From the road to the lake - record seeking runner Ward drowns injury woes in open water swimming

Gainsborough 10k, Race winner Andy Ward from Clowne Road Runners'(NGAS-16-03-14 BC 1i)
Gainsborough 10k, Race winner Andy Ward from Clowne Road Runners'(NGAS-16-03-14 BC 1i)

One of the area’s finest runners, who had his 10k record bid cut cruelly short by injury, is finding solace in a new sport.

A nerve problem forced Andy Ward to hang up his running shoes a year ago, and he then quit his coaching role with Clowne Road Runners early in 2015.

Percy Pud 10km Race 2012. Race winner Andy Ward (centre), second Alan Buckley (right) and third place Gareth Lowe (left)

Percy Pud 10km Race 2012. Race winner Andy Ward (centre), second Alan Buckley (right) and third place Gareth Lowe (left)

But he’s drowning his sorrows, so to speak, in the lake at Harthill, after developing a passion for open water swimming.

Ward was regularly a contender in national and regional 10k races, and in 2014 was continuing to set a blistering pace.

That all came to an end however when an injury was too troublesome to rehabilitate.

The 44-year-old explained: “I stopped about a year ago after a nerve injury in my back that presented problems in my achilles.

“I could have really pushed to get it sorted, but I would have had to spend a lot of time seeking treatment that wasn’t guaranteed to fix it.

“I wanted to be full on with my running or not at all, and sometimes you have to make these decisions.”

It couldn’t have come at a worse time for Ward, who had his sights set on race records.

“In my last year I ran the third fastest 10k on a road by any Englishman over 40 years of age,” he said.

“I was 16th in the National Cross Country Championship, and that was open age, competing against everyone.”

“I ran 29.37 for my 10k and for a 44-year-old I think that’s one of the fastest in the world – there’s no way of knowing for sure but we can’t see anyone who has gone faster.”

“At 45 I think I would have gone for a lot of record times, my 10k time was 45 seconds inside the record for a 45-year-old.”

“I’m really proud of those achievements but it had to come to an end, which is obviously disappointing.”

Aside from his regrets over the injury, Ward has made peace with his exit from the running world, and wishes his former clubmates well.

“I’ve not fallen out with anyone, I’m a lifetime member of the club but you can’t keep doing everything and the club is still going strong.”

“I’m still friends with everyone, it will probably do them the world of good to have a break from me.”

Not one to sit at home with his feet up, Ward set about making a splash with Yorkshire Outdoor Swimmers.

“I’ve started open water swimming, it’s a new challenge for me.”

“I wanted to do something different and be a bit more relaxed about it.”

“Swimming in a pool is great, but when you’re outdoors it’s really exhilarating, you can’t see the bottom and it’s really cold. It’s tough.”

“It’s a lovely lake at Harthill and they’re a really good, organised club. When I joined they had 300 members and it’s growing all the time.”

And after 12 years of involvement with one of the region’s most competitive running clubs, it’s no surprise that Ward won’t rule out the prospect of racing in the water.

“We’ll see how it goes, I’m not making any predictions about that,” he said.

“If I can hold my own I will, but I’m not the swimmer that I was the runner, it’s hard work.”