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The Big Alta: Daybreak Racing and Freetrail’s Relationship Mullet 

Ruby Wyles

March 4th, 2024

10 min read


While European races boast about their history, famous paths and renowned peaks that transcend the sport of trail running, US trail races have their own “je ne sais quoi”: case in point, The Big Alta. This inaugural race’s success wasn’t a stroke of luck but the result of thoughtful planning and execution, from which race directors and enthusiasts alike can draw inspiration for creating remarkable trail racing experiences going forward.

A collaboration between Daybreak Racing and Freetrail, co-event directors Jeremy Long and Dylan Bowman, of the aforementioned companies respectively, brought a new meaning to “backyard” racing. Beginning at 8 am from Marinwood Community Center, half a mile from The Bowman’s family home, runners gathered for the inaugural Big Alta 50k and 28k races. In his own words, Long described the race directing collaboration as a “relationship mullet” where Daybreak was the business in the front, Freetrail the party in the back!

The start of the 28 km race with local elites Nick Handel, Paddy O’Leary, and Jeffery Stern already to the front. PC: Tony DiPasquale

Birthing The Big Alta

Bowman’s brainchild, dreamt up not long after he moved to Marinwood 12 months ago, his regular 28 km loop became the inspiration for The Big Alta. As he logged more miles through the spectacular yet unheralded trails of Marin, Bowman became preoccupied with a desire to showcase them to the world, as well as to bring racing back to this area of California: enter Daybreak Racing!

Owned and operated by Oregon natives and brothers Jeremy and Aaron Long, Daybreak Racing has quickly established itself as a reputable name in trail and ultra racing industries. Directing esteemed events like Gorge Waterfalls and the Oregon Coast Trail Series, runners trust Daybreak will deliver a great experience. With the help of UltraSignup, the leading hosting platform for event registration, everything is taken care of from registration to race day, including official results being posted quickly after: all runners need to do is focus on their training, racing, and enjoying the event!

Admittedly inexperienced at race directing, Bowman and his Freetrail force majeure partnered with Daybreak Racing to bring his vision to life. Despite Daybreak’s reputation north of the California border, The Big Alta was their first foray outside of Oregon and Washington: a risk they quickly realized was more than worth taking.

Daybreak Racing founder and The Big Alta race director Jeremy Long. PC: Ryan Thrower
Freetrail founders from left to right: Harmony Bowman, Dylan Bowman, and Ryan Thrower. PC: Tony DiPasquale

An ode to “The Big Chicken”

Naming “The Big Alta ” was a fascinating process worth highlighting, as the race directors sought a title ithat would tie the local area into the wider world of trail running. Honoring the traditional lands of the native Coast Miwok people that the course runs on, Long and Bowman delved into the local history. Lying within the Las Gallinas Valley, Spanish for the Valley of Hens, and with roads like Chicken Shack Fire Road, a bird-themed area connection became apparent: “The Big Chicken” and “The Marinian Falcon” were names high on the shortlist. Yet, as fate would have it, the allure of the races’ two high points, Loma Alta and Big Rock Ridge, proved irresistible. The compromise was struck, giving birth to “The Big Alta,” a title that beautifully encapsulated the essence of the race and the land it traversed. 

It wasn’t just Bowman who embraced “The Big Chicken”! PC: Tony DiPasquale

What about the course?

Both single-loop courses featured an equal mix of challenge and reward, runners were treated to stunning views of the entire San Francisco Bay Area atop Loma Alta and Big Rock Ridge, two of the highest points in Marin County: much like home baking, you’ve got to put in some effort before tasting the cake! Saturday’s 50km race traversed the same loop as Sunday’s 28km, with two additional pivots to make up the distance, accumulating 7500 ft and 4000 ft of elevation gain respectively. 50km race winner Eli Hemming made light work of the course, finishing in a stunning 3 hrs 38 mins, and proving the race directors’ fast course predilection correct. That said, generous cutoffs and aid station support kept DNF’s to a mere 12 for the 50km and 0 for the 28km: a statistic worth boasting about!

And the community response?

Bowman’s local running community came out in force, filling up all the volunteer spots months in advance, before proudly representing Marin on race day as their go-to trails were showcased to the world. Local rivalries reached their own high point during Sunday’s 28km, with Nick Handel and Paddy O’Leary, among others, battling it out for bragging rights, while the Oregon up-and-comer Liam Meirow proved he could hang with Marin’s big dogs! 

