Dipsea by Barry Spitz
The Greatest Race

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The Dipsea course is unsurpassed in beauty. The seven miles between Mill Valley and Stinson Beach, just north of San Francisco's Golden Gate, cross salmon-filled creeks, virgin redwood forests, meadows high on Mount Tamalpais, the haunting Steep Ravine in ocean side grasslands. Its unspoiled terrain has changed little; a runner from the first Dipsea in 1905 could find his way today.

There is danger. The race starts with the infamous 676 steps. Much of the way is root-covered, rocky, and steep. Passing must be done on narrow stretches barely wide enough for one. Injuries are commonplace. Suicide, Dynamite, Cardiac, Swoop and Slash are aptly named course sections.

The Dipsea's unique handicapping system has made champions of pre-teen boys and girls, men in their 60's, women in their 50's and 'ordinary' runners who had extraordinary days.

Unlike other races, runners are free to choose any route between the start and finish. Course knowledge has often meant the difference between champion and also-ran.

The Dipsea is so popular that ll 1,500 places are filled the first day of applications are accepted...with no advertising. There is even a waiting list to volunteer.

There are legends: Jack Kirk, the 'Dipsea Demon,' running every Dipsea since 1930; Norman Bright, eyesight failing, winning 35 years after his first attempt; Emma Reiman setting records a half century before women were allowed into any other American distance race; and countless more.

Above all, the Dipsea inspires reverence. Prayers are recited on the 'opening day' of practice. Runners have willed their ashes to be scattered over the Dipsea Trail. The greatest champions are known as 'gods of the Dipsea.'

This is the story of the Dipsea Race and of the man and women who have run it.

About Barry Spitz

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Published September 1, 1993 by Potrero Meadow Pub Co. 240 pages
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