Come Sunday, the familiar scene of DeMar Marathon race day will return to Keene.
Well, kind of.
Because of the ongoing COVID pandemic, the DeMar Marathon will look a bit different from years past.
The biggest change will be a limit on the number of people allowed on Keene State’s Appian Way, at the finish line of the race.
Only runners, volunteers and approved vendors will be allowed on campus, said race director Alan Stroshine, meaning no community members will be allowed to cheer on runners as they cross the finish line.
But there are plenty of other places along the 26.2-mile course for friends and families of runners to safely show their support.
“Because runners won’t have the usual support at the finish line, we’re asking the community to come out around the whole course,” Stroshine said. “There are numerous places to safely watch the race.”
Some of the suggested cheering spots include Surry Mountain Lake, Alumni Field, Keene Middle School, Fuller Elementary School and Franklin Elementary School. A full list can be found on the DeMar Marathon website.
The finish will also be livestreamed on the Clarence DeMar Marathon Facebook page.
Stroshine said in normal years, 4,000 to 5,000 people gather by the finish line at Keene State. He hopes everyone still comes out to support the runners — just spread out along the course.
Spectators are also encouraged not to gather on Main Street near the college to catch the end of the race, Stroshine said.
If runners are being picked up by friends or family after the race, they’ll have a chance to catch their breath on campus, then go meet up with their ride at a designated parking lot off-campus.
Two other community aspects of the event have been changed.
The Kids Marathon is moved to Saturday this year, at the Keene Family YMCA, rather than being run on Sunday on the marathon course.
The Super Seniors Marathon will still take place Sunday, but runners will finish at the Cheshire Historical Society.
Registration numbers are down this year, Stroshine said, which is not a surprise given the current state of the COVID pandemic.
Stroshine estimated the half marathon will have 375 to 400 runners, while the full marathon will have 300 to 325 runners. Normally, both races have about 400 runners.
The Kids Marathon, which normally brings in about 1,200 kids, is down to about 650 this year.
Despite the changes, Stroshine is just happy to have the race back after missing out last fall amid the pandemic.
Canceling last year’s race was a “gut punch,” Stroshine said, but he feels it was the right decision.
“It wasn’t realistic or responsible to put on a community event last fall,” Stroshine said.
Now, though the coronavirus danger has persisted, the DeMar is back, thanks to support from the community.
“We have to change things, but I’m extremely grateful to our community partners for making this happen,” said Stroshine, specifically thanking the City of Keene, Keene State and Cheshire Medical Center for their support.
Saturday will see the normal pre-race pasta dinner, with keynote speaker Bill Rodgers, who will be running the half marathon Sunday.