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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 3, 2002

3 runners still going strong after 30 years

By Casey McGuire-Turcotte
Special to The Advertiser


In celebration of the 30th anniversary of The Honolulu Marathon, The Advertiser will feature some faces of past marathons in the coming days. The coverage will culminate with complete coverage of the event.

Today—These three runners represent the "Final Few," the only runners to have competed in all previous 29 Honolulu Marathons.

Tomorrow—The first male winner became an Olympian and is now a coach.

Thursday—The first female winner was just 14 at the time.

Friday—The top male and female contenders.

Saturday—The 30th marathon is approaching 30,000 entries.

No matter how much the Honolulu Marathon has changed over the past 30 years, one thing has remained the same: Gary Dill, Gordon Dugan and Jerald Chun were always at the starting line.

The three men are the "Final Few," runners who have started and finished every Honolulu Marathon since the inaugural race on Dec. 16, 1973, according to race officials. They are scheduled to be at the starting line again Sunday.

Each took a different path to the starting line on that day 30 years ago, but it's the love of the challenge that keeps each of them coming back.

For Dill, a 58-year-old Lanakila resident, a bit of male bravado and a hint of cheapness first brought him to the Honolulu Marathon.

Sprawled out and sluggish in his living room after a big Thanksgiving dinner, the then 29-year-old Dill and a few friends joked about needing to get in shape after the holiday gorging.

"Someone noticed an ad in the paper for a marathon, and the next thing you know, we're all daring each other to do it," Dill said. "I was one of the idiots who agreed."

Although the men were "young, fit, and active," none were runners. But with an entry fee of just $2 and a free T-shirt for finishing in less than five hours, the group thought it was worth it.

"Man, we had no idea what we were getting into," Dill said with a chuckle.

The shirt would end up costing the men big time.

"The pain was unlike any pain I knew could exist," he said. "I was laid up for days. I swore I'd never do it again."

Thirty years later, through orthopedic knee surgery, a terrible bout of race-day stomach flu at the 14th annual race, and several career changes, Dill has kept the streak alive.

"At our age, of course, we don't use words as precise as 'run' or 'jog' when we refer to the marathon," he said. "We 'participate.' "

Today, Dill is a full-time fisherman, and being at sea for up to two weeks at a time has made consistent training difficult.

"I always manage to get enough jogging in to be ready for the race, but it's challenging," he said. "It keeps me healthy and active."

Dill said there are a few things that keep him coming back each year. A friend of his in Portlock brings out a cooler of ice-cold beer for a 15-mile "perk." But most of all, Dill says, it's the view.

"The number of good looking women in this race is unbelievable," he said. "The view just keeps getting better."

Chun is a member of Honolulu's famed "Hunky Bunch," a family of eight runners who competed in races in the Islands and on the Mainland in the 1970s and '80s. His father, Dr. Hing Hua "Hunky" Chun, thought running would be a good way for the family to spend time together and live healthy at the same time. Hunky passed away in June at age 70.

Now a neuro science professor at UC San Diego, the 43-year-old Chun has come back for the event every year.

"Fitting it into my schedule has always been a challenge, but I wouldn't miss it," said Chun, who will arrive tomorrow for the race.

Chun was just 14 in the inaugural marathon.

Gary Dill ran his first Honolulu Marathon on a dare.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

"I don't remember much about the race, other than that I finished," said Chun.

Dugan, a 69-year-old Hawai'i Kai resident, was 40 when he ran the first Honolulu Marathon. A retired civil engineering professor at the University of Hawai'i, Dugan had never considered himself a serious runner before that first race.

"My longest run had been eight miles," he said. "I probably wasn't ready for 26.2, but I couldn't resist the challenge."

He finished the inaugural race in 3 hours and 45 minutes, good for 67th place out of 151 entrants.

Despite the aching pain in his body (made worse by a flimsy pair of running shoes), Dugan knew he would be back for more.

"The bug bit me," he said. "After that first marathon, I couldn't wait to do another one."

Along with every Honolulu Marathon, Dugan has competed in several Mainland races, including the Boston Marathon.

Two of his three sons have joined him at Honolulu, and in 1985 and 1986, the Dugans took home the first-place father/son trophy for the fastest combined time.

"We had a lot of fun," he said. "But I don't think this year will be quite as fast."

Dugan says his training consists more of walking than running nowadays, and he plans to walk most of this weekend's race.

When he finishes is not the goal.

"I like to see if I can still do it," Dugan said. "Like most of us old dogs, I don't have enough sense to quit."

Note: At the 10th annual Honolulu Marathon, 15 runners were recognized for having competed in every marathon. The group got together and decided that from that day on, each remaining runner would contribute $10 each year they finished the race. The last one standing gets the pot. The fund was invested years ago, and while exact numbers are unknown, it is believed to contain several thousand dollars.