Run For Youth

Clarence DeMar Marathon

“I’m back”, he said, and he was, in a big way – Clarence DeMar

“Can’t keep a good man down.” – Alabama 

Clarence DeMar is another great runner of our past. His “intermittent” domination of the Boston Marathon a century ago is unmatched to this day. Overall he won the infamous hilly race 7 times, but what is more awesome, is that he did it over a span of 20 years. His story is one of repeatedly returning to greatness.

DeMar was born in Madeira, Ohio and that’s where he found his love of running. Walking is boring and so as soon as he began going to school, young DeMar used to dogtrot to get himself there. The quick but easy gait was a great foundation for getting through the trials of marathons.

He entered his first Boston marathon in 1910 and got 2nd place. This is a also a time when doctors tell him that he has a heart murmur and he should quit running within a year or two. He comes back a year later to claim his first victory in Boston. He came back a year later and won again – this time setting a new course record of 2:21:39. Having used up his last 2 years of running, DeMar hung up his serious running shoes and focused on his studies at Harvard and Boston University. But since he was in the neighborhood, he entered the 1917 Boston Marathon and finished third despite lack of training. Later that year he was drafted to the army and sent to Europe.

After returning from the army, and 11 years since he first won “Boston” (and was told about his heart condition), he entered and won the race three times in a row. Setting new records and almost renaming the race to “DeMarathon” along the way. He then took a breather and placed 2nd and 3rd in the two years that followed. After the rest – he went ballistic – completely dominating every race he entered across the US, and again taking first in Boston 2 more times.

Being true to this blog’s favorite motto “You don’t stop running because you get old. You get old because you stop running!”, DeMar raced his last Boston Marathon at the age of 65 and a 15km race at the age of 69. He died of cancer one year later.

He rests in peace, but his memory continues to inspire runners. If you are ever in Keene, New Hampshire in late September, consider joining the race named in his honor. More details here:




He shuffled past the competition – Cliff Young

Today is Australia Day. It’s a good day to share the story of Cliff Young.

Cliff was a potato farmer from Victoria who at the age of 61 won the 875 kilometer (544 mi) Sydney to Melbourne ultra marathon. Once again proving that you don’t stop running because you get old, you get old because you stop running. Before the race, Cliff admitted that he prepared using the latest innovations in running training: chasing down his sheep for 2 days and 2 nights wearing gumboots.

To say “Cliff won” is an understatement, as he beat his nearest, much younger rivals, by 10 hours. He ran the race using an unorthodox form, today called “the Cliffy Shuffle”. He didn’t look competitive at the start, as he lagged far behind the competition on the first day of the race. As the night set, and everyone took their rest, Cliff shuffled on. He took the lead over night and never again relinquished it.

Here is a video about Cliff:

And here is a little bit more about him – including the bit about his marriage at the age of 62 to a 23 year old Mary Howell.

So if you are shuffler, hold your head up high, and keep on shuffling. As Cliff said “You just got to keep going.”

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.