Dipsea Demon

When a Man Loves a Race

One Runner’s Dedication to the Dipsea Trail Surpasses All
Mill Valley, California

There are a lot of things about the 7.4-mile, one-way trail running race between downtown Mill Valley, California and Stinson Beach that make it addictive. The rugged, intense beauty of the course, for one. The challenging route that covers brutal climbs and treacherous descents, for another. The handicapped starts based on age and gender that earn competitors more head start minutes with every year older. And the semi-open course; wily veterans know of legal shortcuts that pay big dividends.

Credit: Drow Millar

The Dipsea has been a revered event ever since it was first held in 1905. But no one has loved the race more than Jack Kirk, known as the “Dipsea Demon.”
Born in 1906, just a year after the inception of what would become his obsession, Jack Kirk grew up in Mariposa, California, near Yosemite. He raced his first Dipsea in 1930 as a fit and fast 24-year-old.

Kirk’s strength, as a runner, was tearing down the steep, rocky, rooty, dusty trails with confidence and speed. A fellow contender was quoted saying, "The way Kirk runs down those hills, he must be a demon." The “Dipsea Demon” moniker stuck. Kirk returned to the race each year through various stages in his life. When he worked in an oil refinery, he’d run the stairs on the property during breaks. When he worked as a garbage collector in Yosemite, he regularly ran to the top of Yosemite Falls…all in preparation for his beloved Dipsea. He’d bought a 400-acre ranch in Mariposa, where he collected old cars and lived without running water or electricity. Kirk was once arrested for shooting at trespassers on his property. He ran in circles around in his jail cell and was bailed out by fellow competitors race morning. He didn’t miss the Dipsea.

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