Yup, one NETTer recently ran the legendary Dipsea Trail Race for the umpteenth time. Any guesses who?
It was our own Patrick McVeigh. The NETT news crew got a chance to ask Patrick about his experience at Dipsea this year and here's the interview.
How many times have you run it? When was the
I think I have run it about 15-20 times. The first time was
when I was in high school. I grew up in San Francisco. Showing my age, my first
race was probably about 1973. It was a kinder, gentler race back then. Not as
many people ran it and not as many runners had quite the ego trip they do now
(lots more pushing by fast runners to get by slow runners now....but maybe I
used to be one of the fast runners pushing their way through and now am one of
the slow runners getting pushed out of the way.)
It's a handicap race so where do you start
relative to others?
This year I got a 10 minute head start. 57 year old men
start with 41-43 year old women and 15 year old girls. Next year I get an extra
minute head start. The biggest head start (25 minutes) is for boys 6 and under,
men 74 and over, girls 7 and under, and women 66 and over. The winner of this
year's year was a 55 year old woman, Diana Fitzpatrick, who had a 16 minute
head start. (Quite a runner, she also has qualified for 3 Olympic marathon
The beauty of the Dipsea is that everyone believes they have
a chance to win. And if you don't win this year, you always think that extra
minute head start is going to let you win next year. I don't know why more
races aren't done on a handicapped basis.
So how would you characterize your race this
I ran 1:08:34 which was reduced to 58:34 with the 10-minute
handicap. I came in 103rd this year (out of 1,500) which was my best finish
since 1999. It was my best handicapped-adjusted time since 1999 and my best
scratch time since 2001. The race is about 7.4 miles which usually feels like
about 5 miles straight up, 1 mile relatively flat along the hilltop and then 1
mile straight down.
The Dipsea is the second oldest race
in the country and really is the all-star game for California trail runners.
Competition is stiff and bragging rights are all important. The fact that a 60
year old can beat the hot shot 30 year old and hold that over him/her for a
year, makes the race pretty intense. So while the course is probably the most
beautiful run I have done, it also is maybe the most intense. Runners get crazy
on the steep downhill. As I have gotten older, I certainly have lost some of
the crazy instinct.
Where did that blood come from?
As anyone who has run in the Lincoln Woods with me probably
knows, I tend to trip over rocks more often than most. During the Dipsea I
knocked myself over twice by running into tree branches and also sliced
my thumb when I fell after tripping over a rock. It had rained that morning and
the downhill section of the course was pretty muddy and slick.
Will you be back to it again?
I say I will keep doing the race until my sons Finn (7) and
Gus (4) are old enough to do it with me. Then I will probably slow down and do
it with them. There is a famous quote by Jack Kirk, who was known as the Dipsea
Demon. He ran the race until he was in his 90s and died at the age of 100. He
said, "Old Dipsea runners never die, they just reach the 672nd step."
This alludes to the fact that about a half-mile into the race, you run up three
flights of stairs with 671 steps. The 672nd step is, I hope, heaven, though I
do fall a lot. So I will probably keep doing it until I can't. Certain races
get in your blood. Running the Dipsea will always remind me that I grew up
running in the San Francisco Bay Area and includes many of my favorite
things....running in the hills, running among the redwoods and running with the
smells and views of the ocean. I have told Julie to bury some of my ashes on
the course, though if I hit too many more trees, all of me might remain out
What advice do you for others considering doing
If you want to do the Dipsea, be patient. It is hard for
outsiders to get in. Continuing runners are selected by finishing in a certain
position, new applicants are mostly chosen on a first-come, first-served basis
which favors those who live near the race as snail mail from the East Coast
will never get there in time. Your only chance for running is to apply and hope
you are one of the few chosen in a lottery. If you get in, you run in the
Runner's Division, which starts after the Invitational Division. You have to
earn your way into the Invitational Section with a good showing. Either is fun,
though, and gives you the spirit of the Dipsea, which for me really comes in
watching the start of the race when the little kids head off with the
'oldsters' in the first wave of runners.
Other advice? Practice running stairs. I think I have become
semi-famous with the T-employees at the Porter Square T station for running
intervals up the flight of stairs there. they are the longest, steepest stairs
I can find in the Boston area. For some reason, they find it amusing when I run
10-15 intervals of the stairs.
Final advice. Run hard so you will
be able to eat a lot. I am happy to share my favorite refueling stations for
both before and after the race.