Jared Ward clicking the lap split on his watch at mile 21 at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials. Photo: Brian Metzler
The career path of most athletes, whatever their level, almost always resembles a roller coaster rather than a space shot, with at least a few downs following periods of steady progress or sudden breakthroughs.
This is not true for elite runner Jared Ward.
“I really can’t remember a time since high school where every season was better than the one before,” he said.
Ward, one of the longer shots to make the Olympic marathon squad in 2016, nonetheless continued to ride a steady climb that saw him win three USA road championships in the year leading up to the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in 2016 and finish a somewhat surprising third at the Trials behind Galen Rupp and Meb Keflezighi, two names in the running world who had garnered the lion’s share of pre-race publicity and prognostication.
In Los Angeles, Ward earned his ticket to Rio as part of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Team. Photo: Justin Britton
On Monday, Ward will take on a course that is literally a roller coaster, a far cry from the flat courses of the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in Los Angeles and the Rio Olympic Games.
“I think this will be a good course for me,” he said. “I’ve especially tried to prepare for the downhills, hit the weight room and did eccentric lifting to get my quads ready for the pounding. Training in Provo (Utah) it’s hard not to get in some pretty good hill training. That being said, for me the pattern has been to get really fit, be healthy, and trust your fitness on race day.”
In comparing his current condition to where he was at before Rio, where he finished an impressive sixth, it’s a good news, bad news situation. “I had more impressive workouts going into Rio, but I’m healthier now than I was then. I had something off in my hips, and that led to tightness in my hamstrings, groin, psoas, and eventually a
stress on my pubic bone.
“I was blessed to keep things at bay through the race, thanks to some great trainers and PTs, but just like anything else there’s a day of reckoning when you have to pay for those things your trained through.”
Ward placed sixth in Rio, and will be racing against Olympic teammates Galen Rupp and Meb Keflezighi at this year’s Boston Marathon. Photo: Photorun.net
After some downtime to let the aches from training heal, Ward began his buildup
for Boston and only raced once at the NYC Half last month, where he was fourth American in 1:03:14.
“That was good to have a rust-buster, get out there and do some racing at sub-marathon pace,” he said. “So I’m excited to get out there Monday and see where I’m at.”
Ward has no specific time goal for his Boston debut. “I know the pace here is oftentimes very dependent on the weather,” he said. “Unless the pace feels too unrealistic I’ll just try to get in and race with these guys. If someone runs 2:04 pace I’m going to let them do that on their own. I want to be feeling good at the top at Heartbreak then get after it the last six miles.”
And while those Beacon Street miles are noticeably downhill, Ward is hoping the steady upward trend of his career continues apace here in Boston.