My Top 10 Marin Strava Segments (#4 Fern Creek Descent)

#10 (Rodeo to Wolf Ridge)

#9 (Coastal – Matt Davis to Willow Camp)

#8 (Pirates Cove)

#7 (Fox Trail Descent)

#6 (Ninja Loop)

#5 (Hogsback descent)

#4 Fern Creek Descent


Location: Start at the East Peak Parking Lot at the Top of Tam and End at Railroad Grade
Distance: 0.6 miles
Elevation Gain:  672 ft of Loss (-21%)
Overall Runs: 2800 Attempts By 695 People
CR:  Victor Ballesteros 3:44 and Naomi Plasterer 5:25
My place: 15th, 5:15 (and I was trying hard!).
Why:  I’m probably a little biased because I ran this segment weekly during Tam Tuesdays and 6:11 pace does not seem that fast for a 0.6 mile, 672 ft loss section of trail, but for THIS section it is.  Whereas the previous two downhills (Fox and Hogsback) require massive turnover, Fern requires massive risk taking.  Over a several week period in 2014 the CR exchanged multiple hands and there was an all-out assault on who could take more risks.  Not surprisingly Victor Ballesteros came out on top by a solid 15s margin.  Personally, I can not imagine going under 5 minutes, yet alone 4 minutes on this switch-back, stair-filled, rocky and loose, and pipe popping out of the middle section of trail.

One of easier sections of trail

Insider Tip:  Be prepared to take some risks.  I think most of the time can be gained on the upper section which is loose and slick. This is a great section to practice for that crazy European trail race you scheduled. Which of course you scheduled, you live in Marin.



Victor is the man with the plan to fly down technical trails.



My Top 10 Marin Strava Segments (#5 Hogsback Descent)

#10 (Rodeo to Wolf Ridge)

#9 (Coastal – Matt Davis to Willow Camp)

#8 (Pirates Cove)

#7 (Fox Trail Descent)

#6 (Ninja Loop)

#5 – Hogsback Descent

Location: Firetrail where Hogsback Ends and Intersects Railroad Grade
Distance: 0.2 miles
Elevation Gain:  261 ft of Loss (-18%)
Overall Runs: 2948 Attempts By 688 People
CR:  Victor Mier 54sec (3:18 mile pace) and Lydia Gaylord 1:42
My place: 4th, including breifly had the CR for a 3 month period.
Why:  Because witnessing the abandonment at which Victor attacked this brief stretch of trail was crazy.  This is not a smooth stretch of trail by any means. Ruts, loose rocks, and often a chill that would water the eyes make this stretch tough to stay upright when you are just cruising.  3:18 mile pace for quarter of a mile is sub 50 seconds for 400m but rather than the metronic style you see circling the oval this was a form of controlled chaos which took skill in addition to fitness to harness.  I thought my 1:06 was good.  I was wrong.

Brett can Ninja, but he can’t Hogsback

Insider Tip: Sunglasses, wear sunglasses if you are really going for it.  Oh yeah and a running start helps as well.


When not descending like crazy Victor can be found living in a van or traveling the world.  A true renaissance man.

Top 10 Marin Strava Segments #6 (Ninja Loop)

#6 Ninja Loop

#10 (Rodeo to Wolf Ridge)

#9 (Coastal – Matt Davis to Willow Camp)

#8 (Pirates Cove)

#7 (Fox Trail Descent)


Location: Start at the (west) Parking Lot on the Marin side of the Golden Gate Bridge
Distance: 11.5 miles
Elevation Gain:  2151 ft of Gain and Loss
Overall Runs: 655 Attempts By 138 People
CR:  Brett Rivers 1:21:48 and Devon Yanko in 1:27:12.
My place: none, just never started and finished from that parking lot
Why:  The Ninja loop is on here because it has been a standard weekly run of many of the Marin trail running community for some time (pre-Strava?).  Plus I have to include at least one segment where the Godfather (and owner of SF Running Company) has the CR.  At 11.5 miles with more than 2k of climbing it is a challenging route, but it hits many of the best trails in southern Marin (including a segment to be included in the top 5).  Its not the most popular segment (due to its length), but it is aesthetically pleasing in so many ways.  My personal favorite is the stretch of SCA trail that ribbons along the hillside providing intermittent views of SF and the Pacific.  EARLY Thursday mornings is when the group meets, but you are rewarded by the pre-dawn wake-up call with sunrises over SF.

Views of the iconic Golden Gate make the last few miles more than worth it

Insider tip:  If you are doing this run on your own arrive early.  The tourist crowds can be overwhelming and the parking lot overflowing.  If you are not a Marin/SF resident be sure to follow Trailhapa on Instagram to experience the ever changing views of the Ninja run (both pictures you can find on his Instagram account).

You may get a sunset like this, or you may get fog

Top 10 Marin Strava Segments #7 (Fox Trail Descent)

#10 (Rodeo to Wolf Ridge)

#9 (Coastal – Matt Davis to Willow Camp)

#8 (Pirates Cove)

#7 Fox Trail (Down)


Location:  Coastal above Tennesse Valley to the North, heading back down into Tennessee Valley
Distance: 1 mile (but probably closer to 1.1 miles)
Elevation Gain:  718ft of LOSS (-13% grade).
Overall Runs: 36161 Attempts By 1856 People
CR:  Jorge Maravilla in 4:06 and Larisa Dannis in 5:30.
My place: 70th, 6:26
Why:  This is the first segment that is squarely within the “oh-my-god-what-am-I-doing” category.  1 mile and steep.  While the climb up on this route is a test piece of it’s own its downhill is fire road, pretty straight, and all fast.  This is the perfect place for a mile PR and might just be Jorge’s mile PR.  Jorge’s time of 4:06 is STOUT and nearly a minute faster than Strava second, but what is more impressive is that the average pace is 3:51!!!! suggesting a slightly longer than 1 mile route and a SUB 4 mile.  It might be the only sub 4 anywhere on the trails of Marin.  I was there to witness it just over 2 minutes behind.
Fox Trail

Okay lets call it more than a mile

Insider Tip:  Not really an insider tip, but running downhill takes confidence and practice.  Ian Sharman, one of the best, has some great tips on how to improve your own downhill running on his blog.  Take a look and practice before really going after it.

