by Jillian Palethorpe*
As David Totheroh, legendary barefoot mountain runner, fastest Topangan and one of the original Race Directors tells it, the Topanga 10k was always tough but not always a 10K. When David first came across the award known as The Fastest Son Of A Gun it was presented at Topanga Days to the winner of an unruly moving melee that encircled the Community House. "In those days, there were only two rules: #1 Stay on the course, #2 No weapons. Other than that, anything else went," David remembers. The course involved narrow hillside switchbacks, precarious downhill scrambles and a lot of pushing your opponents off the cliff. "Why not? There was no rule against it."
The following year, in 1978 David and fellow Topangans, Michael Nesmore and Tom Byrnes surveyed a 10K course through the fire roads of Trippett Ranch. This became the basis for the present-day course and it remains arguably the toughest 10K in California. It is still the opening event of Topanga Days and takes place on the Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend every year. In the late 80s the race fell into hiatus. Then, in 1990 The Topanga Canyon Women's Club asked Topangan Jacqueline Hansen to restore the 10K and Jane Galvin suggested that the race be named after her. TCWC member and long-time Topanga resident Lee Kelly suggested adding the word "tough" to the title, whether in the interests of accuracy or as a compassionate warning for flat-landers, no one can be sure.
Jacqueline Hansen recruited local artist Petra Beerman to create a new t-shirt for the race and the tradition of the running animals was born. Petra's drawing of the coyote became the unofficial logo of the race and the shirts have become a collector's item. As Race Director Jacqueline Hansen set a high standard. The Olympic marathoner not only organized the revised race but at its re-opening won overall first (female,) first masters, first female Topangan and first in her age group. This grand slam is unique in the history of the race... so far.
As a race the Topanga 10K manifests everything that is wonderful about the community of Topanga -- a beautifully brutal course through rugged mountains, a phalanx of willing volunteers, a constant financial commitment from Topanga businesses, a cordial relationship with Parks And Reserves, an age range of competitors from seven to eighty-six and no shortage of local heroes. From the kids, Jake Greene, Tucker Weiss, Caly Cline, Jacci Brown through to the great masters, Rita Gilmour, Bill McGray, Carolyn Leacock, they continue to amaze us. The Fastest sons and Daughters Of A Gun have become the fastest Topangans; Michael and Gigi Bartlett, Perry Forrester, Sooki Wheeland (who has won the title more times than anyone,) and the fastest of all, Cande Rodriguez who attended Topanga Elementary and ran in the mountains for fun. In 2002 Cande became the first Topangan to win the race overall and he won again in 2003 and in 2004. Long may he -- and his fellow Topangans -- run.
*Slowest Fastest Topangan Female, 1995