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Mill Valley Couple Takes Family Rivalry to the Dipsea Stage

Longtime Mill Valley residents used to watch the race; now they're very much a part of it, a competition that began when Peggy Davis outfinished husband Larry last year.

For nearly 30 years, Larry and Peggy Davis would walk a block to watch the start of the annual Dipsea Race.

On Sunday, they’ll run 7.5 miles just to be a part of it.

Indeed, the Davises have caught Dipsea fever big-time, which isn’t exactly what you might expect from a pair of 60-something Mill Valley residents who just 15 months ago thought running was something you did with water.

“My big thing was yoga,” Peggy said of her previous participation sports.

That changed in March 2010 when the Southern California natives, who had moved right into the heart of Dipsea country when they bought a house at Lovell and Olive in 1983, got caught up in the excitement of the 100th edition of Marin’s most famous running race.

“My husband and I would come down to watch the start of the race. We live a block away,” Peggy explained. “We always said we wanted to run the race, but we’re not runners.

“But last year, come the 100th Dipsea, my husband said, ‘We have to do this.’”

And that they did, with surprising results.

Despite only three months of training, they both completed the tough course. And they did so fast enough to record an “official” time, which goes only to registered competitors who cross the finish line in less than 3 hours.

But neither of those was the biggest news of the day.

“I never saw him on the course,” recalled Peggy, who had a four-minute head-start. “When I got to the finish line, I was looking for him. I was sure he had beat me. But I couldn’t find him anywhere.”

There was a reason for that: Peggy had beaten Larry by about seven or eight minutes.

Suffice it to say, that wasn’t supposed to happen, and it’s led to some interesting dialogue over the past 12 months.

“I don’t have to remind him. He brings it up all the time,” Peggy said. “Maybe the only time I mentioned it was in my letter to the Dipsea.”

It worked. The application letter convinced the race organizers to give them a second go Sunday.

And this time, they’re better prepared. Especially the revenge-motivated Larry.

“We have had a running joke (no pun intended) about how he would leave a foot mark on my back when he passes me this year,” Peggy noted.

Alas, Larry is going to have to work harder than last year to accomplish that feat. That’s because Peggy, who walked a lot last June and finished in 2 hours, 39 minutes, claims she’s in far better shape after training for a full 12 months this time.

“My big thing last year was getting up those stairs,” Peggy said of the race’s signature obstacle early in the race. “It’s still a challenge for me, but I’m better at it than I was last year.

“My goal this year is to improve my time. I think I will. But I think my husband will beat me. I will be really surprised if I beat him again.”

The couple has two grown children (Star, 36, and Ti, 33) who attended , and , and a 5-year-old grandson who “trains” with them on the Dipsea stairs.

The 60-year-old Peggy is a teacher at Bahia Vista Elementary School in San Rafael (the school's principal, Juan Rodriguez, also is expected to run in the race); Larry, 63, works for Crome Architects in San Rafael.

The couple usually trains together and, in fact, has run the course several times since last year’s race. Heck, Peggy is so into running these days, she’s even got a Dipsea game plan of sorts.

“The one thing I have learned is you really have to run your own race,” she said. “I know what I can do. I can’t get caught up in how fast other people are going.

“And that’s probably true for everyone.”

Even Larry, who Peggy says was a victim of last year’s unseasonably hot day. But quitting apparently isn’t in the Davises’ genes.

“There have been times when I’ve thought, ‘Oh, I don’t know if this is worth it.’ And I still can’t run the whole thing,” she admitted. “But it’s a beautiful race, and when you’re out there on the trails, it’s beautiful. That’s what’s inspired me to keep going.”

By turning 60, Peggy gets a fifth minute of advantage over her husband this year. She doesn’t think it’s going to matter.

“That doesn’t seem to be enough,” she noted. “I’ve gotta say: My husband is going to beat me this year. He’s been training hard.”

Fellow racers are forewarned to stand clear. This rivalry is fiercer than it might look.

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