LEWISTON — Marlene and Eugene Keene, both in their 80s, will be at Lincoln and Locust streets Sunday for The Greater L-A Triple Crown 5K Series.

“That’s our corner,” she said.

The two have volunteered there on two Sundays every summer for the past 16 years. Well, almost.

Like everything else, the popular running series was canceled in 2020.

“We didn’t miss that. It missed us,” Eugene, 84, said about the YMCA Fit Fest, Emily’s Run or the L-A Bridge Run.

“We are so glad to see it back this year,” Marlene, 82, said.

During a typical year, the series consists of the three separate events, but because organizers did not know what COVID-19 precautions would be in place when planning early on, the decision was made to hold the 5K run on the course formerly used for the YMCA Fit Fest.

The Keenes are ready for the participants.

“We have as much fun as they do,” Eugene said.

“We see children run by now that we saw being pushed in their baby carriage years ago,” Marlene, the mother of two boys and two girls, said.

“They say it’s a tough corner, but we have so much fun,” she said.

The Keenes’ daughter, Katie Hunter, asked them to be volunteer road guards during the inaugural YMCA Fit Fest in 2005. Hunter works for the YMCA.

The Keenes met in high school.

“She was a cheerleader and I was the captain of the basketball team,” he said. They graduated from Mechanic Falls High School in 1956.

“We strongly believe that you have to give back to your community,” he said. They have volunteered at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston and for Auburn Suburban baseball and softball leagues.

While the Keenes have been at their post for years, neighbors have come to chat with them during the YMCA Fit Fest and the L-A Bridge Run. Both events have similar courses and share the use of the corner.

When the series moved to Auburn each July for Emily’s Run, the Keenes were stationed at Shepley Street and Gamage Avenue. As road guards, they made sure motorists stop to allow the 5K participants to pass.

Marlene said one memorable experience on Gamage Avenue was watching a tree fell across the road moments before the lead pack of runners approached.

“We have made so many friends,” she said. “It’s a community effort and that’s what’s so beautiful about it.”

“We are proud to be part of it and that’s why we won’t quit,” her husband said. “As long as we can walk, we will keep doing it.”

Marcie Hird, co-director of The Greater L-A Triple Crown 5K Series, said there is a need for more volunteers. The number of volunteers and 5K participants is down this year, she said. She believes the uncertainty behind COVID-19 has something to do with it.

Past 5Ks have had over 800 participants. Preregistration is below 300 for Sunday’s event,” Hird said. “The weather is going to be nice so the same-day registration table will be busy.”

The Greater L-A Triple Crown 5K is being held on the weekend of the L-A Bridge Run, but with the Fit Fest course. “It’s the easiest of the three courses,” Hird said with a smile.

She said members of her family will be in town this weekend for a wedding and Hird has family signed up as volunteers at the registration table, although they don’t know it yet. Hopefully, they will be volunteering at the same table 16 years from now.

Marlene said they would never miss the Triple Crown 5K. “We put them on the calendar and plan to be there,” she said.

Uncertainty still surrounds COVID-19, but the plan is to offer all three 5K events of the series next year, she said.

There is no uncertainty surrounding the Keenes.

“We just say see you next year,” Marlene said.

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