Meet Jared Ward, The U.S. Olympic Marathon Runner Who Has Only Ever Run Five Full Marathons
The longest distance I’ve ever run is 13 miles. I’ve done it a couple of times in events like a Tough Mudder, or similar obstacle course races. Each and every time I’ve done it I’ve found myself absolutely hating life, and vowing to never put myself through that kind of torture again.
Which is part of the reason I couldn’t fathom running a marathon, much less running a marathon competitively, but you know who can? Jared Ward. And to say that Jared runs the marathon competitively would be a bit of an understatement. After only 5 competitive races the guy is bound for Rio later this summer.
I got a chance to talk with Jared about everything from his interesting academic work (he’s a part time professor), how he got into marathon running, what his training looks like, and a few other questions. Check it out bros.
You’ve had a pretty remarkable rise, in a very short period of time, in the marathon world. How exactly did this come about? Has competitive marathoning been something you’ve always wanted to do?
I was always a running in high school and college, primarily cross-country. When I was in high school early on I really started to notice some serious incremental improvement, and that continued well into college. Heading into my last year of eligibility my college coach, who is still my coach to this day, and I got together and decided to train for a marathon.
It wound up being a process that I absolutely fell in love with. The long runs, the crazy amount of running volume each and every week, it all felt like something that was natural to me that I just kind of happened upon, and I’m blessed to have found it.
What does a typical training week look like for you? How many miles are you logging? How much time is spent running?
So normally during the school year I work part-time as a teacher, which takes up about 20 hours a week. But this summer I took off from teaching, and right now I’m running about 120 miles a week in total, with some cross training mixed in.
I’ll typically get in 2-3 lifting sessions per week, primarily focusing on moves like squats and lunges, for very low reps and heavy weight to ensure I’ve got a good base of strength for the long runs.
I’ll get in a long run on every Saturday, which is typically anywhere from 20-25 miles, and then always take Sunday off from all activity.
With all of the training that you do have you noticed that you can more or less eat whatever you want? Or do you have to keep your nutrition dialed in?
You know, back in college it was totally the mindset that I could eat anything and everything that I wanted. But even as I’ve gotten older, and I’m only 27, I’ve noticed that’s changed because I’ll start to pack on weight, and in the marathon that’s not exactly a good thing.
So I definitely pay attention to getting in plenty of protein, lots of quality fats, and especially timing my carbs to go with my runs to make sure I’ve got plenty of energy. Right now I’m eating anywhere from 2,500 – 3,500 calories per day depending on my workload, and it’s typically pretty balanced.
The carb thing was something I wanted to bring up since you’ve got an interesting story with GLUKOS, the intra-race product you’re a big fan of.
Yeah, so anyone who has done a long race of some sort can tell you that getting in some sort of carb source during the race is massively important. But when I started running I noticed that nearly every single sports drink or gel out there upset my stomach, and caused major digestion issues.
And I had tried everything, mind you. Every single gel out there, sports drinks, and even flat, diluted soft drinks, which is what old school runners used to use during a race.
Back in college I found this product GLUKOS that made a huge difference for me, because it actually settled well in my stomach. Ever since then it’s been my go to, and a product that I’m a huge fan of. I truly can’t put into perspective just how much of a difference it’s made for me.
So tell me a bit about your academic background.
The running community is always kind of thought of as the nerdy athletic community, so in that sense I’m not really different from anyone. I had always been someone who loved math, but I never really felt like I saw places where it had massive application.
At BYU early on though I fell in love with the statistics department, the professors, the classes, everything. I wound up deciding that I wanted to stay an extra year and get a Masters in statistics, and wound up doing my thesis on marathon pacing strategy.
This became something that was really important to me, and the academic side of things is something that I feel like offers much needed balance to my life. I’m still a part time professor, a husband, and a father. So if I go out and run a bad race, I know I still have my classes and family to come back to and keep me grounded.
One last question, how long are you going to be in Rio, and you mentioned that you have a family, are you bringing them with you?
I’ll head to Rio on August 3rd so I can be there for the opening ceremony, but the marathon won’t take place until the last day of the games, on August 21st. My family won’t be coming with me, since my wife is pregnant. It just makes more sense for her to stay at home. But my parents will be out there cheering me on.
Thanks so much for talking with me, Jared. Best of luck in Rio.
Thanks a ton man.