Dipsea Race

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Dipsea Race
Mount Tamalpais.jpg
<-- Stinson Beach -- Muir Woods -- Mill Valley -->
DateSecond Sunday in June
LocationMarin County, California, USA
Event typetrail
Distance7.5 mile (12 km)
EstablishedNovember 19, 1905[1]
Course records
  • Time: Ron Elijah, 44:49, 1974[1]
  • Consistency: Jack Kirk, 1930–2002[2]
  • Wins: Sal Vasquez, 7[3]
  • Streak: Sal Vasquez, 1982–1985[3]
Official sitehttp://www.dipsea.org/

The Dipsea Race is a trail running event in California, United States. It is the oldest cross-country trail running event and one of the oldest foot races of any kind—in the United States. The 7.5 mile (12 km) long Dipsea Race has been held annually almost every year since November 19, 1905, starting in Mill Valley, and finishing at Stinson Beach, in Marin County. Since 1983, the race has been held on the second Sunday in June. The Dipsea celebrated its 109th running on Sunday, June 9, 2019. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Race committee announced that the 2020 Dipsea Race would be cancelled[4] for the first time since 1945.


Dipsea Race, 1905
Program Cover

In 1904, the Dipsea Inn[5][6] opened on a sandspit north of Willow Camp (later Stinson Beach),[7] built in anticipation of tourists arriving on proposed rail extensions. After opening, it was visited by a group of Olympic Club members , including, Charles Boas, and Alfons Coney, who had a cabin near Muir Woods. Someone proposed racing from Mill Valley to the Inn. Coney and Boas, took up the challenge, setting off on a day in 1904, with bets placed by Club members (Fastest from the train depot at Lyton Square in Mill Valley, to the newly opened Dipsea Inn). Boas won.[8][9]

On on a rainy November 19, 1905, the first Dipsea Race was held, on a 7.4-mile course,[10] with 110 runners,[11] by members of the San Francisco Olympic Club,[12] from the Mill Valley train depot[13][14][15][16] to the then-new Dipsea Inn,[17] on a sand spit now called Seadrift, in the Bolinas Lagoon between Stinson Beach and Bolinas,[18][19][20][21][22] taking place annually, except 1932-1933, 1942-1945, and 2020. A “Women’s Dipsea Hike” (called a "hike" to avoid an AAU ban on women’s long-distance races.[23][24]) took place 1918-1922.[25][26][27][28] In 1907, the final run on the sand was eliminated.[29] In 1983, the race date was changed to the second Sunday in June.[29]


One group leaving the starting line in the 2003 Dipsea Race.

The Dipsea is well known for its scenic course and challenging trails.[30] The race starts on Throckmorton Avenue in Mill Valley, near Miller Avenue, in front of the old train depot (now a bookstore). After traversing a few blocks in Mill Valley's downtown, runners climb 688 stairs[31] (now 700 stairs, after the renovation of the middle section in Nov 2017) leading up the side of Mount Tamalpais, and then pass through Muir Woods National Monument, Mount Tamalpais State Park, and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The Dipsea Trail is the most direct route connecting the town of Mill Valley, located near the northwestern shores of Richardson Bay, with the village of Stinson Beach, situated along the Pacific coast. Stinson Beach is a popular tourist destination, located about a 30-minute drive north of San Francisco on Highway 1, via the Golden Gate Bridge. The ascent over the southern shoulder of Mount Tam reaches its apex around the top of Cardiac Hill, about 4.5 miles into the race.

Among the challenges facing participants are the Dipsea Trail's uneven footing, single-track footpaths, and almost invariably steep terrain, featuring about 2,200-foot (671 m) elevation gain and loss over the course. The uniqueness of the Dipsea Race course owes largely to the opportunity for competitors to choose from any of several alternate routes on diverging and converging trails, adding a competitive premium for strategy, experience, and familiarity with the course.

Course mileage[edit]

Runners pass a Gravity Car in Old Mill Park during the 2004 race.
Location Segment distance Distance total
Old Mill Park 0.2 0.2
Bay View Drive @ Panoramic Highway 0.9 1.1
Muir Woods Parking Lot 1.0 2.1
Cardiac Hill 2.3 4.4
Bridge at Steep Ravine 1.6 6
Stinson Beach 1.5 7.5

Race details and champions[edit]

The Dipsea's handicapping system often produces younger or older winners, which adds to the unusual intrigue and suspense created by the race's permissible shortcuts, like 'Suicide' and 'The Swoop'. Most participants, with the exception of 'scratch' runners, are given a head start based on their age and gender. The oldest and youngest runners are given up to a 25-minute advantage over the fastest competitors, making it possible for virtually any age group to produce a race winner; previous winners include children as young as 8, and men and women as old as 72.[32]

Jack Kirk, who ran in 67 consecutive races from 1930–2002, started the 2004 race.

Because of the nature of the course, the field of competitors is limited to 1,500. It is a popular race, and thousands of people apply for entry every year. This makes it difficult for people, particularly those who have never run it before, to get accepted into the race.

As of June 2019, the defending champion is 62-year-old Brian Pilcher, in his fourth Dipsea victory.[33] The previous ten champions are Chris Lundy (2018, 2017), Diana Fitzpatrick (2013, 2014), Hans Schmid (2012), Jamie Rivers (2007, 2011), Reilly Johnson (age 8, 2010), Roy Rivers (2008), Melody-Anne Schultz (1999, 2003, 2006) Russ Kiernan (1998, 2002, 2005), Shirley Matson (2004, 2001, 2000, 1993) and Sal Vasquez (1982–1985, 1990, 1994, 1997).

