Fox Sisters Win Dipsea Demon Award

Had Sharon and Colleen Fox been present to accept the Jack Kirk “Dipsea Demon” Award at the 105th Dipsea race, they probably would have thanked everyone under the Stinson Beach sun.

“First of all the Dipsea Foundation, the Dipsea Race Committee and all the volunteers,” Colleen says. “We can’t do it without the volunteers.”

However their thank you list surely would have featured their great aunts – sisters Millie and May – who secretly competed in the Dipsea in 1909, 1910 and 1911 disguised as boys because women then were not permitted in the race. The Fox sisters’ devotion to the Dipsea is also inspired by legendary male runners – led by Kirk, who completed a record 67 consecutive Dipsea races, the last at the age of 95.

The “Demon Dipsea” Award is for “dedication, perseverance and performance over time.” The Fox sisters have competed in the Dipsea for more than 60 years and, as importantly, they have been reliable volunteers and ardent supporters of the Dipsea during that span.

Their historic ties to the Dipsea date back almost 100 years.

“In many ways Colleen and I try to assist the Dipsea in any way we can to honor May and Minnie and keep their spirit alive,” says Sharon, who skipped the post-race awards ceremony on June 14 to attend to an ill cat. “And as Colleen’s dear friends -- Jack Kirk and Tony Stratta -- and my surrogate father, Don Ritchie, have reached the top stairs, it is even more important to honor those who have gone before us and have shown us a way of living with respect and service.”

Sharon, who is a writer and Executive Producer at California Motion Picture Company, is so enamored with Jack Kirk that she would love to do a movie about him. Colleen, who said Jack is like a grandfather to her, used to ride two miles uphill on her bike from her family ranch to Jack’s secluded property outside Mariposa. Jack convinced her to compete in a 10-mile race at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds in the heat and in 1982 in Mountain Goat Marathon in thunder, lightning and hail.

Colleen and Jack became pen pals for life. Jack would make his award-winning fudge for her and she would send him Sees Candy twice a year until he died in 2007 at the age of 100.

“I was very shocked and surprised. To receive the Jack Kirk Dipsea Demon Award you really have to do a lot. It’s such a great award. It means lot,” says Colleen, who catches herself talking aloud to Jack and the late Tony Stratta whenever she runs the Dipsea. “We have this family history that goes way back.”

The Fox sisters gathered this history, listening to stories at feet of their great aunts.

“Our Aunts May and Minnie were incredibly philanthropic and they left so many bread crumbs along the Dipsea trail as they used their financial and personal resources to help others in need,” Sharon says. “They went from helping their family run cattle through our ranch in Yosemite Valley to living in San Francisco where they became successful business women and volunteered their services with the Red Cross when the 1906 earthquake. They traveled with the Red Cross to Europe to volunteer assisting nurses during World War I. They also were the largest financial supporter of an orphanage they helped establish in Texas.”

It was the giving spirit of Aunt May and Aunt Millie and their love of the Dipsea that has served the Fox sisters well in both competing in the race and helping support it.

“Volunteering and also supporting the Dipsea Foundation Hall of Fame dinner and Foundation has deepened the Dipsea experience for both me and my sister and enriched our relationship with each other no doubt,” Sharon says.

The Fox sisters weren’t the only volunteers recognized and honored with awards in the post-race ceremony on June 14.

The Dipsea’s Red Tail Hawk Award, also known as the Jerry Hauke Perpetual Award, for “leadership, dedication and sportsmanship” was presented to Billie Post, the widow of Dipsea elite runner Steve Lyons. She competed in the race for 26 years and has transitioned into the post-race awards captain for the Dipsea.

The Norman Bright Award – given for “Extraordinary Effort in the Dipsea Race” – was presented to 77-year-old Norman Pease, who has competed in the Dipsea for 33 years including one year when he raced one week after surviving a single-engine plane crash.

Longtime volunteer Bob Long was recognized for 50 years of service to the Dipsea.