Henry Ward is a 51 year old ultrarunner who grew up in Waltham, Massachusetts, and currently resides in Chandler, Arizona.
Hello, my name is Henry Ward, and am a recovering alcoholic and addict and also an ultrarunner. I have been in recovery since November 17, 2008. I have been married to my beautiful wife for 16 years, and we have an adorable nine year old son. I am a chef by trade, and I love to run. But this so-called normal life wasn’t always the case.
You see, for 22 years, I abused drugs and alcohol. I should be dead. I had numerous drug and alcohol-related arrests. I almost lost my family. I almost lost my life. So the biggest challenge of my life came when I had to finally admit my addiction and seek help. I made one of the best decisions in my life and I checked myself into Valley Hope Tempe, and have been sober ever since. That was November 2008.
One thing I know about addiction is you have to be 100% ready and 100% committed to stopping forever and they say “hit rock bottom.” Completely understanding that I could never drink or use again was huge for me.Running has been critical in my recovery. Like I previously mentioned, I’ve been sober since November 2008 and it wasn’t until 2013 that I found running. Although I know deep down inside I will never use or drink again, I still had a void in my life that needed to be filled. The two years leading up to May 2013 when I found running I was becoming a squirrely mess. I had no hobbies. I had a lot of built-up energy inside they needed to release. Once I found running I found my new addiction. Though I wasn’t drinking or using, I became restless, and sort of a dry drunk. I knew I needed to do something.
I had asked a friend that we were going to be visiting, if he was going to run an 8k race (Glassfest 8k) where he lived. In Corning, NY. He said he would run if I did. I said sign me up! I didn’t even know how far an 8k was at the time! I ran two times leading up to the big day while pushing Sebastian in his stroller, and ran with him in the race.
I hated every second of the race, and vowed never to run again. Every time a runner passed me, I got more and more angry. I honestly wanted to trip, elbow all runners I saw. But when I finished, I received a glass medallion, and also had a feeling that I will never forget. A feeling of accomplishment, and happiness, that prompted me to seek out another race as we went back to the friend’s house. I signed up for a 5k, then a 4 miler the following weekend. Google: running races waltham ma = Race Around Waltham Series! The race I am most grateful for is the Glassfest 8k, because I did not give up, I did not quit.
I loved how I felt during and after running. Well, sometimes not feeling it while running, The runner’s high, and endorphin kick was like no other. I am thankful that I found running, and it has changed my life for the better. Not only does it help keep me sober, it helps me feel balanced, and live life on life’s terms. I was hooked on racing, then once it became easier, I really was hooked on running.
I quickly realized that I really enjoyed pushing myself to go further, and knew early on that I could be a distance runner. I registered for the Boston Marathon Half Marathon in October 2013. This was a big deal, and all I thought about! I did well, and knew after completing it I wanted more. What is the progression, a full marathon! I registered for the 2014 Pittsburgh Marathon and really enjoyed the long distance training runs leading up to the race. I ran the Wineglass Marathon in October, then the following year I ran 8 marathons! I was hooked on this distance, until I heard about ultrarunning. My 1st question was, “why would anyone want to run more than 26.2 miles?” Well, I did! I started asking questions, joining groups, and reading about this ultrarunning thing.
My 1st ultra was Manchester to Monadnock. I thought I was prepared for this, but the reality is that I had no idea what I was in for. I really did enjoy all aspects of the event and learned a lot from it. I was now obsessed with more. With addicts, there is no such thing as moderation. It is more, more and more!
Once I started to have some success in my running I realized that running could give me a platform to share my story of hope. I signed up to do a stage race in Patagonia Argentina in 2017 and started raising funds for that. I wanted to do some out-of-the-box fundraising concepts so that I could reach larger audiences. Quite often, the media got a hold of the story and did some news segments and articles about my story about my recovery which obviously could reach larger masses of people. I did a three hour spinathon at my gym, 12 hour treadmillathon in my friend’s gym in Corning New York, the Boston Marathon quad which is the marathon course four consecutive times, a 24-hour track run, 24-hour desert run all within six months they raised $12,000 for Runwell. The money raised went directly to getting those who could not afford treatment for addiction get the help they needed. Runwell also encourages running and fitness as part of the recovery process.
Since 2017, I have used my running platform to raise funds and awareness to fight addiction. I have done two 24-Hour desert runs in the middle of the hot Arizona summer, five Boston Marathon quads, and three Mesa Marathon quads, 12 hour treadmill, 24 hour treadmill, and a 66.6 hour treadmill events, 24 hour track run all in fundraising efforts. I try to tell people it’s okay to be an alcoholic and addict. Most alcoholics and addicts don’t want to be the way they are. But there is help, and there is hope. If there’s a tomorrow, there is hope.
When I discovered running in May 2013, my life drastically changed for the better once again. Running helps me live life on life’s terms. When I start the day with a run the whole day seems to flow better. An afternoon run can help burn off the craziness of a busy workday. I’ll take this running addiction over the days and all the madness of my alcohol and drug addiction years. I am living proof that second chances matter. I am on a mission to pay it forward. I want to help others receive treatment. I want to expose them to a whole new world of clarity and optimism. I’m passionate about fighting addiction and serving those living in recovery. I honestly believe that you can do anything you want to do. Sometimes you need help, treatment, guidance, and therapy. The first step is to want to change.
Being an addict, there is no cure. I have to be careful of being too obsessive, and wanting more, more, more. I think it is important to be hungry, and progressive, but with that can come a cost. The most important thing for me is taking care of myself. The 1st thing I learned in recovery is that I have to take care of myself 1st. If I do not take care of myself, I cannot take care of anyone else. I cannot not take care of a job,I cannot take care of our home. Running is self care for me, but in the same breath if I run too much, I will distance myself from my family, and I will take away from family time. Family is the 2nd most important thing to me. I would be nothing without them. They are my world. Physically if I run 150 miles a week, constantly race, I will break down. I know that. I need to cross train, and build myself to last. I want to be running when I am 80! I need to have crazy goals, I just cannot have tooooo many of them be running goals. As they say in recovery, “one is too many, and 1000 is not enough.” I need to pick my battles, choose my events wisely. I am well aware that I am a work in progress, and sometimes I need to be reminded by my wife that I need to cut back the miles, or that I need a rest day or days. I’ll take this running addiction over the active addiction years 100% of the time.