Ward Joins Elite Runners Club
Having garnered an interest in the sport in 1989, Ward stated he learned first-hand the benefits of long-distance running while hiking through the mountain ranges of the Western states of Wyoming, Montana and Colorado where the air is noticeably thinner.
A mere two years later, Ward participated and coincidentally completed his first JFK 50 Mile event in Maryland with a time of 13 hours and 28 minutes. Deeming his first competition as “quite a learning experience,” Ward’s training and love of running grew significantly, shortening his overall time in the annual race known as America’s “oldest ultramarathon.”
Ward’s best time was logged in 1993 at 10 hours and three minutes but has hovered in the 10- hour range during the course of the following JFK 50 Mile competitions.
On November 20, Ward proud- joined the ranks of the endurance event’s 1,000 mile club by finishing the 2010 JFK 50 Mile that takes runners along the paved roadways from Boonsboro to Williamsport and onto the Aptainly palachian Trail and C&O Canal towpath.
“Joining the 1,000 mile club at the JFK 50 was an accomplishment that I had looked forward to for a longtime and to reach it in 20 consecutive years was the cherry on top,” Ward, 57, told the “News.” His achievement was shared with family, friends and running companions in a post-event celebration the State Line, Pa., man won’t soon forget.
Since the event’s inception in the spring of 1963, more than 20,000 individual entrants have participated in Washington County, Md.’s JFK 50. Of those numbers, Ward’s achievement brings the number of 1,000 mile members to 48. Less than 30 of those runners have reached their goal in 20 straight races.
Even though he readily admits he didn’t set out to reach this milestone, the numbers just kept adding up while Ward’s thoughts kept circling back around to maybe I can do this. More important than the title or notoriety that comes with the 1,000 mile club are the physical and mental benefits that Ward derives from long-distance running.
“Running for me has always been an activity I have enjoyed. I love and enjoy all the different types of weather you can encounter when out on a run. It has taught me to persevere through all types of conditions. It is certainly a sport that builds your confidence in other aspects of life that you face on a daily basis. It also instills that don’t quit attitude,” said Ward.
“I have always used my running to keep me in a good physical condition that allows me to basically do anything I want to do, especially to make those hiking trips in the West. It is a good feeling to know if you decide to go out for a 25-mile hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back out in a day you can do it, and I have!” Ward exclaimed.
In addition to participating in the JFK 50 Mile, Ward’s passion has led him across the nation to compete in various events, some tied to family vacations and others to hiking trips. Among those are 25 marathons each totalling 26.2 miles in length; two trips to the Boston Marathon that required prequalifying times for participation; and 50 ultramarathons over 26.2 miles.
Ward also notably spent one week in California this summer where he successfully reached the summit of Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower 48 states, for the second time. He also logged a successful hike to the summit of Half-Dome in Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park that reaches a height of 8,945 feet. Both trips as well as other races in Vermont, Virginia, New York, West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming and Montana have helped improve his endurance for his participation in the JFK 50.
“I have always used the JFK 50 as my physical yardstick. My thought is that if you can cover 50 miles in less than the 14- hour time limit, you have to be doing something right,” Ward said.
Future plans for Ward are continuing his training for the 2011 JFK 50 that is scheduled for November 19 and other upcoming events as long as his health continues to remain in tiptop shape.
“I’ve been blessed over the years with great health, and I have not had any running-related injuries, just a few sprained ankles and some sore muscles along the way. I have a few races that have been on the bucket list for a while that I hope to remove one by one. I knocked a couple from that list this past summer, and at the same time I added a few. I have my eyes on an event in Alaska that I would love to tackle, so we will have to see what that leads to,” he concluded.