Jared Ward, Eagle Scout and Olympic marathoner: Scouting taught me to do hard things

Jared Ward is an elite-level marathon racer, a statistics professor at BYU, a father of two and a member of Team USA’s 2016 Olympic team.

So, yeah. The 27-year-old has experienced some incredible things in his life. That makes it all the more remarkable to hear him say this: “Some of my best memories came while I was in a Boy Scout uniform.”

Yes, Ward is an Eagle Scout. He earned Scouting’s highest honor in 2006 in Kaysville, Utah.

He’ll race for Team USA in the 2016 Olympic marathon on the Games’ final day. The race starts at 8:30 a.m. EDT on Sunday, Aug. 21, and will be broadcast live on NBC.

Learned to ‘do hard things’

Ward remembers the Polar Bear Swim at the Trapper Trails Council’s Camp Loll: 10 seconds under an ice-cold waterfall.

That chilling experience, coupled with countless other challenging-but-fun moments in Scouting, taught Ward “that I can do hard things.”

He’s been conquering those hard things ever since.

In February, Ward qualified for the Olympics by finishing third in the U.S. Olympic Trials. He ran 26.2 miles in 2 hours, 13 minutes. That’s a ridiculously fast pace of 5 minutes, 10 seconds per mile.

While those miles zoom by on Sunday, perhaps he’ll think of his time in Scouting — camping with his best friends, fishing in the Uinta Mountains, telling stories around the campfire.

“Many life lessons I learned in Scouting helped my career,” he says. “Like working hard and sacrificing. I don’t think you can train hard all the time, for a whole life, but I do think you can shape your character and drive in many different ways. In that way I think Scouting was great for my running career.”

Scouting will ‘set you up for success’

Ward says success in the Rio marathon will be knowing he gave his all as his feet cross the finish line.

“I can’t control how well others run, but I can control me,” he says. “I’ve always thought that it seems ridiculous to be frustrated with my performance because someone else ran great. I am going out to put myself in a position to end up on the podium, but if I can come home and look in the mirror and say, ‘I gave that my all,’ I will be happy.”

He has some advice for Scouts looking to follow in his speedy footsteps: start practicing good habits now.

Habits like working hard, learning to sacrifice things for a bigger cause and setting goals are what made Ward an Olympian.

“These things, along with all of the qualities in the Scout Law, can transfer into all facets of life,” he says. “Ingraining these habits early in life will set you up for success — in athletics and otherwise.”

That “otherwise” is important. While not everyone can finish a marathon, everyone has incredible talents, Ward says. The trick is identifying them.

“We are all the same,” he says. “I’d like everyone to think of me just like I am one of them. I work hard, just like you can work hard. I may have a different set of talents, but we all have talents that we can, and should, find and develop.”

Eagle Scout roommates

One cool side note: Ward’s Rio roommate also is an Eagle Scout!

Earlier this week I profiled John Nunn, a race walker for Team USA. Well, it turns out the two are roommates at the 2016 Olympics. They have even attended some Olympic events together.

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