Deadlines hold me accountable.

From school papers to The Sentinel’s morning print cutoff, I’ve long prided myself on the ability to produce under any time constraint I’m given.

Sept. 25 might be the biggest deadline of my life.

I’ve got 19 weeks now to get myself ready — mind and body — to run 26.2 miles from Main Street in Gilsum to Appian Way in Keene during the 44th Clarence DeMar Marathon.

And while I recently started a 20-week, structured training program for marathon beginners like myself, I’d say my mental preparation began last fall. My colleague Chris Detwiler planted the seed of an idea when he wrote about his own DeMar experience in these Sentinel sports pages.

Not long after that, I talked to Chris, who raved about the entire experience. At the time, I was also transitioning into my current role at The Sentinel, which has me on a fairly consistent schedule, starting around 10:30 or 11 and working into the evening, leaving me plenty of time to exercise in the mornings.

This newfound free time, along with the hearty endorsement of a friend, got me thinking, “I could run this marathon.”

But cool autumn temperatures were settling into the Monadnock Region, and the race was nearly a year out, so I decided to give myself the a few months to contemplate more seriously whether or not I would pull the trigger.

That’s not to say I was completely sedentary over the winter (though I did put on a few pounds more than I would have liked during hibernation). But my wife and her family in Vermont are avid hikers in any season, and they’ve gotten me into cross-country skiing during my time in New England, too. Plus, I put some marathon training gear — like an armband to hold my phone on runs — on my Christmas list to keep me heading in the direction of the DeMar.

And as the ground thawed this spring, I still had the marathon on my mind. So, in late March, I went to Ted’s Shoe & Sport in Keene to buy a proper pair of running shoes and started to get myself into shape.

For the last six weeks or so, I ran roughly three miles — typically on Old Keene Road in Walpole, where I live — about three or four times a week, before launching my official training plan this past week. As I start to mix in some longer training runs, gradually ramping up to a few 20-mile runs in the weeks leading up to the marathon, I’ve found a pretty comfortable pace around 10-and-a-half minutes per mile.

I don’t have a specific time goal for the DeMar; I’ll be happy just to cross the finish line. But if I can keep up that pace, or even a bit slower, over 26.2 miles, I’ll finish well before the seven hours and 30 minutes (or 17:11 per mile) the DeMar course requires. I’ll meet that deadline.

Along the way, I’d love your help. What tips do you have for this first-time marathoner? What questions do you have for me, and what other topics do you want me to cover in this column?

For my next piece in two weeks, I’ll be doing a Q&A with DeMar race director Alan Stroshine. I welcome your questions for him by emailing me at or giving me a call at 355-8575.

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