Dave McGillivray had a message for the runners of the Clarence DeMar Marathon: The hardest part of the race is signing up.

“It’s making the commitment to do it.”

Speaking at a pre-race pasta dinner Saturday night, McGillivray, the race director of the Boston Marathon, drew on personal anecdotes, humor and inspirational mantras to rev up the runners for their big day today.

“You’re all human interest stories,” he told the dozens of runners, family members and race staff assembled in the Marriott’s Courtyard Hotel in downtown Keene. “You’re all inspirations — but because I have the mic, I’ll do it.”

His message centered on setting goals and achieving them, learning from mistakes and taking rejection, so to speak, in stride.

A “vertically challenged” kid cut from every sport but Little League — “cause nobody cuts ya from Little League” — he began running in part because it lacked those barriers.

At 17, he became focused on the Boston Marathon. He ran till he hit a hilly section late in the course — then fell apart and landed in the hospital.

His grandfather had been waiting to cheer him on later in the course. When he asked McGillivray what happened, he said, “I quit. I failed.”

No, his grandfather said, you learned — to set goals, but not reckless ones.

The next year, McGillivray finished. He kept running the race, year after year. Even after he became race director, 15 years after his first finish, he’d still run the race — starting at 8 at night, after all the day’s work was done.

McGillivray took listeners on a whirlwind tour of his various adventures and achievements — running across the United States in 1978; logging 1,500 miles running up the East Coast alongside wheelchair marathoner Bob Hall, including a visit with President Jimmy Carter in the White House; completing multiple Hawaii Ironman triathlons; competing against inmates in a 10K on a track at a state prison in Walpole, Mass.; running the Boston Marathon blindfolded; doing a marathon in Fenway Park; and running his age in miles on every birthday between his 12th and his 63rd, one month ago.

In total, McGillivray said he’s run more than 150,000 miles since taking up the sport, often to raise money and awareness for charitable causes.

To highlight the power of sport to help others, McGillivray shared stories about people affected by those causes as well as those who overcome adversity to complete a race — including two victims of the 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon, one who lost his legs in the blast and another who pushed him further from harm’s way.

Three years later, both showed up to a 1-mile charity run McGillivray organized.

Along the way, McGillivray told the crowd, he’s learned some lessons. Live in the present. “There are no mistakes, only lessons.” “We should always chase our dreams.”

And, of course: “No matter where in this country my car breaks down, I’ll be able to run home!”

In addition to McGillivray, the audience learned about another accomplished runner — the marathon’s namesake, Clarence DeMar, a Keene resident.

Before McGillivray’s keynote, organizers played a presentation about the history of DeMar, the man and the race.


Born in 1888, Clarence DeMar won the 1911 Boston Marathon in 2:21:39, despite a pre-race doctor’s warning that he had a heart murmur.

He went on to win six more Boston Marathons, a bronze medal at the 1924 Olympics and the moniker “Mr. DeMarathon.”

The marathon began in 1978, 20 years after DeMar’s death.

His youngest daughters, Betty DeMar Mueller and Barbara DeMar Roberts, attended Saturday’s dinner.

State Sen. Jay V. Kahn, D-Keene, spoke as well, about Healthy Monadnock, an initiative involving Cheshire Medical Center and various community partners that aims to make the Monadnock Region the country’s healthiest.

“They drank the Kool-Aid,” Kahn said of the DeMar organizers. “We really mean it.”

Kahn presented a proclamation from the state Senate honoring the event and its role in promoting healthy lifestyles.

“May you all have a PR tomorrow,” Kahn, who finished the 2008 Demar Marathon in 5:04:33, added.

Mayor Kendall W. Lane then proclaimed Sunday, Sept. 24, “Clarence DeMar Day.