The 2021 Dipsea

Mark Tatum Breaks The Tape
Photo By Eliel Johnson

After waiting nearly 17 months to compete in the Dipsea again, 61-year-old Mark Tatum of Colorado Springs accomplished a rare feat on Sunday that hadn’t been done in almost 50 years in America’s oldest trail race.

He became the first non-Californian to win the Dipsea since Gail Scott of Durango, Colorado in 1986 and the first male outside the state of California to win the historic trail race since Joe Patterson of Queensland, Australia in 1975 by finishing first the 110th Dipsea race. In 1970, the legendary Norman Bright, a Dipsea Hall of Famer from Seattle, was the last American male and non-Californian to be a Dipsea champion.

“I was aware of that and that was an inspiration,” said Tatum, who placed second in the last Dipsea race in June 2019 before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’ve had a really good year this year and this is the race I look forward to the most by far. The one I think about all year long. I love the history of this race and the incredible competition. That’s why I’m here.”

Mark Tatum near the top of Cardiac
Photo By Tony DiPasquale

Tatum outran an impressive field of about 1,300 vaccinated runners that included the runner-up, 62-year-old Dan King of Boulder, Colo, who in October was the 60+ winner in the First Masters National Cross Country Championships in Boston; four-time and defending race champion Brian Pilcher, 65, of Kentfield, who in October set seven American Records in the same race – the River Oaks Invitational Marathon in Houston, Tx; and scratch runner 28-year-old Eddie Owens of Larkspur, who posted the fastest time (47:48) in placing fourth overall in the 110th Dipsea in the 7.4 mile race from downtown Mill Valley to Stinson Beach. Two-time Dipsea champion Chris Lundy of Mill Valley recorded the highest finish by a female (eighth) while also winning her ninth Dipsea Best Time (1:01.25) for women.

The race took shape when Pilcher, Tatum, and King had separated themselves from the field and were running 1-2-3, respectively, when they arrived at Steep Ravine. Tatum, who had caught and passed King at the top of Steep Ravine, had Pilcher in his sights at the bottom of Steep Ravine. And his confidence was growing.

“I’m a mountain runner and they’re not,” said Tatum, a U.S. Mountain Run champion.

Pilcher, battling chest congestion, managed to re-capture the lead from Tatum at Insult Hill, but that’s when the race got confusing. At the top of Insult Hill there is a historical route toward Panoramic Highway. It was blocked by race officials who, minutes prior to the start of the race, decided they could not guarantee the safety of competitors running on Panoramic Highway for a short stretch. Runners instead were directed toward The Moors on the Dipsea Trail.

“I didn’t even know where I was going,” Tatum said.

Pilcher, a Dipsea veteran, was caught off guard, too.

“It impacted the race, but I’m not sure how,” he said. “The fastest guy was going to win no matter what.”

Two days earlier, at the Dipsea Race Foundation dinner when two-time race champion Jamie Rivers of Mill Valley was inducted into the Dipsea Hall of Fame, Pilcher acknowledged then that Tatum and King were his chief competitors to keep him from winning a fourth Dipsea in his last four tries.

Each runner in the Dipsea is given a head start based on age and gender. Tatum, who started two minutes behind Pilcher in Mill Valley, posted an actual time of 59:24 to win by 32 seconds over King, who beat Pilcher to the finish line by two seconds.

“I have so much respect for Brian as a Masters athlete and he’s been such a force in Masters running,” King said. “I admire the guy. I’m a friend of his now and it was fun to catch him.”

More fun than you can imagine. King, making his Dipsea debut, was running in honor of his late father, Wilford, who, according to Barry Spitz’s book “Dipsea: The Greatest Race” twice posted the fastest time in the race; in 1955 when he placed second overall and 1957 when he finished in seventh place.

“It exceeded my expectations for an event. I love it. Oh my gosh,” King said. “I literally was running down hill and I just screamed I was having so much fun and I’ve never done that. It was a primal yell because I was loving everything about it.”

