Alameda Native Oldest Among ‘Dipsea’ Runners

courtesy photo Porter Davis

Eighty-year-old Porter Davis will be busy this Sunday doing something that people half his age wouldn’t even consider. He’ll be running the “Dipsea."

At 104 years old (24 years older than Davis), the Dipsea is the oldest trail race in America. On the second Sunday of June each year, the scenic 7.4-mile course from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach challenges runners with its stairs and steep trails.

Davis is a first-time runner in this world-renowned trail race. In fact, he had only considered himself a “jogger” and never a serious runner until he started training for the Dipsea in February. A Bay Area native born in Alameda and current resident of Marin, he said he’s watched the race for 40 years and always told himself that he’d never run the grueling course. This changed when he turned 70 and set out to accomplish the things he claimed “he’d never do.” Now 10 years later, he’s committed to running in the race and hopes to raise funds for low-income communities in need of increased access to health education.

Davis is one of only 1,500 entrants allowed to run in the race, which has double that applying. In order to receive the coveted entry, hopeful runners are told they can include “bribe money” with their application and/or write a “convincing sob story.” Davis did both. With the $100 he slipped in his time stamped envelope, he wrote that in 1947 his high school basketball coach, George Caldwell, told their team that they had to run one mile every day before practice. He’s maintained this one-mile routine for the past sixty-seven years, which he says has helped to lay the foundation for a life of health and, now, running the Dipsea.

Since Davis scored his entry into the race he’s been actively training and practicing his yoga, which he’s also done daily for the past 43 years. He says this has contributed to his heart looking like that of a teenager, or so his doctors still tell him. During his training, he became a member of the Tamalpa Runners and was adopted by his trainer and two other women into their running group, which they affectionately call, “Porter’s Chicks.”

Davis says that during his training runs he talks to everyone he meets on the trail, often at the base of the infamous 692-stair climb. He explains that this energizes him and helps him run better and faster. On Sunday, his group will include two 7-year-old girls. He wants to team up with the “young whippersnappers” since they receive the same 25 minute handicap that he and the other 65 and older racers are granted.

At age 80, it is very inspiring to see Davis commit to doing something he never dreamed of doing, and also in the name of raising money for the free food and health education services offered by LIFT-Levántate. LIFT’s mission is to foster healthy, equitable communities, especially in those communities with limited resources, which is something that Davis feels very strongly about. 

“I’m very appreciative of the innovative, life-changing services that LIFT provides in low-income California communities and that he couldn’t be more thrilled to support their important work,” Davis said. 

To contribute to Porter’s fundraising page, visit: www.mycharityofchoice.com/campaign/porterdavis.