Gloria Gramling stood at the finish line of the Grant’s Cure for Spina Bifida 5K at the Bass Pro Shops in Independence knowing that there was no way she could return home to Grain Valley feeling like anything but a winner.
In a novel idea for a race, her father, Grain Valley’s “Barber Dave” Gramling, was given an 11-minute, 30-second lead over his 10-year-old grandson Luke – one of the area’s premier youth distance runners who has a social media following that is worldwide – to see who would come out on top.
“It was kind of cool how this all came about,” Gloria said, “because my dad and my son Luke have always talked about running against each other. Once Luke started beating my dad, we knew he was a pretty special little runner – and believe me, he runs because he loves it. We have never pressured him, or made him go out and run, he just runs because it’s fun.”
About a month ago, “Barber Dave” was having a conversation with a regular at his Main Street barbershop in Grain Valley, about the possibility of him getting a one-mile lead in a 5K (3.1 miles) and seeing if Luke could catch up with Grandpa before the finish line.
“I called Caleb Teague, who ran for Cain O’Connor at Blue Springs High School and who is now the race director for the KC Running Company, and asked if there were any races where I could take off about 11 minutes and 30 seconds – the average time I can run a mile – before the start of a race and then start the race to see if Luke could catch his grandpa,” said Dave, 62.
“Caleb loved the idea, and the race (July 28) at Bass Pro was perfect for such a crazy idea. I started out at 8:48.30 a.m. and the rest of the race started at 9 a.m., with Luke leading the way.”
Luke not only caught Grandpa, he won his 17-under age division with a time of 34 minutes, 36 seconds – and he edged Gramling by two seconds, as he finished behind Luke in 34:38 (not counting the head start).
“Luke needed to make up 7 minutes in the last mile to beat my dad and he was able to do it,” Gloria said. “We’re looking for him, and here he comes, in full stride.”
When asked about beating his grandfather, Luke grinned.
“I’m a lot faster than him,” Luke said. “I knew I was going to be beat him, but I had to run fast to do it.”
Gramling swears he never let up to let Luke catch him at the end of the race.
“Now, I’ll admit that I kept looking back to see where Luke was,” he said, “but I wasn’t going to slow down to give him a chance. He beat me fair and square – by two seconds, which was actually more like 11 minutes and change because I got that head start.
“But it was just so cool, and I can’t thank Caleb and everyone involved with the race for letting me and Luke kind of live out our little dream. The whole family was there watching and it was just an experience none of us will ever forget.”
After the race, the 10-year-old Luke was on a mission that had nothing to do with his successful race.
“They’re looking for Luke to give him his first-place medal,” Gramling said, chuckling, “and he’s getting his face painted. Then he’s looking for the Icee stand and wanting to meet (Kansas City Royals mascot) Sluggerrr.
“That’s when it hits me that he’s just a 10-year-old who happens to have the ability to run very fast.”
Gramling and Luke are featured in the book “Running for Donuts,” by Australian running guru Jeff Smith, who met the Gramlings via his popular The Running Podcast.
“Jeff was really interested in the race with Luke and me,” Gramling said, “and when we talked a week or two ago, he told me Luke has followers from 160 countries who are always calling him asking about Luke and his grandpa.
“He’s just 10, and I don’t think Luke has any idea how proud we are all of him. But we are.
“There was a hug, and a high-five after the race, but man, he was looking for that face painting booth and the Icee stand after our race – and that makes it even more special for me and his mom.”