Trail Chat with Kevin Twidwell

Kevin Twidwell and medical director Margaret Menendez – Votography Images

This month meet Kevin Twidwell, former Pengelly volunteer race director for 4 years. Kevin along with other Run Wild Missoula (RWM) volunteers and current Race Director Jamie Swartz have transformed Pengelly Double Dip into one of the most competitive and popular trail races in Montana.

Can you reveal a bit about yourself and the role you held during your four years as Pengelly race director?

I was part of the Missoula Youth Homes Committee that inherited an earlier version of the Pengelly races from the Five Valleys Land Trust. The committee changed the course to make it more “epic” by adding the haul up to the University beacon, and that has become the hallmark and most-touted portion of the Double Dip. It is really tough but that’s what makes the race so fun. For years, some nutty friends (Rick Wishcamper, Dean McGovern and Lisa Weinrich) and I swept the course in costume just to add some goofiness to the event. A few years ago, I was asked to be the race director, and it was a genuinely rewarding experience.

The climb up to the M. Photo by the Missoulian

Please tell the history of Pengelly and something unique about the race?

The Double Dip (13.1 miles) is limited to 200 runners because it crosses US Forest Service land, and in the past few years, the race has quickly reached its limit.  Part of the appeal, I think, is the toughness of the course, the fact that it is well organized, and the fact that it is an early Spring run. The races, including the Single Dip, a 10-k, draw people from all over Western Montana to test themselves against the big climbs and descents. Others tell me the best part of the race is the Tiki bar at the University Beacon where runners get a little margarita as a reward for summiting and as a pain killer for the quad-pounding descent to the Kim Williams trail.

Myke Hermsmeyer photo – On to the beacon

Have you raced Pengelly and how would you rank this course in comparison of other Montana trail races of similar distance?

I have run the course numerous times (marking, sweeping, just goofing off), but I have not actually done the race itself because of my other duties (or injuries). But from what racers have told me, it is one of the most difficult half-marathons you will find anywhere. It is common to have runners swear at me during the race but then thank me at the end when they are finished.

The climb to the Beacon. Photo by Votography Images

What has been the historical involvement of RWM and how has that benefitted the race?

Run Wild Missoula took over management of the races several years ago and has made the race a seamless event. Tony Banovich, RWM executive director, has played an active role in the races, making sure they are properly staffed and meet the group’s goals within the Run Wild structure. RWM is operated by runners who know what makes a great event, and the group’s volunteers make the race possible.

Descending from beacon -- Myke Hermsmeyer

Jamie Swartz is the present race director. How has she added value to the event?

Jamie Swartz took over the RD position in 2016 and has made the races even better. She added a third distance – the Vertical Dip – which is a five-mile race with 2,000 feet of gain from the river to the top of Mount Sentinel and 2,000 feet of descent back to the bottom. It is truly a lung buster. She also switched up the swag the race provides, added additional sponsors, and brought back the Pengelly Hoodie. I am sure she has other great ideas for the future.

How would you spend your ideal day?

My ideal day is going for a run on the trails around Missoula with my pals and my dogs. I love getting above the valley and running into friends on the mountain, catching up for a few minutes and then continuing on the trail. I like to get home with wobbly legs and then have some strong coffee and a hot shower. The rest of the day is just gravy.

Photo by KT – Lunatic the Running Beagle still getting out with a little help
Where do you find inspiration?

So many things inspire me: great views, mountain trails, wildlife, conversations with friends on a run. But I get the most inspiration from my long-time pal, Lunatic the Running Beagle. Before she got too old and developed maladies, we ran hundreds of miles together on the trails around Missoula (and elsewhere) with her braying the entire time. She still wants to go every time I grab my running shoes even though she is now relegated to short walks and being pulled in a little wagon I bought for her.  She reminds me that running is fun and we should all howl a bit when we are on the trail.

What is your favorite place on earth?
Glacier National Park . Can’t beat it.
Anyone who does the Double Dip course twice gets a free Super Nova from The Big Dipper. Here,  Randy Tanner and John Hart enjoy their reward for doubling up.  KT photo

Thank you Kevin, Jamie and RWM for organizing this fun event and creating opportunities for mountain runners.

For more information about the Double Dip, including course maps and past results check out the race website. Click here for the Marshall Mountain Trail Festival--it's free for everyone and is an amazing time. Finally, for a little bit information on the history of the event from a couple of years back check out this Missoulian article and MTC’s Jimmy Grant’s 2015 write up of Pengelly.



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