Ex-running star dreams bigger

Stephanie Price will run a half marathon a year after graduating.

Former Gopher Stephanie Price runs around Lake Calhoun on June 17, 2013, in Minneapolis.

Emily Dunker

Former Gopher Stephanie Price runs around Lake Calhoun on June 17, 2013, in Minneapolis.

by Dane Mizutani

Stephanie Price knows she could complete a marathon with relative ease. But she also knows completing and competing at a high level are two different things.

Price, a former All-American distance runner for the Gophers, will compete in the annual Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon on Saturday in Duluth, Minn.

Like many collegiate runners, Price struggled at first to find a role for running in her life after college, but now she has a coach, a training regimen and a goal — qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Trials in the

Saturday will be the first half marathon of her career, but Price said she’s up for the challenge.

“It scares me because it’s so long, but I’m really excited for it,” said Price, whose longest competitive race to date is 10 kilometers, or a little more than six miles. “I finished my last hard workout and thought to myself, ‘I feel better than I did in college and I finally feel like I’m taking that next step.’”

That next step almost didn’t happen.

Price said she got burned out during her college career and was unsure if she wanted to run recreationally or competitively after college.

 She finished her career with the Gophers last spring and then completed her final semester of nursing school. That subsequent summer served as a learning experience. She trained “semi-seriously” but didn’t have a particular goal.

She bounced around the idea of running in the Medtronic Twin Cities 10 Mile this past fall, but she got sick before that race and didn’t compete.

That was the turning point.

“It was right after the Twin Cities 10 Mile that I realized that I missed being out there and being really competitive,” Price said.

She was working as a retail associate at the Running Room at the time and met a customer who told her about the Twin Cities Track Club.

That customer passed along Price’s information and through that, she met her current coach Chris Lundstrom.

Lundstrom offered direction to Price’s career. He said he knew immediately that Price had potential to be great.

“I met with her, and she said she was running a good amount, and it turns out she was running like 90 miles a week,” Lundstrom said with a chuckle. “She was serious about it, and I could tell that.”

Lundstrom said the two talked about races Price had competed in previously and said there’s a necessary progression in terms of distance races. That progression starts with half marathons.

Price said she’s hesitant to set a time goal, but a reasonable goal for the half marathon would be an hour and 15 minutes.

She said it’s sometimes difficult to hold back because she knows she can do more. 

“I could go out there and finish a marathon right now — that’d be no problem — but to be highly competitive, I want to let myself develop for that,” she said.

Lundstrom agreed and said he knows Price could already run a marathon, but she would risk injuries by rushing into a race that demands so much. He said he’s confident in the path she’s on, but he has to remind her to dial it back at times.

“She’s always excited to put in the work … so for her, my job is to hold her back a little bit and keep her from doing too much,” Lundstrom said.

Price’s former head coach, Gary Wilson, is familiar with her competitiveness. He said he’s proud of her post-collegiate success and even prouder that she’s being smart about her career.

“I’ve told every kid I’ve ever coached in college to never, ever run a marathon,” he said. “It’s not only demanding, but it can end up being debilitating for runners.

“I’ve seen kids ruin careers because they run marathons way too early in their careers … so she’s doing it the right way, I think.”

Price said her goal is to complete her first marathon next year.

Lundstrom, who’s worked with Price since November, said he’s certain of Price’s abilities as a runner.

“She has not come anywhere near fulfilling her potential yet,” he said. “She can definitely be one of the top runners in the United States.”

Price, however, knows she’s still young in the marathon world.

“I’m always ready to make that next big jump, and I know it’s in me, but I also need to give it time,” she said. “I’m thriving in the environment I’m in right now.”