He keeps running and running. Michael Wardian just never stops. Many runners have been given the tag, ‘Forest Gump’ and in 2016 we certainly witnessed a couple of real life ‘Gump’s’ in Pete Kostelnick and Karl Speedgoat Meltzer who respectively set two new records: Running Across the USA and setting an FKT on the Appalachian Trail. Kostelnick and Speedgoat produced two remarkable performances, but Michael Wardian raced 47 events in 2016, he raced 1,254-miles in total and in the process, he set 2 World records, had 8-victories, 22-podiums, 31-top ten placings and 26 ‘master’s’ victories. Wardian is a man on a mission and 2016 is not an unusual year… this committed husband and father of two races like this, year-in and year-out.
Ask any runner, mention Michael Wardian and they will usually provide one of two answers:
“That dude is crazy, he races all the time, I don’t know how he does it?”
Or an alternate answer may be, “Jeez, he’s so inspiring, he races week-in and week-out, often racing 2-3 times in any 7-day period and he doesn’t ‘just’ complete but he competes and often wins!”
Whichever way you look at it, Wardian inspires! As 2016 ends we are already aware that he has entries for 2017 in two iconic races, Hardrock 100 and The Barkley. I’ve spent many hours with him on the trails, in 2014 I saw him in action at Costa Rica’s ‘The Coastal Challenge’ when he took each day as an individual day and he had a solid victory against some strong competition in a course record time.
But what makes him tick?
“I have a full-time job as an International Ship Broker and I fit all that I do in with the support of my family, work, sponsors and I work remotely a great deal, if I have internet I can do my job anywhere on the planet. I should say, that without the support of my boss, Keith Powell and my colleague and sister, Mariele Wardian, it wouldn’t be possible…”
That is some challenge, not only on a personal level but a work level. Mixing work, family and running to this level is a huge commitment and I am continually amazed at Wardian’s success at races. I wondered, how do work colleagues take it?
“They are big fans and supporters and help to cover for me, I also need to thank my clients as they definitely are a part of my team and always are asking where I am racing and if I won?”
Family plays a key part in the success of Wardian and I am also amazed that on occasion, family joins on some of the more exotic trips – I guess it’s a way to find some balance and equilibrium. I asked about family and the role they play in the success of this unstoppable runner.
“I do have a family consisting of two boys Pierce (10 years) and Grant (8 years) and Rosie our 3-year-old vizsla and my wife Jennifer. I think finding a balance is key, Jennifer and I switch off days of the week to workout, she goes Monday, Wednesday, Friday and I go on Tuesday and Thursday in the AM. Then I normally race or do something on the weekend. It works great. As far as finding balance, Jennifer and I have been together for about 20-years so we have come to divide up the work really.”
You’d think racing as often as he does that Wardian would have no time or need to train, that is not the case. One thing you realise after talking for just minutes is that Wardian loves to run… training or racing, he just wants to run.
“I always try and keep my training as ‘invisible’ as possible so that I am back from a run when the boys are getting up or I run during work. At weekends, I go early if I am not racing and if I am racing and the family wants to go I try. I bring them as much as possible and I love having them there.”
Warden’s commitment amazes me, I’m left wondering what training is, it can’t be much I think to myself, I find the temptation and desire for knowledge too great and before I realise it, I ask, “I can’t believe you have time to train, what does a week look like?”
“I usually train 3-4 times a day during the week and race or run longer on the weekend. Training is straight forward; I like to do marathon type training and some workouts thrown in. This year I was racing a ton so a lot of weeks I was just doing pretty steady runs to get my legs back to do another long race the following weekend.”
That’s a crazy amount of running I think to myself. Does he sleep?
“Right now, I am running to work which is 6-8 miles, running at lunch (1 hour mostly on treadmill at “big” incline from 8-12%, that is as high as treadmill goes at work), then I run home. I run 16-20 miles per day which is great!”
The thought exhausts me!
Is this what it takes to run at this level and so often? I don’t have the answers and in all honesty, I don’t think Wardian does. Running is an extension of his life, it’s like an arm or a leg, it’s connected to him and just what he does. He just happens to do it well. For many, this many hours or miles per week with racing intensity thrown in would be way too much… it would break them. A couple of years back it nearly broke Wardian, he had multiple stress fractures and hernia’s – his body was giving in to the punishment. Throughout this ‘down time’ Wardian remained positive, never giving in, never doubting that he would return. I questioned if a return was possible and if possible, surely Wardian would run less?
He did for a while, he eased himself back but he was soon racing weekly and running back-to-back races at incredible speed with amazing recovery. 2016 has proven that Wardian is a phenomenon, a wonderful phenomenon in the amazing world of ultra-running. As one year closes, another year begins. It’s a dangerous question to ask Wardian, ‘what’s next?’ With most runner’s it would be a one or two-word answer, at best a sentence. With Wardian, no! A little laughter and then he reads out a list… you are going to see Wardian a great deal in 2017.
January 18-30, 2017: 7 Marathons, 7 Continents, 7 Days-Worldwide: www.worldmarathonchallenge.com
February 5-20, 2017: Tarawera 100K-New Zealand: http://www.taraweraultra.co.nz/
April 1, 2017: Barkley Marathon
April 2, 2017: Cherry Blossom 10 Miler: Credit Union Cherry Blossom
April 17, 2017: Boston Marathon: www.bostonmarathon.com
April 30, 2017: Big Sur Marathon: www.bsim.org
May 10-14, 2017: Kosovo…maybe for trip for State Department
May 18-21, 2017: Ultra-Trail Australia: http://www.ultratrailaustralia.com.au/
May 28, 2017: Calgary 50K or 150K: http://www.calgarymarathon.com/races.html
June 24-25, 2017: Western States 100 Miler: Western States Endurance Run
July 14, 2017: Hardrock 100 Miler: http://hardrock100.com/
August 28, 2017: UTMB: UTMB®
Of course, this is ‘just’ the list for now, I expect many races to be added in true Wardian fashion…
Some of Wardian’s 2016 statistics are HERE