Some Florida United Methodist pastors will take their covenant group on the road -- a road traveled long ago by circuit riders -- when they participate this week in the 200-mile Ragnar Relay from Cumberland, Md., to Washington, D.C.
Unlike their pastoral predecessors, however, they will depend on foot-power, not horsepower. As they test the
endurance of 40-something- year-old bodies, the pastors also expect to strengthen the spiritual relationships
that have bound them together for the last couple of years, said Rev. Steve Price, one of the participating
Price is senior co-pastor with his wife, Rev. Catherine Fluck Price, at Harvest UMC, Bradenton. He and Rev. Dave
Miller, senior pastor at First UMC, St. Petersburg, are leading the team, which will start the two-day,
overnight run Friday, Sept. 21
Other team members are Rev. Craig Hammond, First UMC, Melbourne; Cameron Lashbrook, Lakeside Fellowship UMC,
Sanford; Brett Opalinski, Memorial UMC, Fernandina Beach; David Williamson, Spring of Life, Orlando; and team
driver, Rev. Roy Terry, Cornerstone UMC in Naples.
Price and Miller participated two years ago in a Central Florida Ragnar relay with a 12-person co-ed team
gathered from their congregations. This year will be the first time they have attempted a six-person “ultra”
team of runners. They are pumped and ready for the challenge, Price said.
“This race is just for fun, but it is something that will be tying us together,” Price said of the 2012 event.
His team has named itself “Mr. Wesley Goes to Washington,” alluding to members’ Methodist affiliation and
affinity for traveling long distances over hill and dale.
The Ragnar Relay is an overnight running relay race designed to test the limits of the team. Each individual
runs three legs of the race, which can vary in difficulty and distance from 3 to 8 miles. The variations allow
runners of different skill and experience levels to run together.
“There will be 300 teams participating,” Price said. “Most are 12-person teams, so that means we’ll be en route
with over 4,000 people over a two-day period.
“We’re hoping that our team name may prompt some questions along the way and spark some dialogue.”
He plans to take pictures of United Methodist churches along the route.
The Ragnar Relay Series has events all over the country. It was created in 2004, with the first event held in
Utah. The unusual name, “Ragnar,” refers to a 9th century, adventure-seeking Norse conquerer, according to the
series’ creators, Tanner Bell and Dan Hill.
Created to encourage endurance and camaraderie, the race also allows for some silliness, with imaginative team
names, crazy costumes and a great finish line party, all presented by NordicTrack and other sponsors. Price said
he and his team are looking forward to all of it but especially the camaraderie.
“The idea for us to do this germinated at a retreat about a year ago,” he said. The covenant group has acted as
a kind of professional support group, encouraged by Florida’s former Bishop Timothy Whitaker.
“It’s basically a group of colleagues who get together, including twice-a-year retreats, and doing this race
reinforces the closeness.”
The group started training for the event four or five months ago and followed a regimen similar to that
recommended for a half marathon, which suggests increasing individual mileage by 10 percent each week.
Price has been running about 10 years, with four marathons under his belt. During the upcoming race, he is
slated for the longest stretch: 43 miles.
The team members already know what they’re in for and where the designated exchange spots will be according to
maps plotted for every day, he said. The terrain includes forests in the Appalachian mountains and part of the
Appalachian Trail, and some historic Civil War-era towns. The group also is looking forward to retracing some
steps of Methodist history.
“(Francis) Asbury and some of the early circuit riders rode this way, and we’re hoping to cover some of their
territory,” Price said. “The first half of the run, we’ll be coming out of the mountains and down across to
The route also passes the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. The event will end at the National Harbor on
the Potomac River, where there will be a Ragnar party and most likely the first good night’s sleep the runners
will have in a few days. Then Sunday, the team will head back home, no doubt having made some history of its