Of all the athletes taking part in this weekend’s Synchrony Financial Rock ‘n’ Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon, one elite runner on the start line should stand out: U.S. Olympian Jared Ward.
One of America’s best distance runners, the 28-year-old BYU graduate not only qualified for the U.S. Olympic Marathon team in Rio, but he finished in an amazing sixth place there. Clocking in at 2:11:30 for the 26.2-mile race, a personal record in far-from-ideal racing conditions.
For Ward, this weekend’s Brooklyn race is as much about the fun and seeing the “Big Apple” as it is about running fast.
“I’m excited to be in New York City, representing my nutrition sponsor and Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series partner GLUKOS Energy,” Ward said. “There’s a special feeling about being here. It’s also a great race because I will get a gauge to see where my fitness is at.”
Ward, who’s coached by two-time-Olympic marathoner Ed Eyestone, says he’s been taking a bit of a break from the grueling speed work and tempo runs that he had to string together prior to Rio and has been re-building his base for the fall.
“I’ve been back at it for the past few weeks,” he said. “I’m certainly not in the best shape of my life, but I’m thrilled to race again.”
Ward admits that his impressive Olympic showing was in less than ideal conditions and is confident that there is much more in store for him.
“I want to get into a fast marathon in the next few years and see how fast I can run in better conditions,” he said. “But there are still things I want to do. I haven’t run the Boston Marathon or the New York City Marathon. I want to build these types of races into my calendar for the next few years.”
Specifically, however, Ward isn’t fully committed to his next 26.2-mile race. He says he and Coach Eyestone are looking into perhaps a spring 2017 marathon, but aren’t sure yet. In fact, he says he believes he has unfinished business on the track and would like to see what he can do on the oval.
Still, the roads have a place in Ward’s heart. “The road running world is so fun, because they close down the street and I get to tour these cities while I race,” he says. “It’s a fun way to see America.”
This weekend won’t be his first Rock ‘n’ Roll event, but it is his first one in Brooklyn.
“The Rock ‘n’ Roll races do an incredible job of bringing the experience to the runner,” said the Olympian. “When I ran Seattle earlier this year, I was blown away with how everything felt along the way—from the start line to the bands, to the community outreach, to the finish. They do a great job of delivering the race to the runners.
“They also have GLUKOS Energy on course, which is a huge benefit to the participants. The GLUKOS Energy Gel I took in my last 5K of the Olympics helped me move up and finish my race strong.” GLUKOS Energy is the Official Gel & Gummies of the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series, which will be available for all participants at mile 9.2.
Pace-wise, Ward hopes to run around 65:30 this weekend. He says he’s in a “building phase” and will be pleased going out at the kind of tempo he ran in the Olympic Marathon.
“I’ve been running, but haven’t done the type of workouts to make me sharp, so I will be happy with anywhere in the 65 to 66-minute range,” he said.
Joining Ward in Brooklyn will be a contingent of local elite runners who should make Ward’s victory far from assured. Tadesse Dabi, a 27-year-old Bronx resident is a local ace, having placed top two in all the New York Road Runner races he’s entered this year. Dabi has been excelling at distances shorter than the half marathon, having set personal bests in the mile, 5K and 10K all this year.
Also in the mix on Saturday is Tekeste Nekatibeb who lives and trains in the region. The 36-year-old, who owns a 1:02:12 personal best in the half marathon, won the NYRR Bronx 10 miler last month.
TheSynchrony Financial Rock ‘n’ Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon starts on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 7:00 a.m. The course will begin outside the iconic Brooklyn Art Museum and head out along the city’s tree-lined Eastern Parkway then back on Kingston Avenue in the first two miles. Between the second and third mile, participants will make a left onto Washington Avenue and get some great visuals of the fall foliage in Prospect Park on their right.
Organizers have made several other key improvements to the participant experience. Additional security screening checkpoint entrances have been added for a quick and easy entrance into the corrals. To minimize the stress of finding a bathroom before the start, more than 210 porta-pottys have been added to the start line village. Lastly, the gear check area has been moved closer to the start line in Grand Army Plaza, for easy access to drop off items participants will need post race.
In true Rock ‘n’ Roll fashion, more than 20 entertainment stages will line the race route, concluding with a celebratory finish line festival and post-race Toyota Rock ‘n’ Roll Concert Series headlined by Brooklyn band, Here We Go Magic at the Nethermead in Prospect Park.