Mountain Home Morning Runs: Part IV

by Tim Amyx

Originally published in the Tamalpa Gazette in January, 2005.


This is one of those articles that could very well be written by a more knowledgeable person.  Someone with closer ties to the runs, or someone who has done it more often than I. Since that person has not stepped forward in the past 6 years, I’ll take a crack.  This headline is titled, Part IV because this is the 4th version of a history of the Saturday morning runs at the Mountain Home Inn.  The other three articles covered the years from 1971 up through the mid 1990’s.  I’ll take the years from 1993 until about 2000. That will leave at least another 4 years for the next person to write on at a later date. 

Re-capping the obvious of what was written before… a little background and history.  Don Picket and Bryan Lowry were the first organizers of the Mountain Home Inn runs.  That was in 1971.  These runs for years were never publicized, never organized, never had a leader, plan, or specific route.  It was (and still is) simply a meeting place for pretty decent runners who want to run on the trails on the south side of Mount Tam.  Although there were never any assigned leaders or organizers, there has always been a runner or two who has taken the lead.  Sometimes it’s the most creative, sometimes it’s the veteran of the group, sometimes it’s the last person who shows up at 9:05 and they say, “Hey, Tomas, where are we going today?” 

Almost 34 years have passed since the Mountain Home Inn runs began. Hans Roenau is certainly the last of the originals, yet there are countless others who have been around since the 1980’s.  It would take the entire Gazette to mention the regulars who have come and gone since 1971. Some have done it for chunks of time and moved on, while others disappear for years and then later return. 

Anyway, I’ll be focusing for the most part of the years from 1993, when I began running with the Mountain Home Inn group on Saturdays, up until the early 2000’s, when family and the ultra racing life of my wife have taken us away from the Mountain Home Inn. 

Florencia and I moved to Mill Valley in 1992 and began doing Tamalpa and Mountain Home Inn runs in the spring of 1993.  Just like the runners of the early 1970’s, we’d meet at the MHI to run the trails and get primed and in shape for the Dipsea Race.  Starting out of the MHI there are 5 different ways to go…. Up the Railroad Grade, UP toward the Matt Davis Trail, Down East toward the Pipeline trail, Down West toward Alice Eastwood and Troop 80, and Down South toward Muir Woods and The Dipsea trail.  There are typical routes that often amount to about 60-90 minutes of running, or if you’re up for the longer group, there are 90-120 minute runs as well.   

Of the many people who came and went during the 8 years I was running, I can mention probably twenty names of the people I saw there the most: Mary Allaire, Janet Bowman, Jamie Wendel Berns, Tom Berns, Jack Burns, Gayle Murphy Burns, Burns and Schreiber, Tomas Pastalka, Jim Garlock, Terry Parks, Eric Parks, Quinn Folkes, Roger Gordon, Lorelei Vose, Maeve Garvey Burke, Hans Roenau, Bill Katz and Ron Rahmer.  Ron Rahmer was particularly influential to myself and the group.  First of all, he was a friend of my fathers and they ran together as far back as the late 1970’s.  When my father introduced me to the Mountain Home Inn runners and Ron Rahmer in 1989, he introduced me to Ron as, “Wrong Way Rahmer”.  You only have to run one Saturday with Ron to understand how he got his name.  Ron passed away in 2004 and if there is ever a Mountain Home Inn Hall of Fame erected, he’ll be one of its charter members.  Running with Ron during the mid and late 1990’s out of the MHI was both a blessing and a curse.  A blessing because he was always leading groups on runs through “new” trails, “old overgrown” trails, shortcuts through back yards, Crossing creeks in mid stream, and of course, getting lost.  Lost not so much in the fact that he didn’t know how to get back, but lost in the sense that his 6 mile run, turned into a 10 mile detour.  The curse of running with Ron was that you’d never have a clue as to how far you’d go or how long you’d be out there.  For those who were on a time crunch, it was not a good idea to follow Ron.  Never the less, Ron was one of the “leaders” throughout my period of running out of the MHI.   

