CHANDLER, AZ — Valley ultra-marathon runner and lifelong addict Henry Ward is throwing a lifeline to others like him.
He's hoping to help those seeking sobriety get back on their feet by raising money to help pay for their treatment in a rather unique way.
Ward continues to outrun his own demons. He’s been pulling away day by day since 2008 with no intentions of looking back.
“Nine years ago I couldn’t run from here to Walgreens without being winded and gassed,” said Ward as he jogged on a treadmill inside Chandler MMA Tuesday. “There are 25 million Americans that are actively suffering from addiction.”
Now more than a decade into sobriety, Ward draws his inspiration from his wife who refused to leave when things hit rock bottom. He’s running from addiction for the future of his nine-year-old son, a simple obsession that continues to keep him on track.
“And I found there’s a lot of people just like me, people suffering from addiction, anxiety, other mental health issues, and I had a whole new group of friends, this running community,” said Ward.
He says prior to discovering his passion, the dark days nearly killed him. Drinking to excess all day every day. Lying and hurting his friends and family. Living in denial that there was a problem at all or at least one that he wanted to face.
“I cheated death many times, used to drink and drive all the time, despite a few head-on collisions, DUI’s, it wasn’t enough for me to stop,” said Ward.
Fortunately for Ward, and unlike the tens of thousands who lose their lives to addiction every year, he finally did seek out treatment. Calling it the best decision of his life. That’s when his new journey really hit its stride. The running would become his vehicle to change the world for the better. What began with an 8K in Corning, New York, soon lead him to take on more races all over the world.
“I ran a stage race in Argentina, ran in Mexico, and all over the United States,” said Ward who began increasing his distances gradually over time.
Through his foundation Running without the Devil, his runs have raised more than $14,000 to support people in his community who want to kick the habit and start anew.
“I’m accepting donations to help people afford treatment, basically people in Maricopa County, we’re gonna be launching a transformation fund,” said Ward.
On Wednesday, inside Chandler MMA, Ward will step on a treadmill and stay on it for 24 straight hours.
Every dollar raised by this latest act of defiance against booze helps pay to transform a life.
“We’re gonna be documenting filming a couple selected people that apply and we’re gonna get them into a running program and train them for an ultra marathon,” said Ward.
He says it’ll be difficult but anything worth having always is, reflecting on his own experience now in hopes of changing the path of others.
Donations are being accepted both on Ward’s foundation's website or can be dropped off in person and Chandler MMA Wednesday beginning at 7 a.m.