2023 Dipsea Sob Stories Have Jedi Influence

Marc Morita and Yoda hope the force is strong with them

The Dipsea Race Committee loves a good story and each year when applications for The Annual Dipsea arrive, committee members sit at a long table in the Dipsea office and sort through hundreds of entries that contain dozens of hand-written or typed-written messages.

They are affectionately called “Dipsea sob stories” and they are shared with the Dipsea Race Committee to help increase their odds of their application getting accepted into the race. People wonder if writing these stories really helps, and they absolutely do. The race committee reads each one of them. When the last remaining spots in the race are still to be filled, this is where the stories make a difference in the selection process, especially for people anxious to run in the Dipsea for the first time. The annual 7.5-mile cross country jaunt from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach -- the oldest trail race in the United States – is limited to 1,500 entrants. With a long waiting list, people will sometimes say anything or offer any excuse (and sometimes bribes) to get in the Dipsea and Dipsea Sob Stories is sometimes the last act of desperation that breeds stories of inspiration.

Some make you cry. Some make you laugh. Some make you think of a galaxy far, far away.

Like the sob story sent in from Marc Morita, a self-proclaimed “Karaoke Superstar” who lives in Kelseyville with his daughter Lily and dog Biggs, teaches middle school in Calistoga, and, on the weekends, gives tours in Petaluma at Rancho Obi-Wan, a 9,000-square foot museum that according to Guinness World Records in 2014 had the largest Star Wars memorabilia collection in the universe.

“I think my bribe might be a little unique,” Marc wrote in his letter. “I wish I could say that I work for the Giants and could offer box seats. I wish I could say that I’m a chef at the French Laundry and could delight you with delicacies beyond imagination. Maybe I could offer you a ride in my Lamborghini, but you’d be a little disappointed that my Lamborghini is actually a 2017 Honda CR-V with basset hound and fur covering the backseat.”

Instead, Marc offered a tour for up to four people to Rancho Obi-Wan, the Mecca for most Star Wars fans.

The Dipsea Race Committee’s response to Marc: You are in this race year’s race --- the 112th Dipsea on June 11. May the Force be with you.

Marc grew up in Mill Valley and for years considered competing in the Dipsea, but never thought he was in good enough shape to do it.

Now this “Stars Wars nerd,” who dresses up as a Stormtrooper, appears to have the confidence of Yoda with lightsaber. Marc has been working out. He has been training on hills. He feels like the Luke Skywalker of the Dipsea Race.

Well, almost.

“I decided to eat some ice cream before my run today,” Marc wrote in his sob story letter, “and I’m regretting it.”

Marc’s story was one of numerous “sob stories” this year that struck the funny bone and pulled the heart strings of the Dipsea Race Committee, particularly runners who have overcome or are dealing with adversity.

For example, one runner is running in the Dipsea as a tribute to his best friend who is a cancer survivor which has changed their outlook on their lives filled with hikes. Another runner and her sisters had planned last year to run in memory of their father who died of lung cancer in 2021 but missed last year’s race because of COVID. There was a runner who was diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer following the Dipsea in 2019 who sent a laundry list of ailments and medical setbacks since then as proof he deserved to return to the race. And a veteran Dipsea runner wants and needs to run in the Dipsea for the 20th time as a break for being the sole caretaker for his mom who was diagnosed with dementia last year three years after his dad died from the aging disease.

And there’s a runner from Texas who says her dad’s death inspired her to sobriety and a first date with a guy named Paul who became her husband. She said she would never have had applied for the Dipsea had she not met Paul. “The Dipsea Race, directly and indirectly, saved me,” she says.

Then there is high school student who suffered a brutal biking accident two years ago at Stafford Lake where he would ride and build trails. The fall shattered his tibia and fibula. He rejoined his school’s cross country and track teams and is now ready to run in the Dipsea for the first time. A San Francisco man in 2017 fell from fifth-story apartment balcony and fractured his pelvic sockets along with six ribs. He wondered then “Will I walk again? Will I run again?” The answer is yes, even though he has 37 titanium implants. And there is a woman from Mill Valley who ran in the Dipsea last year and was so excited when two-time Dipsea champion Diana Fitzpatrick took a quick selfie with her at Cardiac. A half hour later, that woman fell and “the only thing that broke my fall was my face.” She needed an ambulance to get to a hospital then needed 40 plus stitches to close wounds to her lip and mouth (she sent photos as evidence) and eventually she needed two root canal surgeries, four front teeth replaced, and treatment for facial scars. She is back in the race this year.

Runners expressed deeply personal feelings or personal reasons for seeking entry into this year’s race. Like a Pennsylvania man who ran the Dipsea for the first time in 1973 so now, at age 67, he is returning to run the Dipsea on 50th anniversary of his first run. There is a woman who is a hospice nurse who, grabbing yellow paper and pink envelope, somehow found time to write sob story saying “running fills free time and heals the headspace.” Another nurse, who is in the Pediatric Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant Department at UCSF, is coached by Dipsea legends Chris Lundy and Clara Peterson. A 13-year-old cross country runner who wants to prove to his dad, a high school basketball coach, that he is better at running than dribbling a basketball by entering the Dipsea. Then there is the 62-year-old Marin Rowing Association member who competed on the US Olympic Rowing Team in 1984 who is now inspired to run the Dipsea after seeing his son run the Dipsea last year and qualify for invitational.

In addition, there is a first-time Dipsea runner, who weighed 420 pounds in 2015 and then was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in 2016, who proudly is now in shape. There is The Branson School alumna who graduated with a Masters of Public Policy in 2014 from the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke and spent time in the Peace Corps, who wants to come home and show record nine-time Dipsea Best Time Trophy winner Alex Varner that she can still beat him like she did in cross country in high school.

And introducing this woman from New York. She’s heard about the spirit and camaraderie of the Dipsea and her goal in entering the trail race for the first time is to hopefully come to California meet her future husband.

Conversely there is man who jokes that he is running to save his marriage. He blames his wife for not submitting or losing his application last year and said that might be grounds for a divorce. “Is that a threat or a promise?” his wife said.

The Dipsea always has been a family-oriented race. There is a woman from San Francisco who was raised as the second of seven children by single mom. She was in foster care in China for a while. She couldn’t afford to compete in regular sports, so she took up running and running, she says, changed her life from a coping mechanism to joy in her life. There is a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle who accepted a Dipsea Race Committee challenge to compete in the Dipsea after reluctantly writing a story about the Dipsea Trail. His son is joining him.

Finally longtime Dipsea runner and advocate Jack Roy on his application this year simply said he is dedicating this year’s race in memory of three-time Dipsea champion the late Russ Kiernan, the all-time record holder for Dipsea Black Shirts. Russ had a positive impact on anyone at anytime from anywhere. In 1994, Joe Weigel and a group of his running friends coming to the Dipsea from Kentucky invited Russ to visit them in Kentucky and have dinner at Joe’s house. Russ accepted. That left an impression that Joe’s son, Benjamin, who is coming from Louisville his year to follow in his father’s footsteps and run in the Dipsea for the first time.

These are perfect examples of the kind of people who are inspired each and every year to compete in the Dipsea, either for themselves, their loved ones, and for reasons no one knows. Their “sob stores” reveal their most private lives in a very public way and serve as a reminder as to why the Dipsea is The Greatest Race.

May the Force be with all of you.