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JERRY DUNN: THE REAL-LIFE MARATHON MAN

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Jerry Dunn finished the Deseret News Marathon course yesterday in fine shape, leading the field by a good 24 hours. He paused at the finish line at Liberty Park, looked back up Ninth South and took a deep breath. That was so much fun he'd do it again tomorrow.

Some people have a life's goal of finishing one marathon. Jerry Dunn has a year's goal of finishing two a weekend. He's the Ernie Banks of distance runners. One good run deserves another. The best way to finish is to start another one. In Boston earlier this year, at the venerable Boston Marathon, he got so carried away he ran the course three times. Heartbreak Hill had never seen anything like Jerry Dunn.His goal is to run at least 93 marathons in 1993, almost all of them back-to-backs. He started in his hometown of Indianapolis on New Year's Day and has been repeating himself ever since. You name the marathon, he's probably been there, and been there. By the time he's finished with the Honolulu Marathon on December 12th he'll have seen most of the 50 states as well as most of their marathoners.

He got this idea a year and a half ago when he was out running cross-country, and that's using the term literally. In a fundraising effort for a group called Habitat for Humanity, Dunn started running in California and wound up in Washington, D.C. He averaged 27 miles a day, a distance just beyond the length of the 26.2-mile marathon, and, somewhere in Oklahoma or Arkansas, hit upon his 93-in-93 scheme. A recovering alcoholic, he would use the quest to commemorate 10 years of sobriety and draw attention to the fact that if he, at 47 years of age, could do something this, well, excessive, then why couldn't a lot of other Baby Boomers out there wasting away in front of their neighborhood jukebox?

"My message is `Don't limit your challenges, challenge your limits,' " said Dunn yesterday moments after finishing his pre-marathon marathon. "Ten years ago I was a drunk, going down the wrong road. Now I'm almost 50 and staying healthy, feeling vital."

And 59 marathons into his crusade.

If the mountains didn't nail his hamstrings, today's official completion of the 24th annual Deseret News Marathon will be No. 60.

Next weekend will feature the Cincinnati Marathon, twice, and the week after that the Bloomington (Ind.) Marathon. If all goes as scheduled, Nos. 91, 92 and 93 will come in New York on Saturday-Sunday-Monday, Nov. 13-14-15. Dunn's plan is this: Run the original New York Marathon route - four laps of Central Park - on Saturday; run the actual five-burough New York Marathon on Sunday; and on Monday, run a marathon set up specially for him that will feature a finish in David Letterman's TV studio while Letterman is on the air.

Obviously, this is a man who thinks while he runs.

"David Letterman is from Indiana too, so he might be interested, you never know," said Dunn. "He does like to have unusual things on his show."

If all goes well during that New York weekend, Dunn could have his 93 marathons in hand with more than a month to spare. Then he would be free to try for the 100-marathons-in-a-year barrier that, as far as anyone knows, has been cracked only once, by a man named Ed Barretto of North Carolina, who ran 101 within a 12-month period, although some of his runs, like Dunn's, were non-sanctioned.

The unofficial all-sanctioned record belongs to Steve Edwards, an Englishman who ran a documented 87 marathons in a year a few years ago and is earnestly chasing the world record of 524 marathons established by the late Sy Mah of Toledo, Ohio.

Dunn didn't know all of these ultra-marathon sub-culture statistics a year ago. Now he does. If nothing else, he's realized no matter how far you go in the stratosphere, you've got company.

"I'm aware of the records, and I sent a letter to the Guinness (world record) people to tell them what I'm doing," he said, "They said to document everything and send it to them and they'd consider it. But records isn't what all this is about."

Neither, for that matter, is money or fast times. With help from assorted sponsors and speaking fees, Dunn figures he should just about break even after his year of marathon running that will cost about $35,000. As for running a personal best time, that's out of the question when there's no such thing as an offseason and if you're not saving something for tomorrow, you're saving something for next weekend. The 3:23 PR Dunn ran seven years ago in Chicago is destined to stand at least until 1994.

He disciplines himself to run no faster than a 10-minute-per-mile pace. So far, he has averaged four hours and 40 minutes per marathon. Yesterday he did better than that by 10 minutes, finishing his pre-Deseret News Marathon in 4:30:12 as cool temperatures and a drizzle blessed his run.

"I've been lucky," he said, looking drowned and satisfied at the finish line, "I've had excellent breaks with the weather almost everywhere I've gone."

If the stormy, cold, wet, weather would hold just one more day, well, how could life get much better than that?