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Sixty At Sixty

by Elaine Doll-Dunn

The day began at 4:00 am. We gathered the decorations, party food, Jerry Fuel, extra shoes, dry socks, birthday banners, camera and phone and drove in the early dark to the Young Center field house. By 5:55 we had tables decorated, food categorized, coffee started, and banners hung…someone said “bang” and Jerry’s birthday run was launched. What a celebration.

Most of the laps were on the indoor track, but since six classes of middle school students came the ½ mile from the middle school to run a few laps with him, he spent one session running back with them; then led another group from school back to the field house. Later, since the temperature soared to 62 degrees outside, one group of support runners opted for a few miles on the outdoor track. But for the most part, Jerry and an ever changing procession of advocates circled the synthetic oval six miles to the left, then six miles to the right. Three laps running….one lap walking. Run, run, run…walk…run, run, run. Four hundred eighty laps, 106,000 steps, 5,000 calories and many friend’s footsteps later, he folded onto a chair and peeled his tired tennys from his bleeding toes. The final thirteen laps were an exercise in determination. With two laps to go, he had to sit for just a minute and have one more donut, then slowly, slowly back on his feet and out on the course as the young man waiting to lock up patiently waited in the infield. One half hearted sprint to the finish and it was over. No fan-fare, no flashing lights and loud music…but also no ambulance. Congratulations old boy, you are now a certified elder.

Fourteen hours and forty-one minutes total time, including some time outs for shoe changes, sock therapy, food intake, caffeine fix, TV interviews and photo ops…although predominately he was a “Man in Motion”….he stepped of the track, had a piece of birthday cake, and called it a Dunn deal.

An impressive array of friends, old and new, made time in their busy schedules to come and do laps with him, and the six classes of middlers energized the arena to help pass the time. One special fellow traveler was a little blond boy just passing time until his mother could pick him up, asked me rather timidly, if he could “help”. So 10 something Joseph and 60 year old Jerry jogged three miles together to finish the day. A support crew from Northern Hills Training Center cheered and applauded for so many of the late-in-the-day laps they finally got caught up in the moment and ran with him; one inching her miles with a metal walker…..she became both a mental and emotional support to Jerry by just be being out there. One older gentleman and his wife came walking down the track, he cheerfully playing “Happy Birthday” on his harmonica. There are many and varied wonderful humans who seem to come into our lives……at just the right time.

A quick tear down of our party and survival set-up, one last limping lap to the truck, and Marathon Man with another mega-mileage adventure on his ‘odometer’, was on his exhausted way to a shower and bed. “Being 60 makes you really tired.”

A party is not just a party to Jerry. If he is going to spend unfathomable energy etching 60 into his Boomer brain and body, someone else is going to benefit as well.

Long concerned with the declining activity level of children and the epidemic of childhood obesity, he teamed with the Spearfish Middle School Physical Education Staff and came up with a plan.

When is the runner’s WALL, not a wall? When you can teach balance, strength, flexibility, cooperation, team-work, problem solving, sentence structure, math concepts, scientific method, History facts—have fun and work up a good sweat just by climbing a wall. An amazing array of academic, physical, and emotional skills is all within the potential of the climbing wall curriculum.

The Spearfish Middle School physical education staff…already on the cutting edge of physical education innovation…have researched the spectacular results to be gained by having readily available a state-of-the-art climbing wall. Granted, it’s a middle school kids’ goal to get the teacher to ‘climb the wall’, but it was decided that Jerry’s mantra would be, “If I don’t hit the wall, the kids get the wall.” Powerful stuff….spending yourself for others. On line and on site opportunities to contribute to the cause garnered nearly $1000. A quick e-mail sent to the manufacturer/supplier of the wall, including pictures of kids climbing, resulted in a tentative agreement to negotiate a lower cost, and perhaps even use the Spearfish School as a demo for other areas! (Jerry doesn’t see walls, he sees ways through them!)

Jerry Dunn