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At 35, Dunlop takes comeback in stride

Jim Dunlop has come out of retirement.

"At the ripe old age of 35," he said with a laugh.

Dunlop, a four-time Buffalo News Runner of the Year, has returned to the local racing scene on a somewhat casual basis after a layoff of about four years.

"I've just started to get back into it," Dunlop said. "I've seen a lot of old friends and acquaintances. They've asked, "Where have you been?' "

Dunlop, of Orchard Park, decided to stop running in 2001. The demands of his job, controller for Catholic Health System, and his family - which includes a wife and three children - were starting to pile up. So after running seemingly nonstop since age 12, including stops at Grand Island High School and the University of Rochester, Dunlop took a break.

"In the last four years, there were probably 2 to 21/2 years when I didn't do a thing. It was unlike me," he said.

Dunlop put on 30 to 35 pounds in that time, reaching 175 pounds on his 5-foot-9 frame at one point. He's down to 150 now, and rounding into form. Dunlop finished sixth overall in the Shamrock Run earlier this month.

"That hiatus was really good for me. I realized how much I loved (running)," he said.

Dunlop knows he'll never quite reach the heights he once hit, such as when he won six straight Corporate Challenges.

"I'm pretty realistic with it," he said. "In my mid-20s, I was running 14:20 for 5 kilometers on the roads. I was racing pretty well. I don't think I'll get back to that point.

"I used to run because I enjoyed competing. That was a big part of it, a motivation for me. The thing I really like now is that I enjoy the fitness aspect of it and just being out there, the stress relief that it provides. That's been the rewarding part. Sooner or later, you're going to be caught by Father Time and you aren't going to win every race."

Dunlop plans to run in races in the area when his schedule permits. Don't be surprised if he has a cheering section along in 8-year-old son Ryan, even if the youngster doesn't plan to follow in dad's footsteps.

"My son has expressed some interest in track, but he's more into hockey and baseball. He's a sports enthusiast. I'm encouraging him that way. But he hears about the racing now and is interested in it. And he's happy that I'm happy."