Sal Vasquez Fleet-Footed Champ
If you lived in Alameda in the 1980s and 1990s and paid any attention to Island runners, you’d probably remember the name Sal Vasquez. He was the Frank Shorter of Alameda and could be seen running around town frequently. A successful masters (over 40) runner on the track, roads and in cross country, Vasquez made his name in the Bay Area with his dominance of Mill Valley’s famous Dipsea Race, which he won a record seven times between 1982 and 1997.
The Dipsea Race is Marin County’s Bay to Breakers — only it’s seven years older. In fact, begun in 1905, the Dipsea is the nation’s second oldest major footrace. Held each year in June, the Dipsea is a 7.4-mile race from downtown Mill Valley to Stinson Beach, which begins with a daunting climb of 671 steps and stretches over a course with a total elevation gain of 2,000 feet. Only 1,500 entrants are allowed to run the race each year.
Vasquez was an ex-soccer player in recovery from an alcohol addiction when he took up distance running just shy of his 40th birthday. Within months, he was competing on a national level.
His success wasn’t limited to the Dipsea. He set many age group records from distances of 5 kilometers up to the half marathon and finished in the top 50 in Bay to Breakers several times. He was elected into the USA Track and Field Masters Hall of Fame in 2004. Now 72, Vasquez, still a runner, has lived in the Sacramento area for the past 10 years during his semi-retirement.