The March to DeMar: Finding community

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Jul. 16—I grew up in a tight-knit neighborhood on the far southwest side of Chicago, just about the same population as the city of Keene.

And since my childhood, in the numerous places I have lived since, I found that I thrive in these sorts of strong communities. So, it has been one of the great joys of my marathon training to learn more about, and slowly begin to enter, the running community here in the Monadnock Region.

The biggest and best example of this, for me, came early on the morning of Independence Day here in Keene. I drove down from my apartment in Walpole and parked at The Sentinel's office on West Street around 7:30 a.m., just in time to meet up with my colleague Chris Detwiler and walk over to Railroad Square, where the 20th annual 4 on the 4th Road Race would start about 30 minutes later.

The morning was glorious, and the square buzzing with music and hundreds of runners warming up to tackle the four-mile out and back course. This was my first organized race in nearly eight years, and I had almost forgotten how exhilarating the atmosphere is at the start and finish line.

The 4 on the 4th also came about halfway through my formal training for the Clarence DeMar Marathon in late September, and it was the perfect reminder why I am training for a full 26.2 miles.

The course was lively and lined with volunteers and people (and pups!) who came out to cheer on the 330-plus runners who were starting their 4th of July holiday with a jaunt through the Elm City. Chris and I both saw a few people we knew along the route, too — a literal friendly reminder that Keene boasts a robust running community.

I've gotten little glimpses of this community here and there, but I'm admittedly still on the outskirts of it. I mostly run alone in the mornings, close to home in Walpole before commuting to Keene for work. But every time I taste the unique flavor of our local running community — with a stop at Ted's Shoe & Sport for a new pair of sturdy socks, or running a race like the 4 on the 4th — I am rejuvenated, and my excitement for the DeMar only grows.

So, as I eclipse the halfway point of my 20-week training program, I'm setting a new goal: to become more ingrained in the Keene running community before I get to the starting line. But I need your help!

For my next column in two weeks, I want to hear from you. What is your experience with the local running community? What makes Keene unique as a running destination? Why should more people get involved in this community? What role does the DeMar Marathon play in all of this?

I want to help tell these sorts of stories, so I need to talk to you. Give me a call at 355-8575, email me at jrooney@keenesentinel.com or reach out on Twitter @RooneyReports.

Jack Rooney can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1404, or jrooney@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @RooneyReports.