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Marathon man keeps on pushing his limits

by Steve Thomas – Bismarck Tribune

Nobody can match Dave Helphrey’s record of running in every Bismarck Marathon. He’ll be at the Pioneer Park starting line Saturday for the 18th renewal of the race.

Yet he won’t have much of an edge in course consciousness on Jerry Dunn, who will be lining up for his second Bismarck Marathon, his first since 1993. That’s because Dunn’s schedule calls for him to run the Bismarck course seven times before Saturday’s 7:30 a.m. official start.

Saturday’s race will mark Dunn’s 142nd marathon of the year, 71 percent of the way to his goal of 200 marathons in the year 2000.

“The majority of these are me solo, but they’re on a certified marathon course,” said Dunn, who has been in Bismarck since Aug. 30.

The 54-year-old Spearfish, S.D., runner said he’d originally intended to run the Bismarck Marathon course nine times, but got sidetracked by injury. “I took Labor Day off with sore quads (thigh muscles). It’s something I haven’t had all year,” he said.

It’s not the first day Dunn has missed. “I’m currently three days behind schedule,” he said.

That’s not much of a problem, however, because Dunn has built in about 10 days of down time at the end of each month. Plus, he’s included some wiggle room at the end of his schedule. The Philadelphia Marathon, the 199th on his schedule, is Nov. 19. “That gives me from Nov. 20 to Dec. 10 to run as many as I need to run,” he said.

Dunn’s marathon countdown began Jan. 1 with the San Diego Marathon in Carlsbad, Calif. His 200th marathon is scheduled Dec. 10 in Tampa, Fla, the 22nd site on his nation-wide trail. Bismarck is his northern-most stop. East Coast races include New York, Philadelphia, Providence, R.I., and, naturally, Boston.

Twenty-two race venues are included on Dunn’s agenda. He was in his hometown of Indianapolis in August. From Bismarck, he’ll head for Dayton, Ohio. The Oct. 9 Twin Cities Marathon is on his October schedule.

Dunn isn’t a former track or cross country athlete who graduated to marathons. He graduated from drinking to running to marathons.

“I call it my positive addiction,” he said of his running career. “I didn’t begin running until I was 29 years old. I’m a recovering alcoholic, and running has turned my life around.”

Dunn’s first marathon was in 1981. By 1989 he was so involved with marathons he headed for Greece “just to say I had run the original marathon course run by Phiddipides of ancient times,” he noted.

In 1993 he ran 104 marathons, a world record for one calendar year. He’s already left that record far in the dust.

Once he’s run his 200 in 2000, you can bet Dunn will lay out further challenges for himself. “My philosophy of ‘don’t limit your challenges, challenge your limits’ has enabled me to become living proof that we can achieve much more than what we normally expect of ourselves,” he says on his website: “We must set goals, both short and long term, and relentlessly pursue them.”