Marin County’s Dipsea race added a twist to its quirky 107-year history on Sunday when 72-year-old Hans Schmid of Greenbrae set a record as the oldest winner.
Schmid pounded up and down the scenic 7.4-miles of stairs and steep hills from Stinson Beach to Mill Valley in 1 hour, 10 minutes and 10 seconds, besting about 1,500 other runners.
His feat topped the record set by Joe King, who won the Dipsea in 1996 for the second year in a row at the age of 70.
Schmid benefited from a 23-minute head start in the unusual race that gives handicaps based on age and gender. But his victory was no accident. He took a break from his rigorous training routine long enough to tell Paul Lancour some secrets to his success.
PAUL LANCOUR: How did it feel when you crossed the finish line yesterday?
HANS SCHMID: I was leading most of the way, but that doesn’t mean anything. It’s not until the very end of the race that usually the young kids catch up with us older people. I was expecting some people I knew could challenge me, to hear their footsteps, but luckily I was able to stay ahead of two very fast women who finished second and third.
PAUL LANCOUR: What was the difference between last year’s Dipsea and this year’s?
HANS SCHMID: I don’t know. I pushed a little harder. My time was 10 or 15 seconds longer than last year. But then I also am a year older. It was also a fairly warm day, and I generally do reasonably well in warm temperatures. Somehow everything came together.
PAUL LANCOUR: You didn’t start running competitively until you were 63. What took you so long?
HANS SCHMID: Late bloomer. I was always kind of active. I liked the outdoors. But even when I was younger in school I didn’t do any competitive sports. Then I was at a natural food convention and part of the social program was a five-kilometer fun run on Lake Michigan. So that sounded good and I joined in. I noticed that I could keep up with most of those people. That encouraged me to do a little bit of running. One day I was jogging on Phoenix Lake here in Marin County and I encountered a group of other runners and they said, “Come on, run with us.” I enjoyed that and it really got me going. So I started doing official races and social races. I’m not a very technical runner. I just run the way I feel and hopefully it will end up well.
PAUL LANCOUR: How much a part of your life is running now?
HANS SCHMID: My wife thinks it’s too much, but it’s not really that much. Right now there is a race basically every weekend. I’m retired now, but when I was working I got up about an hour before work around the neighborhood here in Greenbrae, which is pretty hilly. Now I’m retired I can kind of run when I feel like. When you are older you take longer to recover from runs, but I’m lucky, I recover reasonably fast. I enjoy everything from 1 mile to 50 miles.
PAUL LANCOUR: You are quite an inspiration. Do you have any tips for the rest of us we can apply in our own life?
HANS SCHMID: I have my little aches and pains. My knees sometimes act up. But I think it’s fairly simple. You have a good healthy diet. For the past two years I have been doing yoga, and I find that very beneficial. It keeps your body flexible and you notice muscles you didn’t know you had. I do some core classes. So it’s kind of a combination, not just competitive running, but I generally try to stay healthy. I encourage everybody to keep exercising. It certainly has its benefits.