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Marathon Man Uses Run To Set Record

by Staff Sgt. Stuart Camp – Assistant Editor – Air Force Marathon – Supplement to Skywrighter (Wright-Patterson Air Base, Dayton, Ohio)

For most people, running one 26.2 mile marathon is enough. In the case of Jerry Dunn, 54, a marathon is just another day. Dunn is trying to run 200 marathons in the year 2000.

That’s 200 days of running certified 26.2-mile courses or, to put it another way, 165 days of not running this year.

If everything goes as planned, Dunn will be on the downhill side of his record attempt when he arrives at Wright-Patterson. Earlier this year he broke his own single-year marathon record — 104 which was set in 1993. According to Dunn , Sept 16 will be his 151st marathon of the year. Hence, his nickname “America’s Marathon Man.” He has a Web page, http://www.marathonman.org, that chronicles his daily activities, finds and times.

So far this year, he’s run the San Diego, Los Angeles, Boston, Nashville’s Country Music, Cincinnati’s Flying Pig, Rock and Roll, Grandma’s, San Francisco’s Chronicle and Salt Lakes City’s Desert News Marathons.  To accomplish his goal, Dunn runs the marathon courses several days in advance of the “real” race. Barring unforeseen circumstances, he will have run the Wright-Patterson circuit five times before he toes the line with about 2,000 other runners Sept. 16.

“ I chose the Air Force Marathon for a couple of reasons. One is that I have run the Blue Angel, and the Marine Corps, and I kind of felt obligated to do yours, too,” he wrote in a recent e-mail. “Dayton is in the Midwest, my part of the country, and it just felt right to include it when I was laying out my itinerary last fall.”

Although he runs mostly alone, his non-race day companions on some runs are old buddies, sports reporters and his marathon-running wife, Elaine. The Dunns reside in Spearfish, S.D., but he admits that he isn’t there very much.

After a series of runs in Utah last month, Dunn wrote on his Web diary, “I am looking forward to getting home to my own bed tonight.”

He can afford this pursuit of 200 marathons this year through sponsors – a shoe corporation, a energy replenishment drink maker, sunglasses and wireless communication companies, nutraceutical and shoe insole manufacturers. Managing the business side of this endeavor has been trying at times, he said.

“So 200 in 2000 is holding true to form, by offering me the peaks and valleys that I have expected to encounter on a year- long journey of 5,420 running miles. I have always said that marathon running is analogous to life…..and running 200 of them in one year is like cramming a lot of life into 365 days.”

Dunn is running the record number of marathons to promote regular exercise as a way of life and to share his positive philosophy with a large number of people.

He is 54 years old with degrees in marketing and Christian counseling, and he began running in 1975. His philosophy is “Don’t limit your challenges – challenge your limits.” This self-professed blue-collar athlete with God-given talent for distance running normally takes between 4 and 6 hours, depending on weather and the course, to cover the almost daily 26.2-mile sojourn. His personal record is a 3 hours 23 minutes at the 1985 Chicago Marathon.

The running paces of this 6-foot, 153 pounder drifts between 10 to 11 minutes a mile “with considerable amounts of walking,” he said via telephone. To fuel this almost daily grind of covering 26.2 miles, Dunn tries to consume 4,000 calories each day. “I only get concerned when I get below150 pounds,” he said.

Running wasn’t a part of his life, except for his hitch in the U.S. Army in the mid 60s. “When we ran, it was boots and packs,” he said over his wireless telephone during a marathon run in Indianapolis last month. He was stationed at Fort Knox, Ky., two Army posts in Germany, and fort Bragg, N.C., reaching the rank of sergeant.

“I didn’t like to run when I got out of the Army.”

By then, he said, he was an alcoholic. Then he replaced a craving for alcohol with an addiction for running.

In what seems like a marathon life already, he said he started running in January 1976 – a quarter mile jaunt barefoot on a Sarasota, Fla., beach. Up until 1982, he explained that he was a social runner. “ A marathon seemed totally impossible.” He wrote in his Web page.

Since those humble beginnings, the man ran the original Marathon distance in June 1989 —- between the battlefield at Marathon to Athens, Greece and ultra-distance races, like the 22 hours he spent completing the Vermont Trail 100 mile run in July 1990.

He also ran 49 miles on his 49th birthday and 50 kilometers (31 miles) on an indoor track for his 50th birthday.

Setting the 200 in 2000 marathon record is as mush a testament to his toughness as it’s a litmus test of his personal philosophy.

“We can achieve much more than what we normally expect of ourselves,” he wrote. “We must set goals, both short and long term, and relentlessly pursue them. My current long-term goal is to represent the 50 plus generation as a spokesperson who exemplifies the virtues of being responsible for our own level of health and fitness.”

His finish line for this endeavor doesn’t appear anywhere on the horizon. Dunn is planning something even bigger, with more mass appeal – but he’s keeping it a secret, for the time being.

It will probably involve running, as does most of his life nowadays. Just consider the way he finishes his e-mails with a simple, yet apropos sign off – “gotta run.”

Taylor