As scenic as it is challenging, the Dipsea Race in Marin County—first run in 1905—is the oldest trail race in America and one of the most popular events of the summer, inviting runners to take on a grueling and gorgeous seven-and-a-half-mile course spanning Mill Valley to Stinson Beach.
The Dipsea Race is regularly run every year on the second Sunday in June, though this year’s Covid-19 pandemic and the shelter-in-place orders that went into effect in March forced the Dipsea Race Committee to make the difficult decision to cancel the planned 110th annual race, which each year attracts a packed field of 1,500 runners. This marks the first summer since 1945 that the race has not been run—it was last canceled from 1942–1945 because of World War II and military operations on Mt. Tamalpais.
“We reached out to Marin County Health and Human Services Public Health officials and decided it would be best to be proactive in the event of sudden changes that might be required in response to a need for containment,” wrote the committee in March on the race’s website. “Our priority is to assure our competitors, our volunteers, their family and friends and all people along the race route and in the community that the Dipsea race, which consists of runners of all ages, would not pose a health risk faced with growing concerns and uncertainties about Covid-19.”
As the pandemic stretches out into the late summer season, the race committee recently transitioned the 2020 event from an in-person race to a virtual event that will allow runners to either race the course safely on their own time or to run the equivalent of the Dipsea’s course anywhere in the world.
The Dipsea Virtual Run is open for free online registration now, and the event is geared towards runners who missed this year’s race, or those who have always wanted to run in the race but never got the chance.
Open for participation now until Sunday, Sept. 6, the Dipsea Virtual Run invites anyone of any age at any time anywhere in the world to participate in one of two ways.
Each registered runner will have the option of running, either by themselves or in a group of no more than four people, on the seven-mile Dipsea trail course which, for the purpose of the virtual run, starts in Old Mill Park in Mill Valley and ends where the Dipsea Trail meets Panoramic Highway in Stinson Beach. Runners on the trail must note that the plank bridge in Muir Woods is not currently in place and runners must detour to the Deer Park Fire Road. The committee also notes that runners on the Dipsea course need to be aware that no support or security measures are in place to monitor runners’ safety.
Participants who can’t make it to the trail can also record their time running on a 10-mile flat course of their choice, even on a treadmill. The race committee has chosen to make the virtual run a 10-mile course in order to provide as close to an equivalent to the Dipsea trail’s unique handicapping system of steep trails and stairs placed throughout the course. The committee determined that the approximate time to run the seven-mile Dipsea trail is equivalent to running a flat 10 miles. The race committee asks remote participants to follow local safety and health regulations when running in public.
Through the virtual run’s website, registered runners will be given a link to record their miles and times. A list of participants and logged results will be viewable on the Dipsea Virtual Run’s website. On Saturday Sept. 12, the race committee will host an online honor ceremony for all who have completed the Virtual Dipsea Run.