Dear Sports Illustrated,
My name is Jim Dunn and I am 16 yrs. old.
I am a long-distance runner. And for many years now
I have had a project in mind....
That was our introduction, in June 1973, to Jim Dunn of Del Mar, Calif., athlete and author. The project he had in mind was a two-month run up the Pacific Coast, from the Mexican border to Canada, and a story about the experience. His letter found its way to the desk of Assistant Managing Editor Gilbert Rogin, who replied cautiously:
"We are somewhat intrigued by your proposal. When do you plan to start? Please don't get your hopes up. At the moment we are just curious."
Jim wrote back:
"I would like to start as soon as possible. I will try to keep an average of 35-40 miles a day. I will try to never take assistance of any kind (cars, ferries, etc.). It wouldn't be right if I did. I await your reply."
A few days later Rogin, convinced by now that Jim's determination would see the project through and that his intelligence would make it an interesting story, gave Jim the go-ahead and offered some editorial advice:
"Since you are not a professional writer I think the best way to do it is in diary form or as if you were writing a letter to a very good friend. Write simply, informally. We want the piece to sound as though it were written by a bright 16-year-old, not Norman Mailer, not a columnist for the Los Angeles Times."
On June 23, 1973, one week before his departure, Jim wrote:
"Thank you very much for the once in a lifetime opportunity you have given me. I will not fail."