Running in the family: La Jollan completes 50th consecutive Honolulu Marathon as his kids finish their first

Dr. Jerold Chun, flanked by his children Andrew and Natalie Chun
Dr. Jerold Chun, flanked by his children Andrew and Natalie Chun, completed his 50th consecutive Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 11 as his children completed their first.
(Provided by Dr. Jerold Chun)

To Dr. Jerold Chun, the marathon is a way to honor his father and bring his family together.


Dr. Jerold Chun marked a major milestone Dec. 11 in his yearly tradition to honor his father — he completed his 50th consecutive Honolulu Marathon.

The La Jolla resident’s adult children, Andrew and Natalie, achieved a milestone of their own that day, running in their first marathon.

Chun, a neuroscience professor at Sanford Burnham Prebys in La Jolla, has run the Honolulu Marathon every year since its inception in 1973, when he was 14.

He started running the 26.2-mile race for family bonding; his father, Hing Hua Chun, was passionate about competitive running.

Chun and his father ran that first marathon with Chun’s brothers and stepsisters, a group known as the Hunky Bunch.

They kept entering the race every year. “As we got older, it was just a way to get the family back together and do something in common,” said Chun, who moved to La Jolla in 1991.

Chun’s father died 20 years ago, but Chun said “one of the things that always brought me back [to Hawaii] was just to spend time with him, and he really loved a marathon. It was a way to keep in touch with him.”

Natalie Chun, a native La Jollan who now lives in San Francisco, said helping to keep the family tradition alive this year by running in her first marathon was “an unforgettable experience.”

She said she was “high on adrenaline throughout the entire run, and it partially feels like a dream. But I was really excited and proud to do it as a part of the greater family.”

Andrew Chun, who lives in San Diego, said “it was really fun to join something that my father has been doing for 50 years now.”

Participating in Jerold’s routines, “including waking up at 3:30 [a.m.] and doing our warm-up jog down to the start line from our condo was a surreal experience,” Andrew said.

“We’ve only ever heard about it, and to experience it was something we’ll always remember,” he said.

Sanford Burnham Prebys professor Dr. Jerold Chun enjoys the family aspect of the Honolulu Marathon.
(Sanford Burnham Prebys)

Natalie finished the race in four hours and 28 minutes; her brother in four hours and 53 minutes. Jerold finished in about 5½ hours.

“I was hurting a lot,” Andrew said.

“They’re much, much better athletes than I am,” Jerold said. “They trained on their own and they did really well.”

Andrew and Natalie were competitive water polo players in college, but the two sports “are very different,” Andrew said, adding that marathon running is “quite difficult.”

Jerold said he was “quite pleased” that his 50th Honolulu Marathon is behind him, with only normal muscle soreness the next day.

“It was a hard run” because of strong winds that made many of the times “quite a bit slower than normal,” he said.

“It’s ... become a wonderful way to bring my family and friends together. We always have a reunion of sorts when the marathon comes into town.”

— Dr. Jerold Chun

Jerold grew up in Honolulu and has run in a handful of other marathons, including the Boston Marathon.

Training for the annual race in Hawaii happens year-round, he said: “You cannot wing it at my age.”

Jerold runs, jogs or does resistance training frequently, increasing his mileage ahead of the summer.

“The key thing is not getting injured or sick,” he said. “That’s the constant battle. That turns out, as you age, to be the limiting thing because you can train, but once you get hurt it just shuts you down. You have to be really careful.”

The inaugural 1973 marathon was special as it was the first, with only 151 runners, compared with the race’s peak number of entrants of about 30,000, Jerold said.

The 1978 iteration was “the fastest marathon I have run,” Jerold said. He was paced by “incredibly fast” Olympic runner Kenny Moore, who jogged alongside Jerold and pushed him to his personal record of two hours and 47 minutes.

Then there was the 2020 version, which was held virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“You had to document that you had run it away from Honolulu,” Jerold said. “I ran it on a treadmill, which was just abysmal. … I slogged away; it was the most boring, mind-numbing thing you can imagine.”

Jerold said he plans to keep running the Honolulu Marathon, “health and spirits willing.”

“It’s a way to kind of keep fit, both physically and mentally,” he said. “It’s also become a wonderful way to bring my family and friends together. We always have a reunion of sorts when the marathon comes into town.”

“It’s generational,” Natalie said. “It just means a lot to our family.” ◆