OREM — While watching the New York Marathon in 1991, a friend told him he was too old and fat to run a marathon. Greg Pratt, a 71-year-old Orem resident, took that as a challenge. He began running the next day.
He never thought that running marathons would get him to where he is today — happily married, healthy and with a unique tie to a family in New Jersey who were directly affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"When I ran my first marathon, I absolutely loved it," Pratt said.
Since that time, Pratt has run 17 marathons, with five of them being the New York Marathon; he met his wife at a marathon and even proposed to her at the finish line of another marathon. He ran his 18th, the New York Marathon again, on Nov. 6. Pratt was able to run for a charity group, NYRR's Team for Kids, with the goal of raising $100 per mile.
Pratt was one of 1,500 runners raising money for NYRR Youth and Community Services, which received $4.5 million from all the money raised by runners.
And although Pratt is proud of this accomplishment, there is another bigger reason why he is proud and emotional about running the November marathon. For the past 10 years, Pratt has been sending his St. George Marathon finisher medals to the Ladley family of Coltsneck, N.J. Pratt found out about James P. Ladley after running the St. George Marathon in 2001. Runners were encouraged to remember the victims of Sept. 11 and for a donation were able to affix name stickers of the victims of Sept. 11 to their race bib. Pratt randomly chose Ladley's name.
"After the race, I wanted to find out who this person was," Pratt said. "So I looked up James and found a phone number and decided to call it. I figured the worst that could happen was that they would hang up on me."
But after introducing himself to Ladley's widow, Sheri, the two ended up talking for more than two hours.
"It was a very emotional phone call," Pratt said. "We laughed and cried, and I was able to find out more about who James was."
Pratt found out that Ladley was a 41-year-old father of two, married to his 40-year-old wife Sheri, lived in New Jersey and worked as a partner at the Cantor Fitzgerald financial services company on the 104th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. He also found out that Ladley loved sports, especially the New York Rangers.
"After I talked to Sheri, I decided to purchase a plaque and send my finisher medal to her in memory of James," Pratt said. "The inscription said that the marathon was run in honor of James P. Ladley."
Pratt also was able to send an assortment of sports memorabilia from a variety of New York teams he had contacted, and also included Salt Lake Olympic items and items from BYU and the St. George Marathon.
After receiving the items, Sheri wrote a letter to Pratt thanking him.
"The letter is very special to me," Pratt said. "Sheri shares with me her experience of receiving my first medal, which arrived on the day she was attending a memorial ceremony at the site of the World Trade Center. She was able to wear that medal to the ceremony."
Since that time, Pratt has run the St. George Marathon six times and has continued to send his marathon finisher medals to Sheri, who has since remarried and has a daughter with her husband, Frank.
He has also met Sheri and other members of her family and James's family and had the opportunity to see the medals displayed at their home next to the American flag given to all the families of the victims of Sept. 11.
Last year, Pratt, who has a degenerating hip, decided he would be running his last marathon. But when the New York Marathon and the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 came around this year, he decided to run one final marathon and to present Sheri with the medal from the city where Ladley worked and died.
Pratt and his wife and Pratt's brother traveled to New York and were able to have lunch with Sheri, her husband, Frank, and 15 family members of Sheri, Frank and Ladley before Pratt ran the marathon. Pratt said the meal was a very emotional one for everyone involved.
"Running marathons have given me everything," Pratt said. "I knew if I could give someone else just five seconds of comfort from all the effort and training it takes to run a marathon that it was all worth it. I am very proud that at 71 years old I was able to finish the marathon and give this tribute to James's family."