The March to DeMar: Q&A with race director Alan Stroshine

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May 28—As I continue training for the Clarence DeMar Marathon, I felt my journalistic instincts kicking in, and found myself wanting to interview an expert on the topic.

So, I got in touch with Alan Stroshine, who has been the race director since 2012 and ran the full marathon 15 years ago. Stroshine, 55, of Keene, chatted with me this week. Here's a glimpse into our conversation:

Can you introduce yourself to our Sentinel readers, and explain your involvement with the DeMar Marathon?

"My involvement with the DeMar started way back in the late '80s, early '90s when I was an employee at Peerless Insurance. And the people who ran the race worked at Peerless, and I was brought in as a volunteer. ... But I'm also a longtime member of the Keene Elm City Rotary Club. And we had done a golf tournament as our signature fundraiser for about 15 years, and it started to get tired, it started to get challenging to get people to participate and it just started to run its course. ... Well, by coincidence, in talking with the organizers of the DeMar, I happened to know that they were getting tired and they were going to let it sunset at their 35th anniversary. And so I made a proposal to the Rotary Club as well as to the DeMar group that we kind of ride shotgun for them in 2011, learning basically how to put on this event, with the assumption that we would take it over for them full-time in 2012. ... And so in 2012, as the person who came up with this idea, I got deemed to be the race director, and have been the race director since 2012. And it has not only become the Rotary Club's signature fundraising event, but it's also become our signature community service event because it's no longer just a full marathon. We've added a half marathon, but we've also grown two community service projects out of it in our Kids DeMar Marathon program and the Super Seniors program. So, race day includes full marathoners, half marathoners, about 800-1,000 kids and about 100, plus or minus, Super Seniors, which are people 70 and older, all participating in the same event on the last Sunday in September."

We're a little over four months away from the race. Where are we in terms of the planning process, and what does the lead-up to the race look like?

"Well, we started planning for the 2022 DeMar on the Monday following the 2021 DeMar. It does start, in fact that [early], where we reach out to our various partners and vendors to make sure they know the date of next year's event, and that we're locked in on their calendars. And that includes Keene State College, the city of Keene, Cheshire Medical Center, our tent vendor, food vendors. ... But throughout the year, we kind of go at a fairly steady pace — putting in orders for designs for our finisher medals, those are almost finalized, I'm just going to start the process of requesting the various permits we need. ... So, we pretty much work pretty steadily, but comfortably, throughout most of the year, and it really starts to ramp up and we start to go into a dead sprint probably throughout the whole month of August ..."

This is shaping up to be the first DeMar free of significant COVID-19 restrictions since 2019. What can participants, volunteers and spectators expect?

"If the race was held this weekend, we would have no restrictions and we would be able to enjoy a race that we all came to get used to prior to 2020, which really means a full quad at Keene State College of supporters and family members waiting for people who are running the race to finish. So, at any give time, there could be two, three, 4,000 people on campus in that environment. ... So, this year we'll bring back the kids on campus, we'll bring back the Super Seniors on campus. ... And we will certainly be in contact with [Keene State] if anything needs to be reinstituted. But I'm not going to try to project the future, so I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that we're good to go and there'll be no restrictions. But we'll certainly be open to working with our various partners if things change in three or four months."

What are you most looking forward to about this year's event?

"No more COVID restrictions. One of the funnest things on race day is, first, our kids come screaming down Appian Way, they're finishing off their marathon, running 1.2 miles from Optical Ave. to Appian Way, and you see eight, 900, 1,000 kids over the course of about 20 minutes come down Appian Way, and we give them all noisemakers and they gather in the quad waiting for the leaders of the full and the half to come across. That's a pretty special environment, and so I'm looking forward to getting back to that environment. But generally speaking, I always look forward to our pasta dinner keynote speaker. We've been very fortunate to get some pretty high-profile ... speakers, and this year we have multiple-Olympic-medal-winning marathoner Frank Shorter coming to join us."

What else should people in the Monadnock Region know about the DeMar this year?

"Just that race is on Sunday, Sept. 25. And over the last probably four, five, six years, we've seen a steady increase in the amount of community people that basically come out and find some place on the course to cheer on our runners, and we hope that continues. We hope that the community continues to support this event. I think most of them realize that it is a fundraiser for a local Rotary Club that supports a long list of programs we have around youth wellness, scholarships and a number of other programs ..."

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