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Sunday’s Hops Marathon by the Bay will be the 200th such run this year for Jerry Dunn.

by Pete Young. – St. Petersburg Times online version

“Run, Dunn, Run” proclaimed Monday’s headline on the front page of the St. Petersburg Times.

And run he has – like Forrest Gump.

Every day for the past eight days, he has run the Hops Marathon by the Bay course, the full 26.2 miles. He’ll do it again today. And Sunday.

He is a running machine.

Jerry Dunn – you didn’t think we were talking about a Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back, did you? – is America’s Marathon Man. He will run a record 200 marathons this year, with Sunday’s in Tampa being No. 200.

Dunn logged 190, the Nov. 19 Philadelphia Marathon. He arrived in Tampa in time to run the Hops course nine times, once a day, leading up to the race.

Monday morning, as he prepared to run marathon No. 194, he purchased the local newspaper and discovered serendipitous inspiration on the front page.

“I thought, ‘Hey, they’re talking about me,’ ” said Dunn, 54, of the headline about Bucs running back Warrick Dunn. “Of course, I knew better, but it was a neat coincidence. Yes, it was a little inspirational.”

Dunn spent the 1990s becoming a marathoning phenomenon. In 1993, he decided to run 93 marathons – “93 in ’93” – breaking the record of 87. Then he heard about someone who had done 101 in a calendar year, so he increased to 104 in order to break the record.

He chose 200 for 2000 because of its symmetry and because, should someone dare try to eclipse it, boy, they’re really going to have to earn it.

“I’m putting it way out there,” Dunn said.

His record will be unofficial. Most of his 200 actually are 26.2- mile “training runs” and not official race events. Hops will be his 19th official marathon.

Regardless, it is a remarkable achievement. What drives a person to conceive and accomplish something so outrageous? For Dunn, it beats the heck out of the alternative.

Dunn, who was raised in Indiana and lives in Spearfish, S.D., picked up running recreationally in the mid-1970s, living in Sarasota. A few years later, running came to serve a much greater purpose: as a substitute for substance abuse.

He stopped drinking on his 37th birthday, Jan. 29, 1983. Years of excess, which started in college and continued through almost three years in the military and beyond, resulted in a trip to Alcoholics Anonymous. Dunn didn’t quit cold until he diligently started running long distances.

“I’ve gotten a lot of media attention, and it’s given me the opportunity to suggest to people that even though what I do is pretty wacky and is addictive behavior, it’s much better than the addictions I used to have,” Dunn said. “It’s about motivation, discipline, goal- setting and tenacity.”

Dunn’s 200 in 2000 quest has piqued the media. He has been featured in USA Today and Men’s Fitness magazine. He has seven sponsors, which provide full support for his endeavor and a Web site, www.marathonman.org.

He has generated publicity before. In 1995, Dunn was married live on television at the Disney Marathon in Orlando (his wife, Elaine Doll-Dunn, also is an avid marathoner). Dunn said he cleared his marriage plans with the race directors, who alerted NBC. The ceremony was broadcast on the Today show.

Among his many theme-based marathoning feats was “A Marathon of Marathons” at the 100th anniversary Boston Marathon in 1996, when he ran 26 marathons in 26 days culminating on race day. In 1998, he ran the Los Angeles Marathon course 14 times, since the race was 14 years old, then ran New York 29 times, since it was 29 years old.

What’s next for Dunn? In keeping with his theme-based missions, Dunn will pitch an idea to Disney, potential sponsors and TV executives next year: A Disneyland-to-Disney World marathon competition – a cross-country trek involving five two-person teams alternating the 26.2 miles each day from California to Florida.

He calls it, “a reality-based, televised, extreme, competitive, cross-country run.” He would lay out a 2,620 mile course – 100 marathons.

Two-hundred in 2000 isn’t over yet, however, it has taken a toll. At the start of the year Dunn’s marathons lasted less than five hours. Now they take longer, as does his recuperation.

“I am actually wearing down,” said Dunn, who has a master’s degree in counseling. “I had it in my head that it would be a breeze to come down here and get this done, but my body’s not quite where my head is.

“I’m not struggling out there every day, but the excitement hasn’t replaced the aching in my quads.”

After a few marathons along the Hops route, Dunn declared it one of his two favorite courses this year (along with the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis) because of the waterfront setting.

This race was chosen to conclude his quest for three reasons: The favorable weather, Dunn’s sponsors liked the size of the market and potential for publicity and nearby Sarasota is where he began running.

“It all started in Sarasota,” Dunn said. “It’s cool to finish near where it all started.”

After the anticipated Disney-to-Disney event in 2001 or 2002, Dunn expects to take a break. He hopes to write a book, do some public speaking and conjure up another epic challenge, another “inconceivable” quest beyond the scope of human beings.

How about 204 marathons in 2004?

“Now there’s something to think about,” Dunn said. “And I’ll have a lot of time to think about it.”

The Hops Marathon by the Bay will be Jerry Dunn’s 200th marathon this year. He has covered 21 courses along the way, usually running the course several days in a row leading up to the official race. Here is the breakdown:

JANUARY: Nos. 1-16 at the San Diego Marathon (race Jan. 16) in Carlsbad, Calif.

FEBRUARY: Nos. 17-32 at the Las Vegas Marathon (Feb. 17).

MARCH: Nos. 33-46 at the Los Angeles Marathon (March 5), Nos. 47 and 48 at the San Diego Marathon course. Dunn needed a second attempt to complete No. 37 after bad weather and other problems on race day at the Los Angeles Marathon.

APRIL: Nos. 49-65 at the Boston Marathon (April 17). Nos. 66-68 at the Country Music Marathon (April 29) in Nashville, Tenn.

MAY: Nos. 69-82 at the Flying Pig Marathon (May 14) in Cincinnati. No. 83 at the GutsMuths Rennsteiglauf (Marathon) in Schmiedefeld, Germany.

JUNE: Nos. 84-88 at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon (June 4) in San Diego. Nos. 89-99 at Grandma’s Marathon (June 17) in Duluth, Minn. No. 100 on June 30 in San Francisco.

JULY: Nos. 101-109 at the Chronicle Marathon (July 9) in San Francisco. Nos. 110-118 at the Pioneer Marathon (June 24) in Salt Lake City.

AUGUST: Nos. 119-135 at the Cinergy Marathon course (did not run the race, which was Oct. 7) in Indianapolis.

SEPTEMBER: Nos. 136-143 at the Black Hills Marathon (Sept. 9) in Bismarck, N.D. Nos. 144-149 at the Air Force Marathon (Sept. 16) in Dayton, Ohio.

OCTOBER: Nos. 150-157 at the Twin Cities Marathon (Oct. 8) in Minneapolis. Nos. 158-163 at the Spirit of St. Louis Marathon (Oct. 15). Nos. 164-169 at the Chicago Marathon (Oct. 22). Nos. 170-173 at the New York City Marathon.

NOVEMBER: Nos. 174-178 at the New York City Marathon (Nov. 5). Nos. 179-84 at the Ocean State Marathon (Nov. 12) in Warwick, R.I. Nos. 185-190 at the Philadelphia Marathon (Nov. 19).

DECEMBER: Nos. 191-200 at the Hops Marathon by the Bay in Tampa (Sunday).

NOTABLE: During his 200 marathons, which eclipse his unofficial record of 104 set in 1993, Dunn will run 5,240 miles. He averages five hours. His fastest marathon was his second, the 1983 Chicago Marathon, which he ran in 3 hours, 23 minutes.

Taylor