To win the Dipsea (Hers)
Jamie Berns, Tam Valley I’ve run the Dipsea every year since 1989; I won it in 2007, when I was 57 years old. Why a woman my age can win the Dipsea is because it’s a handicapped race. Old men, young girls, macho 24-year-old guys and women like me, are all arranged, or lined up, according to their age and sex. The youngest girls and oldest women start first—25 minutes ahead of the racehorse 19- to 30-year old guys—who start last. Then come young boys and older men and so forth. The year I won, I started 17 minutes ahead of the buff young guys who are assumed to be the fastest runners. But remember, if I was going to win, I had to pass the 100 to 120 runners who started ahead of me. The Dipsea is great this way; the first person across the finish line wins—in 1992, a nine-year- old girl won; in 1993, a 52-year-old grandmother won. In 2007, when I finished first, I was a minute and 45 seconds ahead of Russ Kiernan, who was then 69-years old and has won the Dipsea three times. We started together and I went out fast, wanted to keep him behind me, and I did. At the top of Dynamite, I passed my last runner and ran the final five miles all alone, in total silence, it was beautiful. Still, I ran hard and if I lost my focus I could wind up in a ditch. It’s a dangerous race, I’m five-foot, three inches, weigh 111 pounds and the hills are steep and much of the trail is narrow and rutted.
To win the Dipsea (His)
Roy Rivers, Tam Valley For years, I was a cyclist, but I lost a golf bet and the winner said I had to run the Dipsea. Now I love it; I am a Marin native and it’s our local institution—it is practically all we talk about all year. I’ve done 16 Dipseas and won in 2008. The hardest part for me is from 7 o’clock the night before until the start of the race, I get really excited; terribly nervous. I think that’s what causes my blood-sugar to drop way down. A couple of times I’ve collapsed on the trail, once when I stood a chance of winning. Anyway, the year I won—because I was 49—I had a six-minute handicap so there were 19 groups, meaning about 550 runners, ahead of me; I had to pass them all. After those 672 stairs at the beginning, stuff really starts to happen. My favorite part is going down into Muir Woods and taking that little bridge over Redwood Creek. Once I get to the top of a hill, like Cardiac, I never take time to rest going downhill; I keep the same outburst of energy. At just over seven miles, there is no place to rest; I exert every second I’m out there. I try to run full stride down The Swoop and take those awkward steps in Steep Ravine three at a time. It’s crazy. Having size 13 Adidas running shoes helps stabilize me. The year I won, my time was 53 minutes and 23 seconds—that’s a seven minute, 40 second mile—slow in a normal race but a winning time over the Dipsea’s tough terrain. At the end of the race, we all get together. We’re all friends: Melody Ann, Mark, Russ, Hans, Eve, Sam, all of us.
Editor's Note: Following Jamie Berns' Dipsea victory in 2007 and Roy Rivers' in 2008, the couple began “dating seriously.” In October of 2009, they got married.
To run the Dipsea when you’re 12 years old
Isabella Amyx-Gascon, Tam Valley Actually, I’ve run the Dipsea four times. My next Dipsea, on June 13th, will be my fifth. Also, I don’t run the entire seven or so miles, I walk up the Dipsea steps and all the really steep hills. It’s kind of fun. I’ll run with my friend Michalela Firnage from Mill Valley Middle School. My mom, Florencia, who’s an ultra marathon runner, and my dad, Tim, who loves the Dipsea, and my sister Nicole are also running. We’ll meet at the finish in Stinson Beach at the Tamalpa Runners Club picnic. It should be fun. But I do get nervous in the car going to the start in Mill Valley. My favorite parts running are when you cross over the creek, then I like going really fast down Suicide, where I grab on to bushes to keep from falling. I also like The Swoop because I’m surrounded by nature; and it’s nice coming out on Panoramic Highway and seeing the beach and ocean down below. And when everyone is cheering at the finish it really feels good. One time, going down Steep Ravine, I got pushed and fell down on a rock and was bleeding for the rest of the race. Each year, my time gets better. Last year, it was one hour and twenty minutes and I can’t remember how many seconds. Anyway, this year I want to do better. I’m on the track team at school, I run the two hundred and the twelve hundred meter races and that gets me in shape. I also run in the mountains with mom and dad and my sister. On race day, I’ll probably wear my hair in a ponytail, a Tamalpa singlet and running shorts and new style shoes that prevent twisting your ankle.
"What's It Like?" is a collection of first-person accounts from local people doing extraordinary things. Submit your own personal story for consideration for a future issue. For guidelines, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.