UPDATE: Ward finished third in the qualifier behind Galen Rupp and Meb Keflezighi, qualifying for the Olympics.
Imagine running a mile in five minutes. Now imagine doing that 26.2 times. Without stopping.
Former BYU runner Jared Ward placed third overall in the Los Angeles Marathon last year with a time of 2:12.55 (5.04 min/mile). As the first American finisher behind two Kenyans, Ward was crowned the 2015 U.S. Marathon Champion.
Ward heads to L.A. this weekend to race again. This time finishing in top three will earn him a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.
“At the end of the day that’s the goal,” Ward said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have a great build up and stay healthy and I feel more fit than I’ve ever been.”
Ward, 27, from Kaysville, Utah and four-time All-American, ran on the BYU men’s track team from 2010-2014. He graduated last April with a master’s degree in statistics and now teaches at BYU as an adjunct statistics professor.
Ward keeps close ties with the BYU team and coaches despite no longer being a collegiate athlete. BYU head track and field coach Ed Eyestone, a two-time Olympic marathoner himself, said his biggest advice for Ward was to simply trust his training.
“He has 12-plus weeks of anywhere from 100 to 120 miles of running, so he’s stacked the bricks up there really well,” Eyestone said. “He needs to trust in himself and trust in his training and run a smart race.”
Eyestone believes Ward has already won half the battle: “control the controllable,” the most important factor being his health.
“One of the main things with the marathon is being healthy when you get to the starting line, and he’s accomplished that,” Eyestone said. “That’s something 50 percent of the contenders did not negotiate properly. He’s accomplished the first crucial part of the race.”
Ward’s wife, Erica, a former BYU hurdler, and their two young children are traveling to L.A. with him. They will watch Ward race against runners from all 50 states and more than 55 countries.
“Timing has been good to me and Coach has certainly scheduled us out well to keep me prepared. It’s just going to take going and putting together my best day,” Ward said.
The L.A. Marathon begins at 11 a.m. MST Sunday, February 14 and will be broadcast live on NBC.