The March to DeMar: Super Seniors

·3 min read

Aug. 27—We're just about one month out from this year's Clarence DeMar Marathon, and the closer we get to race day, the more I come to realize, and really appreciate, that this isn't just an athletic competition. It's a true community event.

This is perhaps best exemplified by the variety of activities surrounding the race, and how many of our neighbors participate. Last week, my colleague James Rinker told you about the DeMar Kids Marathon. On the opposite end of the age spectrum, we've got the Super Senior DeMar Marathon, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

The rules for the Super Seniors are similar to the kids' marathon: Anyone 70 and older can participate, and log 25 miles walking or jogging between May 1 and Aug. 26. Completion of those 25 miles earns seniors the opportunity to run the last 1.2 miles of the DeMar Marathon on race day, going from Optical Avenue to the finish line on Appian Way at Keene State College.

"We have people that do it who use walkers," said Molly Lane, a Keene resident who serves on the committee that organizes the Super Senior event. "It's not this elite race by any way, shape or form. And we encourage people, we try to get the word out, if you can walk to your mailbox, you can record an eighth of a mile."

The race started a decade ago, Lane said, when Jean Hoffman decided the community needed to help folks in their 70s and older "to get fit, or just to get out, to move."

"And that's the greatest victory of this whole program," Lane said, "... is to get the people who normally would not get out and walk, to give them some incentive and some encouragement."

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Super Seniors came out in force, peaking around 120 runners, according to Lane. This year, that number will be closer to 60.

"It's been tough since COVID, but we have had programs where they could go to the Y and they would get instruction on walking," she said. "And we have meet-ups for walking groups. People need a little camaraderie."

This year will mark a return to normalcy for the Super Seniors event, which did not happen in 2020 due to the pandemic, and couldn't finish on Appian Way last year due to COVID-19 protocols at Keene State (but did still cover the same distance by finishing at the Historical Society of Cheshire County on Main Street).

"Being at the finish line is probably the greatest thrill for me," said Lane, who just turned 70 herself, and has run several full marathons in the past.

That atmosphere at the finish line — the aspect of race day I am most eagerly anticipating — definitely gains from the presence of the Super Seniors and the kids, Lane added.

"When Elm City Rotary took over, the marathon was practically dead. It was on the table, needed a big jolt," she said. "And there weren't people at the finish line. So, by doing the kids, they brought, probably 700 kids back then. ... And when they're there, we give them noisemakers, and they stay, and the same with the Super Seniors, we encourage them to stay at least for the half marathoners. It brings more people to the finish line."

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