The Dipsea Race - A Remarkable Trail Run in Northern California

January 20, 2022

Runbell Trail Running Alert Bell

Through our experience on Kickstarter, we’ve had the pleasure to meet countless outstanding people. One of them introduced us to the Dipsea Race in Northern California where we provided sample Torch Rings for some of the top local runners. Thanks Ed! 

The Dipsea Race is one of the oldest races in America and is so short that anyone can do it, right? Wrong. This race is downright sadistic.

Even at just 7.4 miles, the Dipsea race packs a serious punch with seemingly endless steps, steep ravines, and hills. Add in the staggered start and while difficult anyone realistically still has a chance to win.

What’s so interesting about the start of the race is slower runners get a head start. The New York Times call the race where “you’re either the hunter or the hunted”.  For instance, as a 39-year-old male I would be given a 2-minute headed start before being chased down by elite runners. My wife would be given an 8-minute head start, my 10-year-old son would be given an 11-minute head start and my father would be given a 21-minute head start. None of those head starts would put anyone of us at the top of the race, but the concept is certainly fun. Get enough of a head start and be in good enough shape and you too could win the Dipsea Race over a whole bunch of elite runners. That’s fun and certainly gives me encouragement to keep running into my 70s where I’ll have the advantage of a 25-minute head start.

The Dipsea Race has a long and rich history with their first race on November 19th, 1905. Since then, it’s only been disrupted by war and disease. The 2020 race was cancelled like so many other events during that dreadful year of Covid.

The race starts in Mill Valley California and takes you through the beautiful Muir Woods. The race is full of ups and downs. Start the course off by climbing three flights of stones steps totaling almost 700 steps, the equivalent of a 50-story building. Yikes! This portion, the Dipsea Steps, are just the start of the journey. Find your way back downhill. Take a shortcut called Suicide or cut your losses and stick to the main trail.

Once you finish this decline you start right back up on a longer 1100ft plus incline which is about double the incline from the initial Dipsea Steps. If you make it across Cardiac Hill then cruise your way down to the finish line. Just don’t fall and knock yourself out of the race. I typically fall on a flat course without too much trouble so I can only imagine a course where everyone else is falling too. About 25% of the runners on the Dipsea Run fall at some point or another.

The final obstacle of such a race? Slow runners like me and hundreds of others who get to start first. While the race starts in the town of Mill Valley on a large road, the race quickly funnels down to a narrow trail. A key to winning is finding a safe and quick way of passing hundreds of other runners. The key to winning this race just might be Runbell. Instead of pushing people out of the way or yelling “on your left/right”, just ring and ring and ring. Anyone up to give it a try? Give us a shout and we’ll buy your entry fee.  Just run the race, use Runbell, and send a review with pictures. This could be your chance to be a super runner!

So are you excited to run? For the 2022 race plan to check out the Dipsea Race ( in early-March, print your application in Mid-March and seriously USPS overnight your race application the day the race opens. Only 1500 running spots are available and the race has thousands of applications with some reserved for previous entrants, lottery entrants, and auction entrants. You’ll need you application in the post and in the PO Box immediately to get your best chance of entry.

Thanks for reading and let us know your thoughts? Would you run the Dipsea Race next year?



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