John Price, 62, only took up running in his 20s, partly as a way to lose weight when he was in the U.S. Navy. He ran a few miles every day and eventually lost 20 pounds.
But he also developed a love of running that would lead Price, a retired electronics technician with the National Weather Service, to take part in events of various distances. Eventually, he lost interest in ordinary races and competition in general, taking up ultrarunning, which is any distance further than a 26.2 mile marathon.
Wednesday, Price, who now lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and his friend Cyndi Graves, 53, from the Dallas, Texas, area were about 55 miles into their nearly 2,400 mile run/walk from Fort Kent to Key West. As the midday heat began to rise on the second day of their journey, Price talked about his reasons for the attempt, as he walked along the asphalt of Route 1 about 9 miles shy of downtown Caribou.
“I’m doing it for my own satisfaction,” he said. “It’s a great way to see the country. You’ve got to ‘go slow and low’,” to see the land, he said, eschewing air travel as a means for actually seeing anything.
“You get to see things you didn’t know were even there,” said Price, who enjoys running and driving cross country, meeting people and learning about local culture. “And, it’s a challenge too.”
This is Price’s second attempt at the north to south route. Last year, he planned to integrate the attempt into a long distance race down south, which would have followed much of his intended route from Maine to Florida.
That bid, begun in October, ended in Houlton, when Price realized the hours of daylight were getting too short to make travel safe along the highway. In 2016, he had started in Madawaska, but this year decided to go all in and take his first steps south from the official start of U.S. 1.
Price was able to hitch a ride to the St. John Valley from the airport in Presque Isle, last year and this year, he said.
He would simply ask passersby at the luggage terminal if they were headed to Madawaska or Fort Kent. It worked last year, and this year he found a Fort Kent resident willing to give him and Graves a lift.
Price already has crossed the country on foot, he said. Twice, in fact, running and walking from Venice Beach, California, to Virginia Beach, Virginia. After doing it in 2011, he and Graves teamed up to do it again, he said.
The ultrarunner said he does not integrate his long distance trips into any organized fundraising effort or charity. While he does support charitable causes in other ways, Price said his running experiences are a personal adventure.
When it comes to long distance running, Price has some experience, having completed races in excess of 300 miles in places like Tennessee and North Carolina. He has completed the route from the very north of Scotland to the very south of England, a distance of more than 800 miles, three times.
“I’m well past my prime,” Price admitted, but he still boasted that he was faster at an older age than most other younger runners are today. Perseverance is also a key, as Price proved by continuing to trudge up hills in the 80-degree humidity on Wednesday while still answering questions.
Although he has run in 100-mile and 24-hour events, Price commented that, for him, they pose the problem of sleep deprivation and are simply not as much fun as a longer race taking place over several days.
During their current run/walk to Florida, Graves is pushing a baby stroller, which carries some of the pair’s gear, and each also carries a small pack with water and snacks. Each night they plan to either camp out or stay at a hotel.
The two already have friends ready to greet them and run with them along various points of the route. Price’s Facebook page is peppered with good wishes and messages such as,“If you need any help in north Fla/south Ga., just sing out.” and “I hope to see you in N.C.”
Price said he anticipates this year’s Maine to Florida trek to take between 60 and 80 days, depending on weather and the pair’s physical condition. He said that dealing with hot weather will be a major consideration as he and Graves move into the mid-Atlantic and southern states.
The two plan to stick to Route 1 for as many miles as possible, he said. Their progress can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/vbultrarunner and on Price’s Facebook page.