CHANDLER, AZ – Valley ultra-marathon runner and longtime addict Henry Ward offers a lifeline to others like him.
He hopes to help those seeking sobriety get back on their feet by raising funds to help pay for their treatment in a rather unique way.
Ward continues to outrun his own demons. He has been walking away day after day since 2008 with no intention of looking back.
“Nine years ago, I couldn’t run from here to Walgreens without getting short of breath and gas,” Ward said as he jogged on a treadmill inside Chandler MMA on Tuesday. “There are 25 million Americans who are actively suffering from addiction.”
Now over a decade in sobriety, Ward draws inspiration from his wife who refused to leave when things hit rock bottom. He shuns addiction for the future of his nine-year-old son, a simple obsession that continues to keep him on track.
“And I found out that there were a lot of people like me, people with addictions, anxiety, other mental health issues, and I had a whole new group of friends, this community of runners, ”Ward said.
He says that before he discovered his passion, the dark days almost killed him. Drink excessively throughout the day every day. Lying and hurting friends and family. Living in denial that there was a problem or at least one problem that he wanted to face.
“I cheated on death a couple of times, I used to drink and drive all the time, despite a few head-on crashes, DUIs, it wasn’t enough for me to stop,” Ward said.
Fortunately for Ward, and unlike the tens of thousands of people who lose their lives to drug addiction each year, he eventually sought treatment. Calling it the best decision of his life. This is when his new journey really took off. Running would become his vehicle to change the world for the better. What started with an 8K in Corning, New York, quickly led him to face more races around the world.
“I ran a stage race in Argentina, Mexico and all over the United States,” said Ward who started to increase his distances gradually over time.
Thanks to her Running without the Devil foundation, her races have raised over $ 14,000 to support people in her community who want to break the habit and start over.
“I’m accepting donations to help people pay for the treatment, basically the people of Maricopa County, we’re going to start a transformation fund,” Ward said.
On Wednesday inside Chandler MMA, Ward will walk on a treadmill and stay there for 24 straight hours.
Every dollar raised from this latest act of defiance against alcohol helps pay for life-transforming.
“We’re going to film a few select people who apply and we’re going to put them into a running program and train them for an ultra-marathon,” Ward said.
He says it will be difficult, but everything worth living still is, now reflecting on his own experience in hopes of changing the path of others.
Donations are accepted both on the Ward Foundation website or can be dropped off in person and at Chandler MMA on Wednesday starting at 7 a.m.