Jared Ward’s got a few items remaining on his marathon bucket list. He’d like to make the podium in a World Marathon Major. He’d like to run 2:08 or faster. He’d like the run the World Champs in Doha this summer. And of course make another Olympic team. And … truth to tell, Jared Ward’s got quite a few items on his list.

But for today, he’s perfectly happy with where he is and how he ran in the 2019 Boston Marathon. Ward, 30 and the father of four, placed 8th overall (second American, behind Scott Fauble, seventh) and lowered his personal best from 2:11:30 to 2:09:25. “My marathon training is going so well, it’s tempting to keep after it while I’m hot,” he said an hour after finishing Monday. “On the other hand, maybe I should take this opportunity to drop back and work on my speed.”

It’s the kind of problem ideally suited to Ward, a statistician and adjunct professor at Brigham Young University. His mathematical bent explains why Ward led several times during today’s marathon. “I was hoping for a sub-2:10, and I knew I wasn’t going to get it when the other guys started running 5:10s,” he explained. “I knew they’d probably pass me soon, but I wanted to hold my pace. Besides, it was so exciting to lead past Wellesley College. I have no regrets.”

Ward finished a strong sixth in the Rio Olympics, then had two sub-par years before bouncing back with a sixth place 2:12:24 at New York City last fall. He says his buildup for Boston felt better than any training block he could remember. “I’ve gotten so smooth at 4:55 marathon pace,” he noted. “That was what motivated me to keep the pace honest at Boston. I didn’t want all the training to be wasted, and not to get a good performance out of it.”

His coach, former Olympic marathoner Ed Eyestone, made sure Ward did plenty of hill work out in the Wasatch Mountain foothills. “We went into the canyons and did two-mile repeats,” said Eyestone. “We pushed them as hard as we could without risking injury.” Ward has always excelled at downhill running—crucial at Boston and also next February in the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta.

With his fast time and top-10 placing at Boston, Ward gets an automatic qualifier for the Olympic Games, which has a complicated and difficult new qualifying system. Of course, he still has to run strong in the U.S. Trials. “That was another big goal today—the Olympic standard,” said Eyestone. “It takes a big load off everyone’s shoulders. It gives Jared more options for next fall, though I’d be inclined to think he should skip a fall marathon to focus on the Marathon Trials.”

Ward can see the logic of that. After all, it’s what he did in 2015 when it paid off at the 2016 Trials, where he finished third. On the other hand, there are so many alluring possibilities. “I’d love to run Berlin or Chicago and take a crack at a fast time on a fast course,” he admitted. “Or I could run New York City. I loved New York last year.”

It’s good to have options.