GMR 20 Stories – Jerry Ward

The AJ Bell Great Manchester Run in 2023 will be the 20th staging of the event. In recognition of this incredible milestone, we’re looking back on 20 unforgettable stories from two decades of running in the capital of the North.

63-year-old Jerry Ward, a former pilot from Cheshire, was paralysed in 2007 in a freak accident while swimming in the sea in Mexico. He was transferred by Air Ambulance to Hope Hospital in Salford. After a lengthy operation to remove all the shattered parts of his vertebrae and install a titanium plate to support the remainder of his neck, Jerry remained in intensive care for the next three months.

Whilst in the Hope Hospital, he set himself the goal of competing in the 2008 Great Manchester Run. From his bed in intensive care, he could see the ‘finish line’, the Hilton Hotel, Beetham tower.

Jerry explains, “I had completed the event once already and before my accident was training hard with the goal of beating my wife over the 10k”

“When I said I still wanted to take part, the nursing staff in ICU thought I had gone mad, but none of them were brave enough to tell me. After all, I was on a life support ventilator and being fed through a tube. That was until they realised that my bloody-mindedness and determination would get me through.”

“By May 2008, I was well enough to start venturing out and about. I was able to take part in the Great Manchester 10k run, otherwise known as Fatty’s Big Push. Fatty is supposedly a term of endearment from my daughter!

“Although beating the wife still looked unlikely, we were escorted by a member of the hospital nursing staff who thought that she was coming out for a stroll around Manchester. However, the pushing team got a bit carried away and went through the first Km in 6 minutes and 30 seconds – sorry Sarah.”

“Since that first incredible experience, we took on the Great Manchester Run another 11 times, including virtually during the pandemic.

“Each year the team would grow and change, with thousands being raised for different charities.

“For us, the event has always been an opportunity to spread the word about life after Spinal Cord Injury through interviews with the media and meeting some amazing people.

“Big Push 1 was just a few family members and close friends, by Big Push 10 people who I had never met before were joining in. But most of all, the event was always good fun.

“The event brings so many facets of friendly, northern city life together, everyone wants to help.”

Be part of a spectacular running celebration in the heart of Manchester on Sunday 21 May 2023, celebrating 20 years of the AJ Bell Great Manchester Run.

Whether you take on the 10k or Half Marathon challenge, you’ll line up on the iconic Portland Street start line and feel the goosebumps as you and 25,000 other runners follow the famous route, pass Manchester landmarks and set your sights on Deansgate for a grandstand finish.

With live music and entertainment zones at every turn, roaring charity cheering squads, plus the incredible local support who line the streets to cheer you on, it’ll be a party from start to finish.

This year’s event takes place on Sunday 21 May and entries are open now. Click here to sign up.