Dipsea Race (Mill Valley) – Best Practices Organizational Review

First run in 1905, the Dipsea is the oldest trail race in America. The scenic 7.4-mile course from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach is considered to be one of the most beautiful courses in the world. 

Project Description:

The Annual Dipsea Race is the oldest trail race in America – and the second oldest running race in America (after the Boston Marathon). Born from a sporting challenge between two runners in 1904, it has captivated the community and local media ever since. Its unique handicap structure inspires boys and girls, men and women from ages 6 to 97 to live lives of health and fitness (with hope of also doing well competing in the Dipsea Race).

Because of its beauty and challenge, it is a very popular event, and because of safety and environmental concerns the number of runners is limited to about 1,500. While racers enter from all over the world, the Dipsea is primarily a Northern California event and the entry process is tilted slightly to favor local contestants.

The Dipsea Race is managed by the Dipsea Race Committee, a 501(c)4.  The Dipsea Race Foundation is a charitable non-profit (501(c) 3) corporation whose mission is to “foster national amateur sports competition by sponsoring, maintaining and perpetuating, through charitable contributions and endowments, the Dipsea Race, the Dipsea Trail, the Dipsea Hall of Fame, and educational scholarships.”  It was established in 1997 to protect and promote the race and the values it represents. After a century of existence, the race has become an essential part of the community and cross-country running; the Foundation was created to preserve the race for future generations.

The Dipsea Race Foundation has three main goals:

  • To preserve the race and the trail for current and future generations,
  • To support the entities and organizations that control the property over which the trail winds, and
  • To encourage boys and girls from all backgrounds to appreciate and protect the Dipsea and other trails on Mount Tam.

To meet those goals, the Dipsea Race Foundation currently:

  1. Helps to pay for trail maintenance and improvement,
  2. Contributes to organizations that facilitate running of the race, such as the Mill Valley Parks and Recreation Department, the Stinson Beach Community Center, and the MT. Tamalpais State Park, and
  3. Confers college scholarships to graduating young men and women who have been active in the race as runners or volunteers. 
  4. Runs the Dipsea Kidz program, started 2 years ago, to promote youth fitness, health, education and leadership in a running club at Willow Creek Academy in Sausalito.

The Dipsea Foundation would like help from an HBS Community Partners team to help define the optimal organization structure to:

a. Identify best practices from other comparable race organizations (e.g. expanding Board, electing new Board members, organizing key functions/Foundation committees, consider hiring a paid Executive Director)

b. Facilitate a successful Dipsea Race Endowment Campaign

  1. Broaden Dipsea Foundation efforts and community impact

d. Explore pros and cons and possibilities of combining Dipsea Race Committee and the Dipsea Race Foundation.

The Dipsea Race has such a storied and unique history. With every year’s running of the race, there are 1,500 more additional running tales that help make up this astonishing history.   With professional help and guidance, and the passionate dedication of its directors, the ‘Dipsea’ Race and Foundation can do so much more good and make huge positive impact on others the next 100 years of its legacy.

Intrigued? Contact us here!