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The Plunge For Special Olympics

Three years ago, Steven Sullivan and wife Serena decided to do their first marathon. What they never knew was that crossing that finish line would mark the start of their life as “marathon-running junkies.”

In just three years, they’ve done 13 marathons, including Kauai, Singapore, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Maui, Portland, Baltimore, Sedona, three more in Honolulu, and one on the North Shore. Their goal: 50 marathons in 50 states, and seven marathons on seven continents.


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Steven Sullivan takes the plunge for Special Olympics Hawaii | Special Olympics Hawaii photo

“Once you do your first marathon, you’re hooked,” says Steven, who is general manager of Waterfront Plaza (aka Restaurant Row). “We were active before, but not running 35 miles a week. Now, we’re running between 25 and 35 miles a week.”

Sullivan, who is originally from Baltimore and moved to Hawaii in 1996 with the Marine Corps, even has 26.2 tattooed on his right arm, as well as the Portland Marathon medal. “It was my favorite marathon and the first one I obtained a sub-four-hour time,” he notes. “I felt it was important to remind myself how hard I worked to get to that point, while working 10-hour days, etc.”

At home, the couple has a growing display of medals, as well as their race numbers in a framed collage. In addition to marathons, they also participate in races of various distances throughout the year. Their average marathon finishing time is 3 hours and 45 minutes for Steven, and 4 hours and 15 minutes for Serena, a teacher at Cole Academy in Kailua.

“Since running, my energy levels have gone up,” adds Steven. “Also, we run to eat. We quit drinking soda, but we like to eat junk foods.

“After I finished the marathon, I have a picture of me eating a whole large pizza, a Philly cheesesteak, a cheeseburger and a hot dog, all in one sitting. So, we eat a lot.”

In addition to running, Sullivan also spends much of his time volunteering. He serves as president for the Building Owners and Managers Association, is on the board for Kakaako Improvement Association and more. He also is an active supporter of Special Olympics, which provides year-round sports programs for athletes free of charge.

Last year, he recruited 35 people for Team Drop 808, who as a group raised more than $24,000 for Special Olympics through its Over the Edge event, where participants rappel 31 stories down Sheraton Waikiki. Two years ago, the team raised about $23,500.

He also takes part in Special Olympics’ annual Polar Plunge, which is coming up March 29 at Waterfront Plaza. Last year, an 80-foot inflatable water slide was added to the pool of ice water.

Plungers are asked to raise a minimum of $100 by the day of the event. Register online before March 14, and the fundraising minimum is $75. Also, students from elementary to college can join with a fundraising entry of $50. Or sign up as a Super Plunger, raise a minimum of $1,000 and take the plunge 12 times.

Sullivan, of course, will be among the Super Plungers. He did it last year, and even added a personal goal of raising $2,000 and ran one mile (two times around Restaurant Row) in between the 12 plunges.

“When I was in the Marines, I helped Special Olympics a little bit, and I remember this child who would get constant seizures, and he was in a wheelchair,” recalls Sullivan. “The whole day, I would take him from event to event, and at one of the events, he medaled. When he got the medal, it was the first time the entire day that he smiled. And after seeing him smile, it was like wow.

“I hope more people would get involved with Special Olympics. You don’t have to necessarily only raise money; you also can donate time.”

For details or to register for the Polar Plunge, visit www.specialolympicshawaii.org.