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Running With A Purpose

by Kellie Taylor – Cincinnati Post

From the foggy depths of the early morning, he approaches, his steady breathing becoming increasingly more audible.

It’s not a rarity to see a runner jaunting through a Cincinnati neighborhood preparing for the upcoming Flying Pig Marathon.

But for Jerry Dunn, the 26.2-mile run is almost mystical, bewildering at the least.

Dunn, also known as Mr. Marathon, is on a quest to run 200 marathons – 12 official races and 188 solo treks – this year, an unfathomable feat for most, but not for a man who has been forced to battle other demons.

Dunn is a recovering alcoholic, dry for more than 17 years. He credits his passion for running for delivering him from the passions of the bottle.

”Running has pretty much saved me from that lifestyle,” Dunn, 54, said. ”I’ve been accused of being an addicted runner, but I’d much rather see people on the streets addicted to running than driving around the streets addicted to whatever.”

Mr. Marathon is on a mission, out to prove it’s never too late to turn your life around.

The South Dakota native is already well into his 2000 goal, completing his 70th marathon-length run of the year on Tuesday, this one along the Flying Pig Marathon course. He will run the course 14 times in two weeks, including the official race on May 14.

Then he will move on to his next destination – the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon course in San Diego – with 82 marathons under his belt.

One would think the stress on the body from such extensive running would be too taxing, too much for a person – even one with 7 percent body fat and a lean 6-foot, 153-pound frame – to handle.

”I haven’t had a physical in nine years,” Dunn said. ”I pay attention to my body and I haven’t been ill in 10 years.

”There is a history of heart disease in my family. My father died when he was 47 of a heart attack.”

That fact is the primary reason Dunn ran 104 marathons in 1993.

”I was 47 and wanted to prove to myself that I didn’t have to die young,” he said.

Dunn runs his marathons at about a five-hour pace, being sure not to push his body so hard it can’t recover. Sponsors have provided Dunn with recovery drinks to braces to help him ward off any injuries or illnesses.

”Barring any unforeseen injuries, the body could take it,” said Trey Walker, an experi enced marathoner and personal trainer who works mainly with long-distance runners. ”The question is adequate rest. He must be pushing through with sheer will.

”Most people have to train four to six months for a marathon. To try and do 200, that is a heroic achievement. It shows you what the human body and mind is capable of with the right forces behind it. What a great ambassador.”

Dunn has become a celebrity, appearing on the ”Today Show” among other media outlets. While watching CNN Headline News recently, Dunn saw the statement ”Recovering alcoholic attempting to run 200 marathons” scroll across the ticker at the bottom of the screen.

”I love the media attention, but it goes it a little deeper,” Dunn said. ”I would like to be an encouragement to other folks who have a problem.”

Dunn is also a willing recipient of encouragement. He welcomes anyone who would like to run with him. He begins his runs at 6 a.m. on the corner of Sycamore and Fifth Street each day.

”It’s great fun to have people honk and wave at me while I’m running,” Dunn said, ”and I just love to have company.”

Fans can chart Dunn’s progress at his Web site – www.marathonman.org. If all goes as planned, Dunn should complete his 200th marathon Dec. 10 in Honolulu.

Taylor