Jared Ward may have been overshadowed by speedy mid distance runners like Stephen Clark, Justin Hedin and Luke Puskedra in high school, but he proved that slow and steady wins the race as he is the only Olympian of the group. Jared Ward was qualifying for the Olympics in LA last spring when he edged out Luke Puskedra for the third and final qualifying spot for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Ward placed 6th in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in a talented field. While being sponsored by the Saucony running brand and competing all over the world, Ward hasn’t shied away from giving back to the running community in Utah. Ward held a “Meet and Greet” with his closest fans and then ran an “easy four miles” with them even after admitting he ran a 10 miler earlier in the day.
He paced the group at around an 8 minute per mile pace but some wanted to sprint ahead to prove they beat an Olympian (and to win the segment on Strava).
While running with an Olympian is cool, the advice that Ward shared was the most helpful to striving runners striving to achieve goals of their own. Perhaps the best quote of the day was when he said “I try to do something every day better than I have before.”
Ward offered some key advice to help fellow runners get better at the marathon. With each marathon, Ward bolsters his theory that experience is huge. “You learn a little about what your training indicates you’re ready for.”
Some in the crowd will be joining him at the Boston marathon in a couple weeks. Others long to qualify for the oldest marathon in the world.
To those aspiring to achieve their running goals, Ward stressed the importance of mental toughness. “In a race, sometimes we lose before we’ve actually lost. Find a way to stay in the present in a race rather than thinking about what lies ahead.” Ward said that thinking about getting to the next cup of water at Boston is way more motivating than thinking about how tough “Heartbreak Hill” is going to be.
Ward hopes to crack the Top 5 at Boston which is certainly within reach given he almost cracked the Top 5 in the Olympics last year.
When asked what the “secret ingredient” in his water bottle was, Ward admitted he had a little glucose mixed in it. Glucose absorbs into your bloodstream faster than artificial sugars such as dextrose or sucrose so you get energy faster.
Jared is competitive but doesn’t base all his success on winning. “Even if I win the race, if I’m racing a bunch of bums, that shouldn’t mean anything anyway.” At the same time he stated that losing a race doesn’t mean it was a failed process.
Ward indicated that long runs are a key ingredient to Marathon success. He suggested running a few miles of a long run at race pace but it should mostly just be a long slow run.
Jared focuses on active stretches like leg swings before a race and does “Warrior” yoga pose stretches afterwards. He admitted his Marathon warmup is sometimes as short as 5 minutes as just a little movement with his legs will lengthen his stride more than hours of static stretching. Studies indicate that static stretching is a bad pre-race routine.
Ward decided as a senior in high school that he wanted to get a USA Olympic kit after being an alternate for the USA junior World Team in the 5k. He just looked at his USA singlet and decided that’s what he wanted to do.
Living life normal and having fun keeps things light before Jared races. College coach Ed Eyestone, a marathon Olympic qualifier in his day, stressed this when Jared almost decided to skip the opening Olympic ceremony for fear that too much time in unfamiliar Río would negatively affect his race. Ward listened to Eyestone and enjoyed watching at least one event per day before his epic marathon in the last day of the Olympic competition.
Focusing on the positives about the last race gives Ward more confidence going into his next race. If he worries about how his last race sucked, hoping that the next race won’t suck isn’t a good mentality to have.
Tokyo 2020 is a ways away but Ward has his mind on Boston 2017 now. His fan club is selling “Wardy” T-Shirts for 20 dollars with his epic picture holding up his initials, JW after his great Río race. Other shirts include “Jared Ward Running Company” and many puns about his Prefontaine-esque mustache.
Anytime runners want to quit, they must remember Ward’s echo that is backed by the statistical proof he teaches in a BYU stats class. Always try to do something better than you’ve ever done before. Practice makes perfect.