Jorge Maravilla

Preparing for a super human downhill effort undoubtedly. Jorge has some wheels, no hands and all.


Top 10 Marin Strava Segments #8 (Pirates Cove, North)

#8 Pirates Cove (North)

See #10 (Rodeo to Wolf Ridge)

See #9 (Coastal – Matt Davis to Willow Camp)


Location:  Starting at the top of Coastal – go left
Distance: 1.4 miles
Elevation Gain:  417 ft of climbing (-2% grade).
Overall Runs: 6,413 Attempts By 2,553 People
CR:  Alex Varner in 10:34 and Chessa Adsit-Morris in 12:04.
My place: 5th, 11:21
Why:  Another of the most fun, iconic stretches of trail in all of Marin.  While not typically raced for speed (similar to Coastal above Stinson), this segment placing in the top 10 because it has one of the best views and it one of the most fun stretches of trail along the coast.  While the descent down to almost the ocean is filled with stairs, rocks, you are rewarded with a steady climb and some rolling single track that you can really pick up speed on.  Its one of the more fun stretches along the coast.   This stretch of trails is part of the TNF50 and Marin Ultra Challenge Races.

Rob Krar early in the TNF50

Insider Tip:  Once you finish this segment….STOP.  Turn around and take in the views.  It can be quite foggy and cold, so don’t be too surprised if you don’t get a view at all.  During the TNF50 this is a great first spot to watch the race as you get to see the bobbing headlamps descend and ascend the single track trails of Pirates Cove.

Turn around, enjoy the view.

Marin Strava Segments #9 (Costal Matt Davis to Willow Camp)

#10 (Rodeo Beach to Wolf Ridge)

#9 Coastal: Matt Davis to Willow Camp


Location:  Starting where Matt Davis Diverges to where Willow Camp intersects
Distance: 1.6 miles
Elevation Gain:  370 ft of climbing (4% grade).
Overall Runs:  1868 by 1140 people
CR:  Max King in 12:02 and Keely Henniger in 13:39.  Max set the CR in route in the middle of the TNF50 race.
My place: 14, 12:30
Why:  To me this is one of the most fun and most scenic stretches of trail in all of Marin, weaving along the hill ~1500ft up from the ocean on single track trail.  On a clear day the view to Stinson below and out to Pt Reyes is fantastic.  Plus it serves as part of the TNF50 race (in both directions).  While Max’s time is impressive, I think that this is one of the segments that could (should?) go down.  So who will it be? Dybo? Varner? Roche?

The Golden State

Insider info:  In the spring the grass is like a green that you have never seen before.  Wildflowers in the summer.  Plus look out for that old car on the trail.


Varner cruising the return route during TNF50

Marin Strava Segment Top 10 List (#10 Rodeo Beach to Wolf Ridge)

I think Strava is swell.  While I agree with the premise that Strava has killed the loneliness of a long distance runner (see Sam’s Blog post here), for those that run alone most days it can provide a motivation and connection to our peers and history not previously readily available.  It also provides some pretty epic segment battles which have produced some incredible performances normally reserved for races.  No need to worry about nailing a taper and having the perfect conditions.  When you are ready you can challenge the best any day of the year.

Recently I put out a query on twitter about what the most iconic Strava segments in the Southern Marin/Mt Tam are of Marin county are.  I got some great responses (here, here, and here) which I totally agreed with.  They all made the list.  Now the order is something entirely else.

My rationale for choosing a segment was based on the following simple criteria.  How impressive is the CR performance?  How iconic is the bit of trail it is on?  How many people have run it before?

So starting with #10 and working back to #1 I will post one segment a day for the next ten days.  Feel free to argue, agree, or offer your alternatives and insights as well!  Eventually I will post a similar list of the Boise Foothills, but for now, I will reminisce about my old neighborhood trails.

#10 Rodeo Beach to Wolf Ridge

Location:  Starting at Rodeo Beach, climb up along the road and then take the trail and continue up to the trail junction of Coastal and Wolf Ridge.
Distance: 1.6 miles
Elevation Gain:  833 ft of climbing (10% grade).
Overall Runs:  1775 by 1093
CR:  David Roche in 12:48, 7:52 pace.  Maria Dalzot, 15:20 (both were set during this year’s ITR Marin Ultra Challenge 25k)
My place: 21, 15:31
Why:  This is a standard climb for many trail races in the Headlands.  It also might be the only one of my top 10 that super speedster David Roche has the CR for.  The views from the top are second to none in the headlands.  SF in one direction Mt Tam in the other.  Its a classic climb, in a classic location.
Insider info:  Get ready for stairs!  You think the pavement is tough, wait until you hit the stairs that force all expect the fittest to drop into a power hike.  Be sure to save a little for the section that flattens off after the stairs.

Looking back towards Rodeo Beach and SF.