Barry Spitz

Friday, November 10, 2017


On April 21, 1918, the inaugural Women’s Dipsea Hike drew 307 entrants. The 14th Dipsea Race, held five months later, had 80 finishers (all men; women were not officially admitted until 1971) and there were never more than 300 finishers until 1966. Though called a “hike” to bypass the Amateur Athletic Union’s national ban on women participating in distance races, it was a bona fide race with winner Edith Hickman’s time of 1:18:48 achievable only by fast running. Four additional Hikes were held with Mill Valley’s Emma Reiman, later selected as a charter member of the Dipsea Hall of Fame, winning twice with a best of 1:12:06. The Hikes, staged ten years before women were first allowed to run track in the Olympic Games (in 1928, with the 1500 meters not added until 1972 and the marathon in 1984) were truly pioneering events in the still evolving battle for equality for women in sports, and well beyond. 
But, bowing to cries that such strenuous efforts were dangerous to women’s reproductive organs, and that women’s distance running was somehow unseemly, the Hikes were cancelled after 1922. On Saturday morning, April 21, 2018, the exact 100th anniversary of the first Hike, the Dipsea Race Committee, in association with One Tam, will stage a commemorative Centennial celebration. Five hundred women—the limit set by land managers—will run and walk the full 7.2 miles of the Dipsea Trail from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach. After will be a lunch at the Stinson Beach Community Center with featured speakers including Joan Ullyot, who won a Dipsea Race black shirt in 1972 and whose book “Women’s Running” helped popularize the sport, and Rita Liberti, a college professor who wrote her graduate dissertation on the Women’s Hikes.
Entry to the Centennial Hike and to the luncheon will open in January; check the Dipsea Race website, No same day registration will be permitted. All entrants will wear a hand-drawn, cloth bib number, in the style of the original Hikes, and receive either a commemorative t-shirt or head scarf. Period dress is encouraged, and prizes will be awarded for the most authentic attire.
All participants begin together (no handicapping) at 9 a.m. in Mill Valley’s Old Mill Park, .3 miles up Throckmorton Avenue from downtown. Participants may run or walk as they choose but must stay on the Dipsea Trail (no shortcuts whatsoever) and the event is non-competitive, with no finish prizes or recording of finishing order. After, everyone is welcome to enjoy One Tam’s Earth Day weekend festivities at Stinson Beach. Due to space considerations at the Stinson Beach Community Center, the lunch there is limited to 150 (men OK) and requires a separate entry form and fee. Return shuttle bus rides to Mill Valley will be offered on a first-come basis.

The 75th anniversary of the Women’s Hikes was celebrated in 1993 and two participants attended. The last Hike survivor, Helen Signorio Stratta, died in 2009 at age 107. Hike descendants are especially encouraged to participate. Indeed, Barbara Van Meurs, the daughter of 1918 winner Edith Hickman, will serve as honorary starter, assisted by her own daughter and granddaughter.