Jack Kirk, known as the 'Dipsea Demon', holds the record of most consecutive competitions in the Dipsea, having finished 67 consecutive Dipseas from 1930 until 2002. (There was no official Dipsea Race in 1932 or 1933, due to economic reasons, nor in 1942–1945 due to World War II.) Kirk finished his last complete race in 2002. He started but did not finish in 2003, but did reach the highest elevation, at the top of "Cardiac Hill," at the age of 96. He is the oldest person to have competed in the race. Kirk died on January 29, 2007, at age 100.[2] Jack's story was documented in the 2004 film "The Dipsea Demon"[34]

Other races on the Dipsea Trail[edit]

Two other races use the same course route: the Double Dipsea, held in late June, and the Quad Dipsea, an ultramarathon, which takes place in late November. Despite the use of the Dipsea name, these two races are not officially affiliated with the Dipsea Race.

Double Dipsea[edit]

The Double Dipsea is a 13.7-mile (22 km) run usually held on the Saturday thirteen days after the Dipsea. Now organized by the Dolphin South End Running Club, San Francisco icon Walt Stack put together the first Double Dipsea race in 1970.[35]

Quad Dipsea[edit]

The Quad Dipsea is a 28.4-mile (45.7 km) trail ultra, held annually in November on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. The Quad starts and finishes in Mill Valley, following the Dipsea Trail westward to Stinson Beach, out-and-back twice over the same course as the Dipsea Race and the Double Dipsea. The race has 9,276 feet (2,827 m) of both climb and descent. First held in 1983 with only 8 runners, the race is now limited to about 250 runners.[36]

In popular culture[edit]

The 1986 movie On the Edge, without using the name "Dipsea", revolves around a race that is unmistakably the Dipsea Race.[37][38] It stars Bruce Dern as a runner obsessed with the race.

It is often described as the race where you are "either the hunter or the hunted" where mental toughness is required to overcome not only the 700 steps, the drop into Muir Woods, the Suicide shortcut, and Dynamite and Cardiac hills, but also the handicapped times.[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Pacific Sun, June 3, 2005, "All Hail the Dipsea!" Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, accessed August 18, 2007
  2. ^ a b Dipsea.org, The Dipsea Race. "Dipsea Demon Passes to 672nd Step", accessed August 18, 2007
  3. ^ a b Dave Albee, Marin Independent Journal, June 6, 2007, "The Dipsea Race: Whatever happened to Sal Vasquez?", accessed August 18, 2007
  4. ^ "2020 Dipsea Race Called Off Due To Coronavirus Concerns". Marin Independent Journal.
  5. ^ "Dipsea Inn". Calisphere. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  6. ^ https://csl.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/discovery/fulldisplay?docid=alma990014211810205115&context=L&vid=01CSL_INST:CSL
  7. ^ Frank, Phil; Rand, Kendrick; Agnoli, Tamae (May 28, 2004). "Bolinas and Stinson Beach". Arcadia Publishing. Retrieved May 28, 2020 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ "Historical Information - Origins". dipsea.org. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  9. ^ "Dipsea - The Greatest Race, Centennial Edition by Barry Spitz". dipseabook.com. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  10. ^ "Dipsea Race collection". oac.cdlib.org. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  11. ^ "Ultimate Guide to Marin's Dipsea". May 23, 2016. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  12. ^ "History of Mill Valley". cityofmillvalley.org. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  13. ^ "Depot Life". November 20, 2015. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  14. ^ "NWR Train Depot Herald Dedication". Mill Valley Historical Society. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  15. ^ "Then & Now: The Depot". Mill Valley, CA Patch. March 1, 2011. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  16. ^ "87 Throckmorton Ave". 87 Throckmorton Ave. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  17. ^ "Marin history: Dipsea Inn and the origin of the Dipsea Race". September 30, 2019. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  18. ^ Fimrite, Peter (February 7, 2008). "Sunbather wins right to use beach at Seadrift". SFGate. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  19. ^ "Google Maps". Google Maps. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  20. ^ ""panoramic view of the Seadrift Sandspit before it was developed" - Print, Photographic : 1993-522". stinsonbeachhistoricalsociety.org. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  21. ^ "Seadrift Green Crab Project". www.des.ucdavis.edu. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  22. ^ "Bolinas Lagoon Ecosystem Restoration Project: Technical appendices". U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, San Francisco District. May 9, 2002. Retrieved May 9, 2020 – via Google Books.
  23. ^ "Home stretch of the first Women's Dipsea Hike, 1918 - Photograph". Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  24. ^ "History of the Women's Dipsea Hike". Dipsea Race. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  25. ^ "The Women's Dipsea Hike". California Alpine Club. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  26. ^ "Dipsea Race Collection". Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  27. ^ "The First Ever Women's Dipsea Hike". March 16, 2018. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  28. ^ "Coyne, Raymond". Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  29. ^ a b "The History of the Dipsea Race". dipsea.org. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  30. ^ "The Dipsea Race: The Course". www.dipsea.org. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  31. ^ Stienstra, Tom (June 12, 2010). "Dipsea Race, now 100, is a storied run westward". SFGate. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  32. ^ "Tamalpa Dipsea History". Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  33. ^ "Kentfield's Pilcher picks up fourth win at 109th Dipsea Race". www.marinij.com. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  34. ^ "Filmbaby.com". www77.filmbaby.com. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  35. ^ The Double Dipsea. Tamalpa Runners (June 26, 2004). Retrieved on 2013-07-21.
  36. ^ "Quad Dipsea". Quad Dipsea. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  37. ^ "On the Edge". Retrieved May 9, 2020 – via www.imdb.com.
  38. ^ "Tamalpa Runners History". Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  39. ^ Branch, John (June 13, 2018). "Dipsea: A Trail Race Where 'You're Either the Hunter or the Hunted'". Retrieved May 9, 2020 – via NYTimes.com.

External links[edit]