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A study of this Keene champion’s heart helped prove the benefits of exercise

Clarence DeMar would train for races by running to and from his job at a print shop in Boston, up to 14 miles a day, often carrying a clean shirt.

His hard work paid off. He won the 1911 Boston Marathon and competed in the next year’s Olympics.

But all that running raised eyebrows. At the time, many people — and medical experts — thought prolonged exercise was dangerous. A doctor, detecting a heart murmur, warned DeMar — who lived in Keene for part of his racing career — to quit the sport. Even his fellow runners told him not to attempt more than one or two marathons in his lifetime.

“He trained more than was commonly believed humanly possible at the time,” said Tom Derderian, who’s written an extensive history of the Boston Marathon. “He ran lots of mileage. And the idea in the past was that lots of mileage would wear you out – that you would die early.”

DeMar proved them all wrong — both during his lifetime and after — in ways that helped change people’s minds about the benefits of exercise, and foreshadowed questions researchers are still asking today about how it affects the heart.

He became one of the most dominant distance runners of his day, competing in two more Olympics and winning the Boston Marathon a record seven times between 1911 and 1930. He kept winning races well into his 40s. The press called him “Mr. DeMarathon.”

Clarence DeMar (left), won the Boston Marathon seven times between 1911 and 1930.

/ Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection

/

Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection

Clarence DeMar (left), won the Boston Marathon seven times between 1911 and 1930.

After he died of cancer at age 70, two Boston-area cardiologists took a look at his heart. What they found contradicted all those dire warnings.

Not only was

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A study of this champion’s heart helped prove the benefits of exercise

Clarence DeMar in 1932.

Clarence DeMar in 1932.

Boston Public Library / Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection

Clarence DeMar would train for races by running to and from his job at a print shop in Boston, up to 14 miles a day, often carrying a clean shirt.

His hard work paid off. He won the 1911 Boston Marathon and competed in the next year’s Olympics.

But all that running raised eyebrows. At the time, many people – and medical experts – thought prolonged exercise was dangerous. A doctor, detecting a heart murmur, warned DeMar to quit the sport. Even his fellow runners told him not to attempt more than one or two marathons in his lifetime.

“He trained more than was commonly believed humanly possible at the time,” said Tom Derderian, who’s written an extensive history of the Boston Marathon. “He ran lots of mileage. And the idea in the past was that lots of mileage would wear you out – that you would die early.”

DeMar proved them all wrong – both during his lifetime and after – in ways that helped change people’s minds about the benefits of exercise, and foreshadowed questions researchers are still asking today about how it affects the heart.

He became one of the most dominant distance runners of his day, competing in two more Olympics and winning the Boston Marathon a record seven times between 1911 and 1930. He kept winning races well into his 40s. The press called him “Mr. DeMarathon.”

Clarence DeMar (left), won the Boston Marathon seven times between 1911 and 1930.

Clarence DeMar (left), won the Boston Marathon seven times between 1911 and 1930.

Boston Public Library / Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection

After he died of cancer at age 70, two Boston-area cardiologists took a look at his heart. What they found contradicted all

Read the rest