RIPLEY - Take a drive through Ripley late at night and you may see a man in shorts and a Ripley High hoodie running through town, around the courthouse and beyond. That man is Jason Ward and he has been training for Rock N Roll Series (whole) Marathon in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 17.
Several thousand runners will compete for a chance to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Ward has what he feels are realistic goals for the race.
"While it would be great to qualify for the Boston Marathon, my goals are a bit more realistic for where I am as a runner right now. I would like to finish the race in four to four and a half hours," said Ward.
It all started for Ward when he had back surgery in 2007 and ballooned to over 300 pounds on his 5-foot-10 frame.
"I was miserable and decided to start running and I haven't stopped since," he added. Ward believes that running is great way to stay fit and that it gets into your blood and becomes part of who you are. "I absolutely love to run," he says.
Ward now weighs in at 219 and is still reaching for his goal of 200 pounds. The Ripley track and volleyball coach has developed a healthy competition with college buddies Dave Swartz and Brent Cottrill.
"We travel to marathons together and compete. We encourage each other and it helps us stay in touch and gives us something to do together," said Ward.
The trio has competed in Canton Ohio's Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon and the Athens Marathon among others. The Canton race boasted over 900 runners. Ward finished fourth in the Clydesdale Division in Parkersburg's Half Marathon in August.
Ward says that even the most dedicated, elite runners are supportive of a guy who may not look the part in their eyes lacing up the shoes.
"I haven't had one incident where I felt out of place. When the elite runners finish the race, many of them come back to encourage you to finish strong. They actually respect people who try to do this because it is not easy," said the 1996 Wirt County High graduate.
"I get a lot of support from Ripley High students and parents who see me out training. The students tell me that they like seeing me out there working and that makes me feel good," said the Ripley High World History and Advanced Placement Government teacher.
The Rock N Roll Marathon begins on East Dewey Drive in the city and circles around into the desert and back onto Las Vegas Boulevard where the runners will finish under the bright lights of "Sin City."
"Brent, Dave and I are really excited for this. It will be the largest group of runners I have ran with," added Ward.
Page 2 of 2 - His enthusiasm and dedication to the sport is infectious and will undoubtedly carry him as he competes against elite runners from around the world. "I really don't think too much about it. I train and prepare myself the best way I know how and just go compete and have fun with it."