Runners traversed Marin’s unheralded trails. PC: Tony DiPasquale

Going global from The Bowman’s garage

Jamil Coury and Matthew Feldman of Aravaipa and Mountain Outpost fame, led an all-star media crew of on-course correspondents, runner cams, studio commentators, and finish line announcers, showcasing the trails of Marin and the athletes who raced them with the world. Streamed live from Freetrail HQ, also known as The Bowman’s garage, professional runners Corrine Malcolm, alongside Adam Merry and Tim Tollefson on Day 1 and 2 respectively, delivered an engaging and insightful broadcast, behind the mic from dawn to not-quite-dusk. 

Barred from capturing content via drones, in-race footage was admittedly limited to the frontrunners. Inconvenienced but not deterred, an all-star runner-cam crew featuring ultrarunning royalty Dylan Bowman and Tim Tollefson, as well as myself (Ruby Wyles) and a handful of other committed trail runners happily forwent racing themselves to broadcast this race live. As Bowman and others struggled to keep pace with the leaders, Coury and Feldman brought the stream to life on Mountain Outpost’s YouTube channel. 

A collaboration for the ages

The trails of Marinwood, together with Daybreak Racing and Freetrail’s race directing coalition, weren’t the weekend’s only novelties: welcome to the party Goldwin! For over 70 years, Goldwin has pioneered skiwear, outfitting some of the world’s best winter sports athletes. Recent years have seen Goldwin make a splash into the outdoor and athleisure spaces, partnering with trail runners Dylan Bowman and Gediminas Grinius in 2022, then opening their US flagship store down the road from The Big Alta in San Francisco. 

Race director Dylan Bowman showcasing Goldwin apparel. PC: Ryan Thrower

Gone are the days where companies throw around cash expecting nothing in return and for smaller events and organizations hoping to secure sponsorship, a mutually beneficial relationship is a must: case in point, The Big Alta presented by Goldwin. Admittedly, this may have been easier for the event directors to secure, given Bowman and Freetrail’s established fanbases. As the title sponsor, the Japan-based apparel brand helped The Big Alta come to life, while Freetrail’s backing and exposure via Mountain Outpost’s live stream added credibility to Goldwin as they look to establish themselves on the US trail running scene. A collaboration for the ages, other event partners, including Speedland and Ketone IQ, developed similarly equitable relationships.

Race day, aka: (trail) party time! 

Race director Dylan Bowman welcomed every runner across the finish line. PC: Tony DiPasquale

Staged with Marinwood Community Park, The Big Alta start/finish line was the beating heart of the weekend’s action, streaming Mountain Outpost’s live race broadcast, showcasing sponsors and event partners, finish line announcing from race director Dylan Bowman, and, perhaps most memorably, acting as a trail running community rendezvous. The finish line feeling was a true community celebration: locals and folk from farther afield coalesced over race highs and lows, soaking in the Spring sun, all united by a shared love of running. While post race swag and snacks are normally nothing worth writing home about, The Big Alta’s offerings further showcased the community, as well as Bowman’s last ditch attempt at convincing all that “The Big Chicken” was the better name! Mill Valley’s finest Chinese-American restaurant, Mamahuhu, served up their delicious sweet and sour chicken, while runners and supporters cheered on finishing athletes, post-race interviews, and podium presentations. 


The Big Alta may be an inaugural event, but there was nothing rookie about it; as one runner shared on social media, The Big Alta weekend had all the friendly feels of a grassroots race combined with elite competition, world-class media coverage, event partners, and execution. Undoubtedly, Bowman and Long have established an exemplary standard in the realm of trail racing, raising the bar for future events. However, it is essential to recognize the inherent challenges that come with inaugural races, such as anticipating athletes’ needs and aid station support, the community’s response, course feasibility, among others; Freetrail and Daybreak, despite their success, navigated through these learning experiences, gathering information for them to take forward into future endeavors: bring on The Big Alta 2025!

Take-home Messages for Race Directors

  1. Establish Mutually Beneficial Relationships with Sponsors/Partners: Offer unique value beyond visibility.
  1. Connect Athletes with the Virtual Running Community: Explore live streaming, expert commentary, and athlete tracking.
  1. Maximize Local Involvement, Minimize Negative Impacts: Appeal to hometown pride and involve the community in various event aspects.
  1. Create a Festival-like Atmosphere at the Start/Finish Line: Turn the event hub into a celebration to enhance the overall experience.

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