3- Craig Ward
My uncle, Craig Ward, is an endurance athlete, University of Utah football fan, dedicated lacrosse dad, businessman, and loves spending time with his beautiful family. He is a CPA, has been the CFO of multiple companies, and loves all things business growth and development. Craig had a heart attack on June 20, 2020 and ran a marathon 2 ½ months later.
In 2015, Craig hung up his bike in the garage after finishing Lotoja, a road bike race over 200 miles long with nearly 10,000 feet of elevation gain. It had taken him almost 13 hours to finish. While preparing for the event he had developed an appreciation for the journey, he learned that the training was more satisfying than completing the race. He was hungry for another journey, but the last thing he wanted to do was sit down on that stupid bike seat.
He started to run. To Craig, running had always been a necessary evil that came at the end of a triathlon, but was never something he enjoyed. In December he began a consistent running program. By May, he was no longer looking forward to finishing each run, but instead was looking for an excuse to extend each outing. As his fitness built, he began to prepare for and compete in Half Ironman triathlons and half marathons. The 26.2 mile marathon was his chosen journey for the summer of 2020.
He signed up for the 2020 Mt. Hood marathon, which was canceled when Covid-19 made its grand entrance.
When Covid-19 also shut down my chosen race, I decided to run my event “virtually”. I called Craig and asked if he would keep me company for a few miles. My goal pace was faster than he was accustomed to, but Craig isn’t one to turn down a challenge.
On June 20, 2020 he joined me from mile 15-21 of my run, providing me with great company and solid pacing. He then let me go ahead, and he finished the last 5 miles on his own. Craig and I, along with many members of my family enjoyed post-race Costco muffins and chocolate milk. It was at this point that Craig began to experience what he assumed was indigestion. The hard run combined with chocolate milk wasn’t sitting well.
The “indigestion” continued to get worse as he drove home. Craig has 4 siblings, all of which have had at least 1 heart attack. So he called one of his brothers to ask what a heart attack felt like, and promptly drove himself to the hospital. The medical team monitored him throughout that day and night, and placed a stent the following morning to open up the blocked area. The lack of blood flow to the heart that occurs during a heart attack typically results in heart muscle death to some degree. But Craig’s heart somehow had zero damage. None.
The doctor told him to keep running. His physical therapists said that running was the best thing he could do for his heart. So that’s what he did.
September 5, 2020. Eleven weeks after he drove himself to the hospital, Craig stepped to the starting line of the East Canyon Marathon with 1 goal in mind—finish the race in 4 hours, averaging just over 9 minutes/mile. And that’s exactly what he did.
When I asked Craig how this experience has changed him, he says he is now more grateful for the little things, he is more appreciative of every moment and relationship, and he tries not to take things for granted. Craig, now more than ever, believes that in most cases our minds are the limiting factor to physical challenges. Our bodies can accomplish amazing things if we don't mentally give in. The journey might not be comfortable at times, but that's what helps us grow.