The Corkscrew’ (the steep decline after Cardiac Hill), I saw . When I passed him, he was yelling at me, ‘Go for it, Jamie, you can win this race.’ I started thinking, 'Whoa, maybe I can win this race.' But I was thinking of all those people who were chasing me. Near the end, I looked behind me. I was actually looking for Roy, but I saw no one. That’s when I thought, ‘I’m going to win this race.’ That’s when I start to enjoy it.

MVP: What were your first thoughts after hitting the tape first for the second time five years?
JR: I wanted to see who was coming next, so I turned around immediately and looked back down the finishing stretch. I didn’t see anyone. A couple of seconds later, I saw a white shirt coming at me. I thought for sure it would be Roy or Alex. But it was Hans. He’s 71. He was able to hold off the other guys.

MVP: What’s the toughest part of running a Dipsea?
JR: There’s nothing like racing the Dipsea. It’s the hardest thing because it’s so treacherous. People say: ‘How do you do it, running up all those hills?’ It’s not just getting up the hills. It’s racing fearlessly down the hills. I think that's the hardest part.

MVP: You’ve won 14 Dipsea black shirts, the most ever among women, in just 22 tries. What do you consider your greatest achievement in running?
JR: My greatest achievement as a runner is the fact that I have won the Dipsea, the Double Dipsea and the Quadruple Dipsea -- three different disciplines. I was the first person in history to win all three. The only other person in history to do it is my husband Roy.

MVP: What does it mean to own more black shirts than any other runner?
JR: Two years ago, I was in a battle with (Mill Valley’s) . We both had 12. I wanted to go down in the history books as the woman with the most black shirts. I got one in 2009. Now I have 14. That’s very important to me.

MVP: You beat your husband this year. Is there a bit of a rivalry there?
JR: Oh, no. No rivalry. My husband Roy is the most fantastic, talented trail runner ever. He’s 64 years old and he’s able to keep up with 24-year-olds. He’s the real deal. We don’t have a rivalry. We support each other. In fact, we were hoping on Sunday to finish 1-2 or 2-1 in the single Dipsea. We wanted to run across the finish line holding hands together. He finished ninth. We won the family trophy.

MVP: Have you always been a great runner?
JR: I was not a runner when I was growing up. I grew up on the island of Guam. We had no organized sports in high school or junior high. I grew up surfing and swimming. I didn’t start running until I was 26 or 27. There was a local running club on the island. Their races would all start at 4:30 in the morning because it was too hot or humid to run later in the day.

MVP: What was your best sport growing up?
JR: I was always sports-minded. I was the only girl in a family of three brothers. My father coached the boys in baseball and basketball. I’ve always been tomboysy. I swam competitively. That was my sport. I played a lot of tennis. Eventually organizational sports came to the island. I played water polo on a team.

MVP: Looking ahead, do you have a goal in terms of your running?
JR: I really don’t know what’s next. I will continue to do the Dipsea as long as I can continue to be a strong, contributing competitor and be healthy about it. I will continue with my passion. If Roy and I could finish 1-2, that would be a great goal. That would be a fun, fun thing.

highman June 18, 2011 at 03:24 AM
Wait a second! Rivers came in 622nd the year before. That means she should not have qualified for the Invitational Division. She should have started in the Runners Division according to the Dipsea "rules". Smells fishy up in Mill Valley!
Citizen June 18, 2011 at 06:15 PM
Highman, according to information at Dipsea.org, "Also eligible for the 2011 Invitational are those from the Runner section who were among the first 750, overall, to cross the finish line in 2010." If Jamie was 622 overall last year, then she qualified for Invitational.
Arthur Beckert June 20, 2011 at 10:10 PM
All past winners can get in any time they want including the day of the race.
Jewels June 21, 2011 at 05:14 PM
I think Highman might be right. Jamie wasn't in the Runners Divison in 2010, she was in the Invitational which means she should have been one of the first 450 runners in order to get into the Invitational. And Arthur, well I have no response to that since that clause isn't in the Dipsea rules. It's their party, they can let in whoever they want to let in, rules or not.
MJR July 23, 2011 at 09:44 PM
Highman, etal: FYI: Former winners automatically qualify! WE appreciate the interest in the Dipsea. We just wish people would get the facts before spouting their opinions.If you have questions about the Dipsea we are happy to answer, just email them to us. Dipsea Board

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