Ron’s nemesis and friend was Tomas Pastalka.  Thomas has been with Tamalpa since the 1980’s and he too is still running out of the MHI.  With the passing of Ron, and with Han’s easing out of running, Tomas is probably the runner with the most seniority who still shows up on a consistent basis.   

As has been mentioned in other articles or write ups, the runs are scheduled 52 weeks of the year, rain or shine.  Not surprisingly the winter runs when it’s raining are the most memorable.  The numbers are often down from the usual 20-30, down to about a dozen hard core runners.  These are the most memorable because of the natural beauty we’ll see in the creeks and forests with all the running water.  On occasion we would drive our cars up to Rock Springs and do runs down the Cataract trail to view the pounding water. Beautiful! 

True to what George Frazier said in his article of 1996, the running pace had certainly eased off from what it was in earlier years.  Normally the leaders would go at an easy pace to begin, and then a moderate pace after a mile or two.  Rarely would we run so hard that it felt like a race or that there was any sort of competition going on.  Most of the group would go together for the first 3 miles.  It was at this point that the group who wanted to go “longer” would start a longer loop.  These long runs would range from 7-14 miles.  Those who wanted to just run “about an hour” would head in their own direction.  If a group of 25 runners started together at 9:05a.m. it would inevitably divide 2 – 4 times before all 25 runners came back. 

Although the group is not as hard core as it was in the 1980’s, it’s still a group of runners who do run well and can easily maintain a 8 to 9 minute per mile pace on hills, for at least an hour.  Certainly there are runners who show up who can’t maintain that pace, but they never stay with the core of the group.  They’ll peel off by the time the group makes its first pit stop.   

Around the time I started running with the group in 1993, the club began to advertise the MHI runs in the Gazette.  For the first 20 years of its existence, there was no publicity at all.  As a matter of fact, it was voted down a number of years by the Tamalpa board in the early 1980s, when then club president suggested the club list the run in the Gazette.  It was strictly a word of mouth thing. 

It’s still primarily a word of mouth event, but there is on occasion a person who will pop up, after reading the blurb in the Gazette, or perhaps on the Tamalpa web page.  There has been a time or two when someone from out of town visiting will come out after having read about the runs.  It’s kind of fun to share our knowledge and show off “our” mountain and the trails in those instances.  

Many of the earlier mentioned names are no longer part of the MHI regulars, myself and my wife included.  Everyone has his or her own reasons for moving on. Jobs, family, injuries, and the like.  Florencia, of all things, outgrew the MHI because she needed to run longer for her ultra race training.  As it turned out most of her Ultra friends would meet on Saturday mornings and begin their 2-3 hour runs at Petes in Mill Valley at 7:00 a.m.  Part of this was to run with Ultra friends, and part of this was to have an earlier start in the day. 

One day in 1996 Jim Sugar showed up at a MHI run after having been absent for a long time.  I gave him a hard time and asked him where he had been.  I, who had at time a 2-year-old daughter, listened to his excuse. “Tim, you just wait until your kids reach the age where they play Youth Soccer.  Your Saturdays will never be the same again.”  Two years ago I learned first hand what he was talking about.  I now have two daughters who play Mill Valley Club soccer.  My Saturdays have definitely changed.  Florencia’s lucky to run out on a 7a.m run for her ultra training and meet me at the Kids soccer field to watch the games.  I then try and get a run in sometime late Saturday afternoon. 

Never the less, three, maybe four times a year I’ll still make it up to the MHI for a Saturday run.  Inevitably there will be 10-15 faces I know who have been there a long time, and the other 5-10 are new faces who have become regulars themselves.  They probably look at me like an “old, has-been”.

Indeed there is a new generation of Runners at the Mountain Home Inn. (As well as the Garlocks, Pastalkas, and a few other veterans who still come out…)  Many are 30 something guys and gals who are pretty impressive runners. There are even a few 20-something kids who must have nothing better to do with their lives than run! When I was in my 20’s the last thing I’d spend time doing on a weekend was run!  I’m 45 now, and when I’m not driving my daughters to soccer games, there is no place I’d rather be on a Saturday morning than the Mountain Home Inn, prepping for a run on Mt. Tam.