He Ran Like a Demon … And it Stuck – Jack Kirk

“You don’t stop running because you get old. You get old because you stop running.”  ~ The man himself, Jack KirkImageHe is the man behind my favorite running quote there is (the one up above his picture). Not a week goes by when I don’t think about those words (and yes you can replace “running” with something that makes you tick). He is known as the Dipsea Demon, a title bestowed upon him by some serious runners who found themselves in his wake during one of the earlier Dipsea races. The Dipsea, famous for being the oldest trail race in the US of A , is Jack’s race. It being his race, he knew that the trick to kicking butt in it, was to take off like a demon up the Dipsea stairs and over some happily named hills like “Cardiac” and “Insult Hill”, and then to really turn it on down the hill before you hit the ravine, this is advantageous to a runner as the flat parts of the race are often narrow trench like trails where no passing is to be done. In any case, Jack was mighty nimble and mighty quick to the point where other runners gave him the nickname “Dipsea Demon”, and it stuck.

So that’s pretty cool, but why is he included in this blog you ask. Two reasons.

Firstly, Jack didn’t just get a cool nickname during a single Dipsea race, he ran like a demon not once, not thrice, not even ten times … but for 67 consecutive consecutive years that the Dipsea was held. He only stopped, after he collapsed at the top of Cardiac Hill at the healthy age of 96. He inspired Marin County and the state of California – not an easy place to stand out as a breakthrough athlete.

Jack Kirk at the DipseaThe second reason has to do with the power of words. The quote “You don’t stop running because you get old. You get old because you stop running,” will live forever, but if you watch this short documentary about Jack’s life as a Dipsea runner, you realize the man was a runner and a poet. You could write an entire blog entry simply by extracting Jack’s statements from the video. Here are some of the best phrases:

  • “Everybody thinks I’m finished because I’m 94 years old and still running the Dipsea. That don’t mean anything. Even if it takes me 3 hours to do it. I already gotta saying that says. Old runners never die, they reach the 676th step.” (Referring to the 675 steps that kick of the challenging part of the Dipsea race)
  • “Hard work never killed anybody, but worrying about how to get out of hard work will lay you in your grave before your time.”
  • “I like to run. I don’t push myself. Nobody says I have to run fast. All I have to do is I have to run.” (Talking about doing the Dipsea at the age of 94)
  • “I kept a record of all the miles I’ve run, all the miles I’ve run since I got out of high school.  And where I ran it, and a lot of the times I ran.  And I figured out .. this was about 20 years ago, I figured out that its about 75,000 miles And that’s nothing.”
  • Quick Exchange with a reporter: How old are you Jack?
    Jack: 94
    Reporter: How old do you feel?
    Jack: 94 … and a half

Jack passed away reached the 676th step of the Dipsea in 2007 at the age of 100. He left behind thousands of inspired young and not so young runners and a legacy of unmatched determination.

Next week we’ll look at a man who is still young but who is already a growing legend in the long long long distance type of running.

And as always, please share your thoughts on the Dipsea Demon and your inspirational runners in the comments.

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