Jared Ward, who is set to compete in the marathon for the U.S. at the Olympics in Rio this summer, takes first place in the half-marathon in Seattle’s Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon event on Saturday. Kara Ford was the winner in the women’s half-marathon.
Victory in Seattle is different from victory in Rio de Janeiro. Jared Ward knows it.
But that didn’t stop him from savoring the moment.
Ward, 27, who is set to compete in the marathon for the United States in the 2016 Olympics, coasted to a first-place finish in the Seattle Rock ’n’ Roll half-marathon Saturday morning. He routed the competition with a 1:06:01 finish, two minutes faster than second-place runner Craig Hopkins.
“This is something that I don’t get to experience as much,” he said of the event, which featured bands along the course route.
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“This is quite the experience. I felt like I was smiling the whole way.”
But for Ward, out of Kaysville, Utah, who qualified for Rio in February by finishing third at the Olympic trials in Los Angeles, the half-marathon marked the beginning of a summer of tough training for what will surely be the biggest race of his life. A first-time Olympian, Ward said he has been averaging 100 miles each week in preparation.
In July, he said, he’ll increase the mileage to about 120 per week. Saturday’s race was his second-to-last competitive run before Rio. Ward will also run the Peachtree Road Race on July 4 in Atlanta.
Seattle, though, was special for him.
“I’ve always loved Seattle,” he said. “I came here and raced in college (for Brigham Young) all the time. Every time I’ve been here, I’ve loved it. Today I got the tour first-hand.”
He took full advantage, even if it was a quick one. Once he pulled away during Mile 7, Ward had his fun. He played basketball with his empty water cups and the trash cans that lined the course — he went 0 for 5 — high-fived fans and cheered on other runners, all while maintaining his 5-minute mile pace. He even raced a small child down the street for a stretch.
His focus now is on the Olympic Games, Ward will return to Utah to continue altitude training.
He’ll get more serious. But he says he won’t shake the surreal joy that has carried him for the past few months.
Aside from the marathon itself, Ward is most looking forward to walking through the tunnel at the opening ceremonies.
“I still wake up in the morning and wonder if this is for real or if it’s just some big dream,” he said.
“I remember laying in bed the nights right after Olympic trials and thinking: ‘What happened? How did it happen? What’s going on?’ I think it’ll really hit me out there at the opening ceremonies.”
In the women’s half marathon, 37-year-old Kara Ford took first with a 1:19:59 finish ahead of second-place finisher Monica Folts. The Broomfield, Colo., resident didn’t start running competitively until after college, and she said Saturday’s race was “by far” the largest she has won.
Ford, who is rehabilitating from an injury and focusing on speed by competing in half-marathons this year, plans on racing in the Chicago marathon in October.
She said this was her favorite half-marathon so far.
“The course was beautiful,” she said.
“I just was hoping to PR, but I was actually off by about 13 seconds. I thought I was on pace the whole time, it felt great, but there’s a few hills on the course that counterbalanced the downhill so I think I was about as close as I could’ve been to a PR today.”