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Sunday’s race will be 14th of year for Dunn, part of 5,420-mile plan

by SHANNON CONNER – Of the Post-Dispatch

Jerry Dunn has been running for 283 days. On Tuesday, heading west on Lindell Boulevard, he smiled and waved in his 4,123rd mile.

Dunn’s black cap was visible first. Then his wind-burnt, red face came over a hill, followed by a purple jacket.

He carried water bottles in his hands, which were covered with blue mittens. His legs churned in black tights.

It was 39 degrees by 8 a.m. on Tuesday morning, as Dunn, a world record holder. Made a 26.2-mile jaunt thru St. Louis. The marathon was one of the 200 that Dunn hopes to complete in the year 2000.

The 54-year-old message therapist set his world record of 104 marathons in one year, back in 1993. “I wondered how I could top that,” he said. “So I thought of 200 in 2000.”

Dunn will run the St. Louis marathon course every day this week. On Sunday, he will compete in the St. Louis Marathon at 7 a.m. The race will be his 14th this year. His goal is 17 official races and 180 solo runs. On Dec. 10th, he will complete his 5,240 mile journey in Tampa, Fla. at HOPS Marathon.

Dunn’s world record was accomplished one step at a time over decades. Along the way he combated alcoholism, helped strangers raise money, met and married his wife and found peace.

The Spearfish, S.D. (population 7,000), resident said all of that can be done through running. He is living proof. His philosophy of “don’t limit your challenges, challenge your limits,” is not incomprehensible.

But his running is baffling to most. Dunn calls it an addiction. He began running at 29 when is was living in Florida. After jogging a half-mile on the beach, he said he liked how it made him feel. The “runner’s high,” as it is known, was not all that Dunn felt. He made peace with himself out on the road. And running far, he found was not a problem.

“I have a gift for long-distance running,” Dunn said. “I wanted to use that gift for something.”

In 1991, he helped raise awareness and money for Habitat for Humanity by running across America (a la Forrest Gump) from San Francisco to Washington. He has helped create Run for Lungs, a group that raises money for ling cancer research. And every day Dunn picks up the change he finds along his route and gives it to the Penny Angels – a group of runners that donates found change to an international youth program.

Tuesdays run garnered only a penny and a dime. “There’s a penny,” he shouted at the intersection of Delmar and Skinker. He wasn’t kidding. He bent over in the intersection as a truck driver shook his impatient head. “So far, that’s 11 cents today.”

His days begin at 6 a.m. Dunn runs every morning till 11 a.m. His training marathons as well as his competitive races are usually completed in 5 hours. He ran his personal record of 3 hours 23 minutes in 1983 in Chicago.

“I’ve satisfied all my (marathon) speed goals,” he said. Because of that, he races some weekends with Elaine Doll Dunn, a middle school counselor and wife of five years. They met on the marathon circuit and were married at the 8.5-mile mark of the Disney World Marathon.

“I wore a full tux and tails for the whole race,” Dunn said. Elaine wore a specially made white leotard adorned with sequins and pearls. Her skirt was adhered with Velcro around her waist.

The couple will run St. Louis together this Sunday. The marathon will be Elaine’s 22nd this year. Her goal is 29 before Jan.1.

Dunn said his 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”.

Dunn markets himself to sponsors – needed this year to set his world mark – and has found many kind race directors who have aided him in everything from entry fees to housing to food and water. Many have been gracious and kind, he said.

In the 4,134th mile on Tuesday, Dunn waved goodbye in front of the cathedral on Lindell and paused. “Tomorrow I’ll go in and say a prayer.”