Copperas Cove senior citizen completes half-marathon in all 50 states
By LYNETTE SOWELL
Longtime area resident Jan Ward will turn 78 years old this fall, and slowing down does not cross her mind.
In January 2023, she completed a goal of running a half-marathon in all 50 states, when she completed the Mainly Marathon’s Aloha Series half-marathon in Hawaii on January 20. A half-marathon is 13.1 miles.
Back in 2018, Ward accomplished her goal of running mostly 5Ks in all 50 states, and she reached this goal along with her teenage grandson, Turtle Powell, who ran the events with her. Powell has since graduated high school and gone on to college, but Ward set another goal for herself: to complete a half-marathon in all 50 states.
Ward’s running “career” isn’t something she’s been doing for decades, but she began running in her late 60s, with the goal of staying active and not falling prey to physical decline and mobility issues that plague some senior citizens.
“I did not start putting one foot in front of the other with purpose until a week after my 68th birthday in September of 2013, five years after retiring from a 47-year career in dentistry,” Ward said, who worked as a dental hygienist.
As she shared with people about her quest and the races, there was something she found important to share with others.
“I found myself always relating that I want people, especially seniors, to know that you can accomplish these goals,” Ward emphasized.
Reaching the goal of completing 50 half-marathons has had its delays.
Originally, she had planned to complete all 50 events by her 75th birthday, in 2020.
“Well, we all know what that turned out to be,” she said, referring to the multiple running events canceled during the time of the pandemic outbreak. Likewise, she found herself also aiding her family and caring for grandchildren.
Then, she began having physical issues which caused her being unable to walk for almost two months in 2021.
“Slowly, with hours and hours of physical therapy and personal training I started to move again,” she said. “Our trips to Colorado were stretched out to two days to get there to relieve our bodies of stress.
“Then, in November of 2021 I booked three states in the Southwest Mainly Marathons Series, with lots of prayer to be able to drive there, walk the distances and drive home without a setback.”
She said the three half-marathons took her five hours each to complete, but she got there, walked and jogged her way through, then returned home to Texas with no pain and no setback.
The year 2022 began with Ward knowing she had 14 more to complete and knowing that nearly two years being out of commission had set her behind.
Last spring, she put the nose to the grindstone and set in plans to complete the final states to reach her goal. She went on to complete seven half-marathons in June, two in July, two in September.
Also in 2022 came a big challenge for Ward – visiting seven states for half-marathons in 11 days. She continued her races and went from five hours, to under four hours’ completion time.
Then came the Bass Pro Half-Marathon in Missouri, which was state number 49 for Ward. She knew she needed to complete a race physically in Missouri.
“I couldn’t shake the conviction that I needed to return to Missouri and officially do a half (marathon) on their soil. I had done a virtual (half marathon) in Texas,” she said. “Thanks to a sweet friend, Pamela Walker Shank, who picked me up at the Springfield (Missouri) airport late on a Friday after getting my packet for me, then took me to the race early Saturday morning, I was able to finish that half-marathon in 3:35:59, and even received third place for my age group.”
Her friend then whisked her back to the airport the following Monday so Ward could return to Texas.
At the end of January 2023, after she completed Copperas Cove’s Polar Bear Plunge 5K, Ward was given a surprise celebration by her friends and presented with cake, balloon, cards and gifts.
She had just returned from Hawaii, the location of her 50th half-marathon.
“The odds of my doing this were not in my favor, but hard work, prayer and divine healing have made it possible. So much so that I now have another goal, to run a 10K in all 50 states. Age is a number. Determination is a choice. Hard work won’t kill you!” she tells other seniors, and anyone else. “Go for it!”