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Mr. Marathon runs in Boston -- on his way to covering 200 courses

By Jay Lindsay, Assocaited Press, 4/13/00

Jerry Dunn Jerry Dunn, 54, of Spearfish, S.D., runs along Route 135 in Wellesley Thursday. (AP Photo)
BOSTON -- Jerry Dunn concedes the possibility he's a bit nuts.

It seems as good an explanation as any why he's attempting to run 200 marathons this year, including 17 straight this month on the Boston Marathon course -- the last one on Monday, race day.

But Dunn gives plenty of rational reasons behind his quest. Among them: ego gratification, a good living, and, more seriously, a desire to prove his once-crippling alcoholism has been overcome with healthy living.

A touch of lunacy doesn't hurt, though.

"I've abandoned everything else in my life. In that sense it's kind of crazy," Dunn said Wednesday after running Boston course for the 12th consecutive day -- his 60th 26.2-mile run of the year. "This may be on the fringes of sanity, but it's an example of commitment and discipline."

It's also something Dunn, 54, of Spearfish, S.D., couldn't have imagined attempting 25 years ago, when he took his first recreational run on a Sarasota, Fla., beach after prodding from a lifeguard, who told him he had a runner's build.

At the time, Dunn was in the depths of alcoholism, a disease that began in his teens and would lay waste to the first two of his four marriages.

Dunn continued running, but also continued drinking until the day of his 37th birthday, when he got so drunk celebrating that a friend convinced him to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that night. He hasn't had a drink since, he said.

Instead, he said, running became his addiction.

"Running has been my salvation from a drinker's lifestyle," he said.

He started a runner's life slowly, not entering his first marathon until he'd been running seriously for about three years. For several years, Dunn ran one marathon annually. His goals began to change in 1989, when he entered a 100-mile race.

That was followed by run from San Francisco to Washington D.C. in 1991 to benefit Habitat for Humanity. Around that time, he heard the record for marathons in a year was 87, and it occurred to him, "I can do more than that."

In 1993, he set out to run 93 marathons, and ended up doing 104. His time away from home that year cost him his third marriage, he says.

He admits his near-maniacal devotion to running has had a price, but speaks of his ever-increasing amounts of distance running as a something of a compulsion.

"It's not something I decided to do," he said. "I just keep pushing the envelope to see what I can train my mind and body to overcome."

Along the way, Dunn's also managed to make a living. His runner's suit is emblazoned with no fewer than six corporate sponsors, including Sprint and Power Bar.

While in Boston he receives free "carbo-loaded" meals from Papa Razzi restaurant and is chauffeured in a limo provided courtesy of Boston Pain Management.

"I feel like a rock star," he said.

It's a feeling Dunn likes, he said, frankly adding his ego is one of his prime motivators.

"I have chosen to put myself in a position where I get a lot of attention," he said.

Dunn didn't envision this level of attention when he embarked on the marathon quest. His employment history includes work as a part-time massage therapy and log cabin builder. He expresses amazement he's been able to do what he loves, and also make a living.

There have been times this year, Dunn admits, when the running another 26.2 miles has felt like work. But he said most of the time, he enjoys it.

To build endurance for multi-day marathons, Dunn works up to running 120 miles per week. He has no thoughts of winning any of the official marathons he enters, aiming for a modest 10:30 pace per mile with "complete, not compete" his motto.

Two hours after marathon No. 12 in Boston, Dunn looked relaxed and ready to run again. He said the quad muscles in his legs are consistently sore, and has lost his middle toenail on both feet. Other than that he feels OK, and is looking ahead to No. 200, in Honolulu on Dec. 10.

"I'm trying to prove a point, just to myself," he said. "I can do this."

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