Live Your Film

The World’s Best Kept Secret

by Franny Bendert

Many interpretations of my face, but for some reason this made the Dipsea brochure. And so did Team Film.

Many interpretations of my face, but for some reason this made the Dipsea brochure. And so did Team Film.

688 steps (they’re steep and they’re tall)…

Wicked uphill climbs (keep climbing–you are not even close)…

Terrifying downhill terrain (grab those branches–the ones with the thorns)…

Shove and bulldoze through 7.4 miles  (coming through!)…

Dipsea Fun Facts.

So, you want to run the oldest trail race in America and the 2nd oldest foot race behind the Boston Marathon? The Dipsea is not your grandma’s race.


Actually, it is. That’s the beautiful part of this scenic race set in Mill Valley, CA (just north of San Fran). From 7 to 87, generations of people return to run this radical trail race. I did it with my Team Film crew last June and can honestly say I have never felt anything more exhilarating for the entire 1 hour and 26 minutes it took me to finish. I’ve run mountains in CO, marathons in Boston and Ireland, and a 50K trail in Wisconsin. This 7.4 mile “short-cut” from downtown Mill Valley to Stinson Beach was a complete thrill ride for the entire stretch. 

Cute town. No idea about the 700 steps around the corner. Ignorance is bliss.

Cute town. No idea about the 700 steps around the corner. Ignorance is bliss.


The obstacles this race has to offer start with registration. Dipsea is old and sacred, and you have to know some secrets to earn your way in. Luckily, my friend Kathryn Yost (total cred for everything Dipsea) was in the know.  She lives in the area and had a heads up on all the “requirements”, which include a little blackmail and a lot of snail mail. It’s a funky process but once I was in, I quickly found out just how special the “Dipsea club” was. I received a random email from a former Dipsea runner. She had been trolling the entry list and noticed a fellow North Carolinian. She emailed me to ask how in the world I even knew about Dipsea being from the east coast, what a privilege it was to have experienced it herself, and how lucky I was to participate. This race was special.


Passing the registration test only meant if you hadn’t already been training long before then, you will suffer. There really is no describing the course, just experience it. The not knowing what was ahead kept my adrenalin on full steam, feet quick, instincts sharp, and impulses sure. I truly had no idea the entire race how far I had covered or how much longer to the finish because my brain was too busy making the decisions for my body to get me through the next downhill tumble, lunge over tree trunks, or a last second grab for shrubbery. I didn’t have time to think about injuries or distance, just keep moving forward and don’t get offended if you’re pushed aside by people angling for position. It’s all very friendly, but I had no guilt nudging past competitors–7 or 87. It’s part of the game.


As far as the scenery, I know I was in Muir Woods at some point, traveled over and through sand dunes, and had the horizon of the Pacific Ocean beside me. I also slid down slopes called “Suicide” something, climbed a “Cardiac” hill and a shit load of steps. It’s all a blur.


I’m not a runner who wears a watch or tracks my pace. I just run and hope for the best. When I did find out my final time (which is complicated because of the head start system), I was thrilled to know I may have qualified to be asked back automatically for the next year. I’m still waiting on that email. Seven months later, I decided to check out the official results, and I did not qualify for an automatic invitation. From what I can tell, I think I missed by a minute (but it’s still a complicated formula). Honestly, I’m glad I’m not heading back this year to repeat Dipsea. Not yet. I plan to one day, but I need time to forget how steep, how dangerous, how beautiful, and how complicated the world’s best kept secret race, rocks your soul.

Beers at Stinson Beach. The real pig-out came later.

Snacks and beers at Stinson Beach. The real pig-out came later.

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