Olympian, BYU stats professor fastest American in NYC Marathon

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Abigail Keenan
BYU stats professor Jared Ward was the first American to cross the finish line in the 2018 New York City Marathon. (Abigail Keenan

Jared Ward, a 2016 Olympian and BYU professor, didn’t know if he’d even be competing for the 2018 New York City Marathon due to a pulled hamstring.

After calling the race director and speaking with him, he decided that despite the imperfect lead up to the marathon, he would race anyway.

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Yesterdays NYC Marathon was a team event. I ran the whole race within a few seconds of an American teammate. 1.5 miles in I found myself in front with @sfaubs, we paced the rest of the race differently but finished 4 seconds apart. I had a few encouraging words with @skiptoob early, and then reconnected with him for miles 10-24. I ran next to @cderrickrun for almost the whole race. We shared water bottles and worked together on the pace and race plan. I was motivated over and over by these guys I raced with. We are all competitors and the race to the finish line is against each other, but it is also with these guys. I took a lot of pride in having 4 American runners in the top ten, and a good handful of other American runners in this race that could be there on the right day. The "State of American Marathoning" has been knocked at lately. Skeptics claim we have Rupp and then no one else. I disagree. While Rupp is on a different level, we have guys closer than the clock has said. Shaddy has recent performances that I believe translate to 2:09 on a fast course in good condition. Derrick and Faubs have run 2 marathons a piece, and as they become familiar with this distance they are only getting better. Others yet that weren't in this race, or had an off day. I'm looking for a healthy 2019, and to use this race as a base for the next 2 years of training. The race for the Olympic team will be a competitive race with and against friends. I don't know who will be on that team, but when we send 3 guys to Tokyo they are going to be good. #tokyo2020 📷: @citiusmag @sportsillustrated

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When asked what made the little bit of difference to finish, Ward said his mindset was better this year. His best marathon was in the Rio Olympics, where he completed his event in 2:11:30, but his 2:12:24 time this past Saturday is what placed him sixth overall and first among all American competitors.

His decreasing mile average worried him leading into the last stretch of the race, but he said he relied on energy and team support for the mental fuel.

“I was counting on the crowd’s (energy) carrying me through those high miles. They were absolutely amazing,” Ward said.

The legendary big city course starts on Staten Island and makes its way up through Brooklyn. It then crosses the Queensboro Bridge before making its way over to Manhattan, finishing on the southern end of Central Park.

Ward not only competes for his own personal growth but competes for those who have helped him throughout his years of competition.

Abigail Keenan
A written note from one of Ward’s children is found on his work desk at BYU. This reminds him of the sacrifices others have given so he can pursue his passion. (Abigail Keenan)

“One thing I learned going through the last Olympic cycle was the idea of going out and giving the race my best for all the people who had sacrificed for me to have the opportunity,” Ward said.

With endless amounts of help with personal trainers, nutritionists and sponsors, Ward continually expressed gratitude to his team and community who let him go out and compete. 

Preparing for this run, Ward trained alongside BYU’s cross country team who is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation.

“The team has some great runners that really help me with the faster training,” Ward said.

Ward still trains alongside his former coach and the current director of BYU track and field and head cross country coach, Ed Eyestone. Eyestone is also a former Olympian, competing in both the 1988 Seoul, Korea, Olympics and the 1992 Barcelona, Spain, Olympics.

Since this race attention won’t last forever, Ward said he already has his eyes set on the 2020 Olympics. Though he doesn’t know exactly what the future holds, he said, “I love teaching and running, and as long as I can continue to do both, I likely will.”

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