In my opinion, one of the toughest feats to accomplish in sports is running a marathon. You’re moving nonstop for 26.2 miles. You don’t get a break (unless you choose to change your pace), and use almost all the bones in the lower half of your body. I personally don’t know many people who can commit to doing that.
Now imagine juggling training for a marathon with playing Division-I basketball at a tough academic school. It’s hard to picture right?
When Jordan Wood committed to Howard in 2020 out of San Antonio, Texas, he never thought he was going to run a marathon during his college basketball career. The goal was to become a pro basketball player.
But after a rough season, head coach Kenny Blakeney had an idea that changed Wood’s basketball journey: take a summer off from organized basketball and train for a marathon.
“I just came up with this crazy thought because I have trained for a marathon, for him to train for a marathon,” Blakeney said. “I told him, ‘I don’t care what you do basketball-wise all summer. I just want you to really work at this.’ Marathon training is something that is really difficult and tough, and I really thought it would help him get over any fear or challenges that he may have in order to have success and reach his maximum potential.”
Wood has shown that he could be an all-league player at times, but hasn reached his maximum potential on the court. A late bloomer out of high school, he chose the Harvard of the HBCUs, Howard, over PWIs like Columbia, Cornell, Iona, and Tulsa.
When Blakeney was scouting Wood, he comped him to Gordon Hayward, a Butler legend who has gone on to be an NBA All-Star. Anonymous NBA scouts have said Wood has the most potential out of anyone in the Howard program.
Now it was just time to put in the work and prove those people right. So, something had to change.
“Until about January, me and Coach Blakeney were butting heads a little bit,” Wood said. “I think he saw some of the struggles I was having and wanted me to do something tough. In our exit meeting, he told me two things. He wanted me to get down to 200-205 (pounds) and be shredded, and he wanted me to run a marathon.”
Since, Wood has not played an organized basketball game. Rather, he’s grinded towards his new goal: to complete the International Peace Marathon in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 10. The race entails running up and back the Georgetown waterfront on a balmy Saturday morning.
The training was tough to begin. Wood would wake up frustrated like any other 20-year-old kid who is getting ready to run a marathon. In week one, he ran three times hitting nine miles. The three weeks after he upped his run total. Then he got into a habit of running six times a week hitting a different benchmark each time.
What had once become a hassle was now a mental and physical reward and a part of his everyday routine.
“I can definitely see the progression from when I first started,” Wood said. “It’s really helped me believe in my capabilities and know that I can push myself to limits that I didn’t think I could push myself to.”
Ahead of the race on Saturday, Wood has gotten down to 205 pounds and says he’s the strongest and leanest that he’s ever been. On the basketball court, he said he can count on his hand how many times he’s been tired during practice this summer.
Mentally, he feels more confident in himself. Exactly what the coaching staff wanted out of this experience: for him to grow.
“Now, I just believe that I can do anything. I’ve done crazy stuff like run 20 miles,” Wood said. “Like, I don’t know any of my friends that have done that. It definitely makes me believe in myself a lot more.”
Wood will gear up for his third basketball season at Howard after the race on Saturday. If he has a strong season at the Mecca, you can thank Coach Blakeney’s out-of-the-box idea and Wood’s embrace of it.