“Can’t keep a good man down.” – Alabama
Clarence DeMar is another forgotten legend runner of our past. The story of Clarence is one that comes to mind when I hear of a runner being told by a doctor that he should “slow down” or “stop” running. Clarence heard that a bit too … but he kind of ignored it on his way to owning the Boston marathon. His “intermittent” domination of the Boston Marathon a century ago is unmatched to this day. Overall he won the infamous hilly race 7 times, but what is more awesome, is that he did it over a span of 20 years. His story is one of repeatedly returning to greatness.
DeMar was born in Madeira, Ohio and that’s where he found his love of running. Walking is boring and so as soon as he began going to school, young DeMar used to dogtrot to get himself there. The quick but easy gait was a great foundation for getting through the trials of marathons.
He entered his first Boston marathon in 1910 and got 2nd place. This is a also a time when doctors tell him that he has a heart murmur and he should quit running within a year or two. He comes back a year later to claim his first victory in Boston. He came back a year later and won again – this time setting a new course record of 2:21:39. Having used up his last 2 years of running, DeMar hung up his serious running shoes and focused on his studies at Harvard and Boston University. But since he was in the neighborhood, he entered the 1917 Boston Marathon and finished third despite lack of training. Later that year he was drafted to the army and sent to Europe.
After returning from the army, and 11 years since he first won “Boston” (and was told about his heart condition), he entered and won the race three times in a row. Setting new records and almost renaming the race to “DeMarathon” along the way. He then took a breather and placed 2nd and 3rd in the two years that followed. After the rest – he went ballistic – completely dominating every race he entered across the US, and again taking first in Boston 2 more times.
Being true to this blog’s favorite motto “You don’t stop running because you get old. You get old because you stop running!”, DeMar raced his last Boston Marathon at the age of 65 and a 15km race at the age of 69. He died of cancer one year later.
He rests in peace, but his memory continues to inspire runners. If you are ever in Keene, New Hampshire in late September, consider joining the race named in his honor. More details here: http://clarencedemar.com/