There may be no better nickname for Thomas Paquette than “Mr. Consistent.”
The local runner and Keene State College alum won his fourth half marathon at Sunday’s 42nd annual Clarence DeMar Marathon. He crossed the finish line at the college’s Appian Way in one hour, 12 minutes and 26 seconds — just two seconds shy of his most recent first-place finish in 2017.
Sunday’s victory came less than three months after winning Keene’s annual “4 on the 4th” road race on Independence Day for the third straight and seventh overall year.
“It feels really amazing,” Paquette, of Keene, said. “It was a good indication of my fitness.”
Neal Graves of Stowe, Vt., is no stranger to the winners’ circle, either. He won his second full DeMar Marathon, finishing in 2:35.41.
Graves previously won the 2016 full marathon, and was the runner-up in the 2017 race.
“I like the race,” Graves said. “It’s low-key, it’s like two hours from home. It’s not like going to Boston and spending $1,000 to stay a couple nights.”
Graves — a former Dartmouth College runner who has been running since he was 13 — said he encountered some cramps around mile 21-22 of the 26.2-mile race, but still, an improved training regimen allowed him to shave nearly eight seconds off his runner-up time from two years ago and three seconds off his winning time from 2016.
As for Paquette — who said he’s using this race to train for December’s California International Marathon in Sacramento — not only did he win the half marathon, but he also went back out on the course and ran the final leg of the full marathon.
Paquette received a text from his girlfriend, Jayna Leach, saying she was struggling around mile 17. So, Paquette and some his college friends hopped in a car, met up with Leach, and boyfriend and girlfriend went on to cross the finish line together.
“On my plan was a 20-mile day, so I had to get 20 miles in,” Paquette said. “I got my five miles in with her, and I helped her through that.”
Leach — a Keene native and violinist who’s studying at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee — wasn’t the only one Paquette was happy to see cross the finish line. He was also pleased with his students’ performances.
Paquette, who graduated from Keene State with a degree in exercise science, coaches numerous runners through his own training program, Next Level Running.
Among those runners are Jean Marie Rodriguez of Keene, who ran a personal-best 2:29 in the half marathon; Sarah Flynn of Winchester, who is also using this race as a warm-up for the California International; and Kaitlyn Gonzales of Keene, who ran the full marathon for the first time.
“My running stems not just from my own motivation, but my athletes’ motivations,” Paquette said. “I get a lot of inspiration from my athletes. All those who were out there today were some of the reasons why I ran well today.”
Last year, Paquette could only watch from the sidelines as his runners finished their DeMar races. He had chosen to run in the Chicago Marathon, which takes place the weekend after the DeMar.
But being able to once again run through Monadnock Region and finish in triumph at the campus of his alma mater was a breath of fresh air.
“It feels like home, because Keene is home,” Paquette said. “I run these roads every day, and it’s nothing new.
“What’s really great is the community, the spectators around this whole event. It makes the run a lot more enjoyable.”