Like father, like son

Published 9:13 pm Friday, February 19, 2010

Run, run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man.”

Six-year-old Will Price may not be quite as fast as the Gingerbread Man but his dad, Greg, knew he couldn’t keep up with him.

So dad held back and let his young son cross the finish line of the Mercedes Kids Marathon alone.

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The father-son marathon runners were in Birmingham last weekend for the Mercedes Marathon. Greg Price of Troy is no stranger to marathons. He has run his share and more. But it was Will’s first kids marathon and also the first held in conjunction with the storied Mercedes Marathon, which raises money for a variety of children’s organizations in the Birmingham area.

“It was a great experience for both of us and it was special to me to run with Will in his first kids marathon,” Price said. “I wanted him to have the thrill of crossing the finish line by himself, and really, he’s fast – a lot faster than I am — and I don’t think I could have kept up with him anyway.”

The Birmingham leg of the Mercedes Kids Marathon was only a mile, but it was the culmination of about seven weeks of cumulative running by each of the 3,500 kids in grades kindergarten through sixth grade.

“The Mercedes Kids Marathon actually started right after Thanksgiving,” Price said. “Each runner kept a log of his runs and the runs should total 25 miles entering the mile-run in Birmingham.”

Price wasn’t surprised that Will wanted to participate in the kids’ marathon. He had expressed an interest in following in his daddy’s running shoes about a year ago.

“Will had seen me run and was curious about it,” Price said. “When he was younger, I would run with him in a jogging stroller. When he got old enough, he wanted to run with me. Back during the summer, we did a lot of running around the neighborhood and around the track at Troy University. Will enjoyed it, and I liked having him run with me.”

In December, Price and his family participated in the 5K run sponsored by the Lillian D. Green Nutrition Center in Troy.

“It was a family affair,” Price said, with a smile.

Price’s parents, Pete and Diane Price, his wife, Amy, and Will joined him in the run and his four-year-old daughter, Emily, was a “push over” in the three-mile run.

“Will ran all the way,” Price said. “We stopped a couple of times, but Will really didn’t need to stop. So, I thought he would enjoy participating in the Mercedes Kids Marathon. And, too, it would be good for Will to set a goal and work toward it.”

Mercedes provided the kids with a running log, and Will posted it on the refrigerator.

“We ran about three times a week ,but we didn’t have a set schedule,” Price said. “I wanted it to be fun for Will. We ran around the neighborhood and the track. And, it was fun for both of us. Keeping the log was a good way for Will to work on his math.”

Seven weeks of running and logging miles was just the build up to the big day. The day when young Will Price was going to run in a marathon just like his dad.

The Mercedes Marathon is one of Price’s favorites because it’s a charitable run, and he runs with the Children’s Hospital team.

“All of the children’s organizations that the Mercedes Marathon supports are worthy,” Price said. “I’ve been running for Children’s Hospital for two years, and the team raises a lot of money for the hospital, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

In 2008, the Children’s Hospital “run” team raised $700,000 ,and Price participated in 11 runs.

“All members of the team give their best efforts,” he said.

The Mercedes Kids Marathon was held on Saturday, Feb. 13 and it was amazing to see so many young kids running and enjoying it, Price said.

With 3,000-plus kids participating in a “marathon” event, the future of the Mercedes Marathon and its efforts to support children’s organizations seem on sure footing.

The Mercedes Half Marathon and Marathon were held on Sunday. Will opted to stay at the hotel and watch cartoons and videos while dad ran the 26.2 miles on a cold, windy February day.

“I don’t like the cold, and it’s always cold in Birmingham for the Mercedes Marathon,” Price said. “And, it rained, as usual, but only for about 15 minutes.”

The Mercedes Marathon course is a double loop, which gives runners the option to bail from the marathon and settle for running a half marathon.

Price admitted that he thought about hanging a left at the halfway mark and heading back to the hotel. But he veered to the right and repeated the loop and logged another 13 miles.

Price finished the marathon in about five hours, which is typical for him.

“I’m not fast,” Price said, laughing. “Back years ago, Doc Anderson at Troy University told me, ‘Price, if you can’t run fast, you’d better run far.’ So, I run far.”

Greg Price usually runs far, and he always runs for something bigger than himself.

In 2007, he amazed the Troy community by running 100 miles in an effort to raise money for the Pike County Relay for Life campaign. A year later, he flabbergasted folks by running 200 miles for the same cause.

But those 300 miles are just a drop in the bucket compared to the total miles logged by the “far” runner.

Price became a committed and dedicated runner when he was 14 years old. He tried other sports but enjoyed the solitude that comes with distance running.

Even back 21 years ago, his analytical, statistical mind was working full speed, and he began logging his miles. Of course, he could have missed a few along the years, especially those teenage years, but Price has logged 50,000 miles and counting.

And, when he’s 80 years old, he hopes to still be logging.

“Running is part of my life,” Price said. “For me, it’s enjoyable, and it’s also a stress reliever. I love my family and enjoy people ,but I still like to be by myself. Running gives me an opportunity to think and figure things out. Besides the health benefits, it’s a way I can be productive and do something for someone else. And, too, it’s something that my family enjoys doing together. So, for me, running has many benefits.”

Of all the marathons that Price has run and finished, it’s the one that he didn’t finish that is the most special.

When his son,Will, crossed the finish line in the Mercedes Kids Marathon and flashed a big smile at his dad, that was the best finish of them all.

“Will might continue running, but then he might not. It will be up to him,” Price said. “But right now it’s something that we do together and enjoy together. My first marathon was the Peachtree Marathon in Atlanta. It has a different name now but, if Will does continue running, it would be … cool … for him to run his first marathon at the ‘Peachtree’ and for me to run with him. That would be a very special marathon.”