Alan Price walks to catch his bus.

The 37-year-old District resident isn't in a rush to board the bus. He merely wants to race it.

Price, ranked as this country's top race-walker, races buses as part of his three-times-a-week training.

He also walks around his neighborhood 80 miles a week and maintains a strict diet, eating fruits and herbs and sometimes fasting.

Price began competing in race-walking 10 years ago. Three months ago, he traveled to Columbia, Mo., to compete in the annual 100-mile race-walk at Hickman Field. Price, leading from the start, set a national record, race-walking the event in 18 hours 46 minutes and 13 seconds. Then he walked an extra 12 miles after the event was over.

It was the 15th 100-mile race in which the 5-foot-7, 137-pound Price had participated and marked his seventh consecutive victory at Columbia.

Earlier this year, Price had chosen to bypass the Olympics because he was not interested in competing in the series of qualifying events. However, he worked with the District's Carl Shuler, who finished sixth in Los Angeles.

In Price's first 100-mile race, which also was staged at Hickman Field, he had served notice he would become the first black man to dominate the event. Competing in a field of over 35, Price surprised everyone, breaking a 12-year-old record.

"I first heard about the race in Columbia in an ad in Runner's World, along with a feature on one of the guys who had won a lot," said Price. "They had some times in there, and I said, 'I can do this.' So I told everyone in D.C. I was going out to Columbia and set a record.

"It was a strange atmosphere when I arrived there because no one knew who I was and thought nothing of me. I was like the dark horse. But I set the record -- broke a 12-year record in my first race."

A graduate of Cardozo High School, Price didn't discover his athletic talents until he joined the Traveler's Track Club.

"I wasn't interested in race-walking during my high school days," said Price. "The schools back then didn't even promote it so I had never heard of it. I don't even think they do now."

Price, who did not attend college, joined Travelers when he found himself bored after completing work each day. Assigned to run the 880, Price never finished better than fourth.

"We (teammates) were all sitting in the stands resting from all the races we had participated and lost in," said Price. "Over the loudspeaker came an announcement that there would be a two-mile race-walk and all interested personnel should report to the field.

"Only two people got up to enter in the race, but after several more announcements, three more had signed up," Price said. "Well, no one on my team had won a trophy or ribbon and I thought I could at least walk away from the event with a trophy if I entered. It was only six people in it."

Price finished third and carried home his first trophy in a sport few know much about.

"Many people think it's a sissy sport but it's not," said Price. "Not only do you have to be in excellent condition but you have to have mental determination as well."

Two years ago, Price entered a 100-mile race in San Diego. Promoters, in an attempt to draw national exposure, invited Don Choy, who holds the world record for a six-day run at more than 450 miles.

"He finished the race," said Price, who won the event, "but he was hurting pretty bad. I asked him which he thought was harder, a six-day run or a 100-mile walk. He said, 'No doubt about it, a 100-miler.' "

Price clearly remembers his first 100-mile race.

"After about 60 miles my mind started playing tricks on me," Price said. "My body wanted to go to sleep and shut down, and my eyes were closing. And then my mind continued to tell me that I wasn't suppose to be running.

"It's like you're drunk, zizzagging across the track. My legs started hurting and I started seeing everyone else walk off the track from fatigue and pain. I was almost taken out of the race by officials. They thought I was drunk or about to pass out. But that's where mental determination and conditioning yourself becomes important. It's like that in every race."

In the past, Price "used to be a closet walker." He would venture to Banneker Junior High, wait until it was pitch dark so no one could watch him, then practice.

No longer in the dark, Price is considering walking the 100-mile event in 17 hours. After that, he just plans to keep on walking.