Presented annually to an Empire Runners Club member whose personal courage, generosity of spirit, and/or dedication to the sport of running extraordinarily inspires us as runners and fellow human beings

Kathy Dalton (Van Riper) emerged as a running star at Sonoma High School in the 1980’s, where she set the girls’ two-mile record. In 1985, at age15, she ran the Kenwood Footrace 10K in 38:54, placing her 11th on the women’s Kenwood All-Time 10K list and 2nd in the 19 and under age group.  Kathy continued an outstanding running career on athletic scholarship at Northern Arizona University.  After college, she returned to Sonoma County, where she ran recreationally, joined the Empire Runners, and met her husband-to-be Marc Van Riper in an EMT training class.  Kathy and Marc dated “on the run” on trails in Sonoma County parks and married in 1995.  Their daughter, Jillian, was born in 1997, and son, Ian, in 1999.

When Ian was 8 months old, Kathy, then 30, was diagnosed with breast cancer.  For ten years Kathy fought her cancer with the focus and perseverance of a dedicated runner, finally succumbing in February of 2010.  Running was always part of her regime--as healthful exercise, as mental therapy, and as celebration of her passion for life.  She shared her love of running with her husband and children, all regular participants in Empire Runners Club events. Kathy was inducted posthumously into the Empire Runners Hall of Fame in 2011.

Cancer hangs like a sword of Damocles, an omnipresent and menacing threat to patient, family, and friends.  Both disease and treatment can be brutal.  Kathy taught us is that life under the most difficult circumstances can be precious and joyful, full of promise, purpose, and hope. Every moment counts and a life worth living is one dedicated to others. 

As her body suffered, Kathy’s voice as an advocate for cancer research and in support of the families and children of those afflicted grew stronger.  Through her public speeches and personal blog she rallied myriads of friends and strangers alike to support the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation and the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. She and Marc established Kathy’s Camp for Kids, a non-profit organization offering activities, support, and encouragement to children of cancer patients. (  In 2006, her inspirational story earned national attention when she and her family appeared on television’s “The View.”

The history of the Empire Runners Club includes many great runners and many selfless volunteers, but certain members stand out as exceptionally inspirational.  These are the few whose extraordinary personal courage, generosity of spirit, or dedication to the sport of running far exceeds the norm, the exemplary few who in connection with us as runners show us the way to be better citizens and better human beings.  With the Kathy Van Riper Inspiration Award the Empire Runners Club honors these very special club members.

2009 Winner

Kathy Dalton Van Riper

2010 Winner

Dave DeSelle

2011 Winner Bob Shor

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