His 22-year-old daughter Sarah King, now living in San Francisco, enjoyed her first-ever Dipsea as well, but not just because she placed 141st overall and teamed with her father to finish third behind the mother and son team of Elena Shemyakina of Geneva, IL and Mikhail Shemyakina of Mill Valley for the Alan Beardall Family Trophy.

“I had such a blast There’s so much good camaraderie out there on the trail,” Sarah said.

Though Picher, the defending champion, was naturally disappointed – it’s the first Dipsea he has entered since 2015 that he did not win – the four-time victor found joy to celebrate his friend, Genevieve Clavier of Sacramento. In her Dipsea debut, she placed 35th overall to win the final coveted Dipsea Black Shirt.

“I’m elated. Oh. Oh my God. I’m so happy,” she said, beaming from ear to ear.

So were members of the Pelican Inn Track Club. Led by Cliff Lentz (fifth overall) of Brisbane and Dipsea record nine-time Best Time Trophy winner Alex Varner (seven overall) of Mill Valley, who owns the Dipsea record of nine Fastest Time Awards, Pelican Inn recaptured the Dipsea Team Trophy from the rival Tamalpa Club. Joining Lentz and Varner on the winning team were Gary Gellin, Jeffrey Stern, and John Hudson, all of Mill Valley.

They all won Dipsea Black Shirts as did 11-year-old Erhan Elliott of Mill Valley and 64-year-old Bradford Bryon of Penngrove, who, with his 24th Black Shirt, passed Steve Stephens for second place on the all-time list of Dipsea Black Shirt won, six behind Dipsea Hall of Famer Russ Kiernan.

The first high school boy to finish was Oliver Nickelsen of Berkeley High School, who placed 16th overall, and the first high school girl finisher was Eloise Lee of Marin Catholic High School.

The first finisher from the Dipsea Runners Section was 60-year-old Don Stewart of Sebastopol.

The 110th Dipsea, originally scheduled on June 14, 2020, attracted entries from 22 states and the District of Columbia and from as far away as the Argentine province of Neuquen in South America. This year’s Dipsea was cancelled or postponed twice because of the pandemic. 2020 was the first year in 65 years that race was cancelled. It was not held from 1942-1945 because of World War II and military operations on Mt. Tamalpais. The last time the Dipsea race was contested in the month of November – outside the traditional wildfire season -- was November 26, 1939, the latest race date in Dipsea history.




Mark Tatum Breaks The Tape
Photo By Eliel Johnson

The 2021 Awards
Champion: Mark Tatum 59:23 (46:24, 13 Minutes Head Start)
2nd Place: Daniel King 1:00:55 (46:56, 14 Minutes Head Start)
3rd Place: Brian Pilcher 1:01:57 (46:58, 15 Minutes Head Start)
4th Place: Edward Owens 47:48 (47:48, No Head Start)
5th Place: Cliff Lentz 57:41 (48:42, 9 Minutes Head Start)

Fastest Time Male:
Edward Owens 4th Place 47:48(Scratch)

Fastest Time Female:
Chris Lundy 8th Place 1:01:25(11 Minutes Headstart)

First High School Finisher - Boy:
Oliver Nickelsen 16th Place 56:05 (4 Minutes Headstart)

First High School Finisher - Girl:
Eloise Lee444th Place 1:15:12 (11 Minutes Headstart)

Winning Team: Pelican Inn Track Club
1. Cliff Lentz 5th Place: 57:41
2. Alex Varner 7th Place: 50:35
3. Gary Gellin 9th Place: 57:35
4. Jeffrey Stern 18th Place: 53:25
5. John Hudson 21st Place 1:03:48

Alan Beardall Award: Winning Family
Elena Shemyakina 22nd Place 1:14:67 (21 Minutes Headstart)
Mikhail Shemyakin 29th Place 56:22 (2 Minutes Headstart)

First Finisher-Dipsea Section
Don Stewart 376th Place 1:03:57 (12 Minutes Headstart)

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