Pengelly: 20 Years of Painfully Fun Times


The Pengelly Double Dip races will exhaust even the strongest runners for the 20th time this June, and that’s what the committee that designed the course wanted.  

By way of background, two decades ago the Missoula Youth Homes inherited a different version of race from the Five Valleys Land Trust and organized the first Double Dip that includes half marathon and 10k routes on Mt. Sentinel and its environs. During the organization of the race, the Youth Homes committee wanted one of the few trail races in the Missoula area to be “epic.”   So as a joke, I suggested that we send runners to the University Beacon for a steep but beautiful out-and-back leg of the longer race. To my surprise, the committee took the joke seriously, and with that the butt-kicking Double Dip long course was born. Since then thousands of participants, including some of the state’s hardiest runners, have trudged to the Beacon before turning around and summiting Mt. Sentinel and then pounding down the trail to the Kim Williams and finish line. To take the edge off the hardest part of the course, the Beacon aid station volunteers have dispensed gallons of margaritas over the years to fuel runners to the finish line.   People either love the course or give the race director an earful of cuss words at the end.

The race has always been a mixture of pain and fun. The first year, all-around fun guy Phil Gardner enticed runners to the Beacon summit with bratwursts and whisky all the while dressed as Fat Bastard from the Austin Powers movies.   And the sweeps – those who pick up the course flags and follow the last runners to the end””have dressed as Ghost Busters, Cheech & Chong, The Beastie Boys and even lawyers (with white shirts, ties and running shorts).

For those who prefer a shorter (but still burly) race, the Single Dip 10k starts with a “sprint” up the M trail, across what is commonly called the Fire Road, and then back to the finish line at the University of Montana via Maurice Avenue and Campus Drive. This race has been renamed as the Bob Hayes Single Dip after legendary local runner”¦you guessed it”¦ Bob Hayes as a tribute to him and his resilience as a trail runner who hit the trail well into his late 80s.

On a personal note, the Double Dip will always have a special place in my heart because running its trails has solidified my friendships with a host of misfits and oddballs I never would have met in my daily life and has led to many far away races and adventures, including a trip with three Missoula friends to Mexico to run with Caballo Blanco and the Tarahumara in the Copper Canyon. A special moment for me was when Caballo’s longtime partner, Maria “Mariposa” Walton, came to Missoula and ran the Double Dip in Caballo’s memory after he died on a run in Arizona. She told the runners at the starting line that Caballo fell in love with our trails when he visited and that we should be grateful we have them. She was right.

Fun facts about the Pengelly Double Dip:

  1. The race is called the Double Dip because runners (of the long course) hit two summits – and that’s just as fun as eating a double dip of ice cream on a cone;
  2. The race mascot is a flying elephant because the organizers first envisioned holding the race on Mt. Jumbo. To avoid disturbing the elk herd, however, the race was moved to Mt. Sentinel. The elephant logo designed by artist Brad Lamson was just too darned good to change even though the venue moved;
  3. The Double Dip is named after David Pengelly, a Missoula resident and mountain climber who frequently trained on Mt. Sentinel before his unfortunate death.
  4. For the trail sadists out there, anyone who completes two laps of the full Double Dip course gets a free Super Nova ice cream bomb from The Big Dipper. Missoula ultrarunner and trail curmudgeon John Hart was the first runner to do the Double-Double, and now a handful of folks take on the challenge every year.
  5. 2022 Ultrarunner Magazine Runner of the Year Adam Peterman holds the men’s record for the long course at a blistering 1:28:16. And frequent Double Dipper Nicole Hunt holds the women’s record of 1:53:52. For the Single Dip, David Cresap is the record holder with a finishing time of 38:24 and Missoulian Rye Palen holds the women’s record of 43:58. You don’t have to run that fast and are welcome to enjoy the course and mountain flowers at your own pace.
  6. The race is on June 3, 2023, this year and will once again feature well-stocked aid stations, goofy volunteers along the course, and food and beverages for carbs and hydration at the finish line. Come join the fun.



About the author: Kevin Twidwell is a Missoula trail runner who can be found nearly every weekend on the Double Dip trails with his dogs and a few goofy friends.