The March to DeMar: Putting in the work

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Jul. 9—"Nothing in life will come to you easily, you have to work for it."

That's something my dad would always say to me when I was growing up.

Things in life aren't handed to you. They come to you through the effort you've put in, and that's a statement I've taken quite literally in my training thus far for the Clarence DeMar half marathon.

Right before my training plan was slated to begin in mid-May this year, I came down with a rough case of COVID. Shortness of breath, a rugged cough — the whole nine yards.

I grew up as an active and overall pretty healthy kid, accounting for a few recurring bouts of pneumonia and a couple of minor sports injuries during my high school years. However, I was always a pretty stubborn kid (much to my parents chagrin sometimes) and never failed to get back up.

I didn't expect this journey to be easy by any means, but I didn't account for a case of COVID to kick it off. So when I had to take a full two week delay to fully recover from my COVID symptoms before officially diving into my training at the end of May, I had to take a step back in remembering what my priorities were for running the half marathon.

For me, this event is more than just a training for a full marathon in 2023. It's one of the largest local fundraisers for local youth, a way for me to give back to this place I've called home for the past 22 years.

It's also a chance for me to show that if I, an openly transgender and queer athlete in this region, can do something like this, then it can pave the way for others to do the same in the future.

COVID certainly made this endeavor harder. My pace has slowed, hovering around 11.5 minutes a mile on average. During my longer runs I've found myself taking more walking breaks throughout. However, that's helped me take the time to enjoy this journey a lot more.

This past weekend, my significant other and I went to the Seacoast region in New Hampshire for a short vacation. I ran just under 8 miles last Sunday, from where we were staying near downtown Portsmouth, looping through nearby Newcastle and then back into town. While it was probably the worst run I've had, pace wise (approximately 13:59 minutes per mile), it was also the best run I've had thanks to the gorgeous early-morning views.

So far I've been able to see a new side of the places I've been traveling to this summer, and being more aware of the natural beauty of this region that I grew up in by finding different places in surrounding towns to do my long runs on the weekends.

So, while things certainly haven't been easy, I've been putting in the work. And it's been paying off in ways I didn't even consider beforehand.

James Rinker is the digital community engagement journalist for The Sentinel. You can reach him at jrinker@keenesentinel.com or at 355-8569. Follow him on Twitter @JamesRinkerKS