Asia Ford’s third-to-last finish in Saturday’s Rodes City Run is getting more attention than anyone ahead of her because of help she had from Louisville Metro Police Lt. Aubrey Gregory in reaching the finish line.
Image Credit: Jonathan Roberts
Photos of the event shared on social media sites, including by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and a paramedic, had been viewed millions of times by Sunday afternoon.
On Facebook, Ford thanked Gregory after the race saying that she had “messed up and forgot to eat this morning.”
With her son also helping her, Gregory approached a struggling Ford around the four-mile mark and, shortly after, walked with the woman to the finish, where he released her arm — which she raised triumphantly — in a scene captured by photographer Jonathan Roberts.
Image Credit: Jonathan Roberts
Fischer tweeted and shared the moment on Twitter, saying it was “what a compassionate city looks like.”
What a compassionate city looks like: Lt. Aubrey Gregory helps Asia Ford cross finish line. Photo: Jonathan Roberts pic.twitter.com/1WL9lxY9Lj
— Mayor Greg Fischer (@louisvillemayor) March 21, 2015
Almost 24 hours after the mayor’s posting Saturday afternoon, his Tweet had 220 retweets and had been favorited 271 times. His Facebook posting had been liked more than 22,400 times and re-posted by others more than 4,000 times. The paramedic’s picture shared on the Imgur.com site had more than 1.83 million views by Sunday afternoon.
Ford took to Facebook later on Saturday to thank supporters, calling Gregory her “angel.”
In an interview Sunday, Gregory said the response to the images and story of Ford’s achievement and his helping her is refreshing.
“It’s not all about what bleeds leads, and it’s not all about the bad things that happen that so seems to dominate our news media and social media,” he said. With “positive successes like Asia’s and my opportunity to be there and help her through that, … people still care enough and want to see that and be a part of that and share that with their friends and family.”
In an interview with WHAS-TV, Ford said she has struggled with her weight — which at one point was almost 475 pounds — for years and decided to address it after her husband at the time lost a limb because of diabetes. She started working out and the race Saturday was her latest goal. She began to feel sick around the four-mile mark, which was when her son and Gregory assisted.
Gregory said he was incident commander for the run and was at the back of the race, along with an ambulance and a cleanup crew, relieving authorities along the route as the last racers passed.
At about the fourth mile marker, Gregory said he saw Ford having breathing trouble, so he got out of the car to check on her and called for the ambulance crew. Before they could get more than a few questions out, Ford shook her head, “no,” and said she was going to finish.
A short distance later, Gregory said he noticed Ford laboring again, so he told his partner he was just going to walk with her.
“As soon as I walked up to her, she immediately grabbed my hand,” Gregory said. After he asked and she said she didn’t want to stop, “I said, ‘Good, then we’re going to do this together.'”
Along the way they shared their stories, including how Gregory’s mother battled diabetes and weight issues as well.
“To see Asia accomplish what she did,” Gregory said, made his heart swell “and that joy spreads out and you end up getting that tingly goosebumps all over — that is what I felt when I watched her approach that finish line and I started to hear all the people cheer and yell for her and I watched her raise her arms in triumph. That was a very, very special moment that I will never forget.”
As for Ford, she summed up the achievement in her initial Facebook posting after the race: “This 6.2 miles meant more to me than any race ever, so my message today is, You don’t have to be 1st, AS LONG AS U DON’T GIVE UP AND U FINISH…YOU ARE A WINNER.”
Ford and Gregory will be on national news shows Monday to discuss this intersection of compassion and health, two of the city’s core pillars said a release from Fischer’s office.