MARATHON HALL OF FAME
‘Final Few’ entering isle marathon’s hall
As he prepares for his 35th run, fisherman Gary Dill, 63, is also preparing for his Hall of Fame induction
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They call themselves "The Final Few" for obvious reasons. It's a 34-year-old club comprised of three people who have completed every Honolulu Marathon since the event's inception. Normally, the Honolulu Marathon Hall of Fame is reserved for elite athletes who have won the race multiple times. Until now.
The Final Few
What: Honolulu Marathon Hall of Fame inductions
When: 10 a.m. Thursday
Where: Hawaii Convention Center
"That kind of consistency over time is something to be recognized," said Honolulu Marathon president Dr. Jim Barahal. "I think they represent the grass roots of the sport. For most of us, the reason we run is for fitness and personal challenge. Most of us will never win a marathon."
Hence, these folks will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Thursday alongside some of the greatest athletes in the history of the competition.
All three are set to run their 35th Honolulu Marathon on Sunday. But that feat won't be without challenges.
Gary Dill, a bottom fisherman who leaves Oahu for a week to 10 days at a time for his work, caught a 5-inch fishing hook in the top of his foot last month. "I was supposed to be upping my distance, but instead I couldn't even walk," the 63-year-old said.
Jerold Chun, a neuroscientist who now resides in San Diego, is only 48. But demands related to work and parenting have left the former 2:45 marathoner doubting his ability to break the 4-hour barrier.
Gordon Dugan, 74, recently underwent a stent procedure to clear his arteries, and anticipates walking the course in about 7 hours. But that hasn't dampened his enthusiasm for the Hall of Fame celebration. "I'm amazed," he said of the induction. "I didn't expect that to happen in my wildest dreams."
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In 1985, "The Final Few" consisted of 13 runners. By 1997, membership dropped to eight. In 2001, it fell to the three remaining men who have successfully completed every Honolulu Marathon in the event's 34-year history, and who will become living legends when they are inducted into the marathon's Hall of Fame on Thursday.
"I still remember the first one clearly," said 63-year-old Gary Dill, a fisherman preparing for his 35th Honolulu Marathon. He recalled lying on the floor with a couple of friends after eating too much Thanksgiving dinner. They saw an article in the newspaper about the marathon, approximately three weeks away, and were intrigued with the prospect of working off the excess calories and getting a "free" T-shirt. In those days, however, runners had to complete the 26.2 miles in under 5 hours to earn the shirt. Dill, then 28, was determined to get the prize.
He and his friends set out for a 6-mile training run in old tennis shoes. Their prospects improved when they heard about a guy named Johnny Faerber selling some experimental technology -- Nike running shoes -- out of his closet, and decided to try them out.
Their final workout of 13 miles gave them confidence. Sure, they'd have to double the distance, but how bad could it be? The 5-hour barrier seemed well within reach.
By the time Dill reached Hawaii Kai on race day, "things were horribly wrong," he said. "Things were really beginning to hurt, and I'd only done 15 miles! We didn't know that the pain increased exponentially. I've never experienced such a slow accumulation and inevitable heightening of pain in my life. I will remember that race forever."
At Aina Haina on the way back toward Kapiolani Park, he simply stopped and took off his shoes, his aching feet swathed in blisters. When a friend caught Dill, they encouraged each other to continue their quest for the T-shirt and finish line, which they crossed in 4 hours, 58 minutes.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Gary Dill is one of only three runners who have successfully competed in every Honolulu Marathon since its inception.
Dill, a serious rugby player while earning his master's degree in economics at the University of Hawaii, learned his lesson. In subsequent years, he trained seriously enough, logging as many as 100 miles per week. His best finish was 3 hours, 23 minutes, a time he achieved despite straining his hamstring and walking the last 4 miles.
Becoming a fisherman, which prevents him from running for a week to 10 days at a stretch, interfered with his training. But not his motivation. To him, no conflict exists.
"Fishing gets in your blood," he said. "The marathon is simply an addiction. It's a once-a-year pain pill."
Dr. Jerold Chun agreed. The 48-year-old neuroscientist and father of two children in San Diego said his training has not gone as planned this year. But he laughed that he's "been worse," and said he felt confident he's done "enough to make it through without causing permanent damage."
The person who inspired him to enter the first marathon as a young teenager -- his late father, Hing Hua "Hunky" Chun -- remains with Jerold today. "(Running the race) was my way of paying respect to him," Chun has said. "It's a return to my roots, and this is a tangible way of doing it. That's one reason I keep coming back." Each year, completing the distance "is almost as much mental or spiritual as it is physical."
When asked how he felt about the Hall of Fame induction, he gave credit to the race organizers and volunteers who have managed to keep the marathon going for 35 years. He also said the three remaining men are simply "lucky" to have been healthy enough to persist in such a grueling endeavor. "That's it's own reward," he said.
Former ultramarathoner Gordon Dugan, who once placed in the top seven in the Western States 100-mile trail run and completed the marathon in 2 hours, 54 minutes, said he takes it "one year at a time." The 74-year-old paused and chuckled. "It catches up with you after a while."