Back in January, just a few months ago, the trails for the US Olympic Marathon team were held on a Saturday in Houston. Exhilarating to watch, both the men’s & women’s races were run in record speeds. Even more amazing to watch was one runner, who ran a 2.21 in the men’s trial on Saturday and then ran the Houston Marathon the next day with a time of 2.31. He had also just run a marathon the week before the Olympic trails. That runner was Michael Wardian: ultra runner, family man and all around good guy. Crazy to have run a marathon the week before the marathon trials? To most people, yes! But this is no ordinary human.
There are some runners that just blow you away with their speed, others that blow you away with their sheer doggedness, and the odd, rare runner that encompasses all of the finest elements of running, one like Michael Wardian. Most elite runners will race one to two times a year, elites such as Ryan Hall or Paula Radcliffe, but Michael Wardian is in a league of his own. With a marathon PR of 2.17, he has commented that despite being aware that he could easily shave quite a few precious minutes from his PR if he focused on only one or two races a year, his genuine love of running would prevent him from being so selfish, as he is keenly aware of his role as a motivator to the average Joe. Michael works full-time, has a family and does the majority of his miles on a treadmill, quite the opposite regime that most elites have, yet he is a sponsored athlete that can outrun, outlast and outshine most ‘elites’ as he is good at everything: middle distance, marathon distance and ultra distance.
A quick check on his upcoming running schedule for the rest of 2012 reveals that he has two marathons and an ultra booked for March, Two Oceans 56km and a 100km planned for April, and Comrades booked for the beginning of June. Plus the multiple marathons that he’s already run since January, and everything else that he’ll run before the end of the year. I somehow don’t think that he’s following any 16 week Runner’s World programme before each race! Here are a few of Michael’s running highlights; 2nd Place 100K Worlds 2011 (PR-6:42:49), Men’s Marathon United States Olympic Trials-2004, 2008, 2012 (PR-2:17:49), USATF 50 Mile (Road)-National Champion-2011 (PR-5:33:46), USATF 50K (Road)-National Champion-2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 11th place Comrades Marathon (5:52:51 PR-89K-1st USA)
As a Facebook Friend of many famous runners I have the pleasure of following some truly inspirational people, and Michael is one whose posts are well read by his loyal army of fans. I had the opportunity to ask Michael some burning questions right after his Houston double marathon weekend.
Danielle: Why did you decide to only start competing after college? Did you run as a teenager at all?
MRW: I decided to start competing after college to qualify for the Boston Marathon and I knew that I had to ran a sub 3:10 marathon to qualify so I trained and was able to run 3:06 at the Marine Corps Marathon. I played lacrosse as a teenager and didn’t run for fun only to score goals. (Danielle thinks-all of us have the winning ability way deep inside!)
Danielle: What’s your longest mileage accomplished in a single race? Which one and when?
MRW: The longest I have run in a single race is 135 miles at the Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, CA in July 2011. (Danielle’s note-if you want to know more about this race, read Bart Yasso’s book about the baking banana bread on the roadside. This has to be the hardest race in the world).
Danielle: At what age do you think that you’ll be “too old” to run in races?
MRW: I don’t ever think I will be too “old” to race, I hope to be running races in my 100rds. (Danielle thinks-just the inspiration we all need).
Danielle: Do you listen to music whilst running?
MRW: I sometimes run with music but I don’t race with music most of the time because I can’t due to the rules. (Danielle’s note-this rule doesn’t apply to the middle of the packs).
Danielle: Do you run with a group?
MRW: I run with a group sometimes but my training is mostly done alone due to my work schedule and because of our young family (5 year old-Pierce & 3 year old-Grant).
(Danielle-I should have asked him if he is the ‘annoying talker’ in his group, ahem)
Danielle: How can you juggle a family, a real job and running so much and accomplish such a fabulous PR and other winnings?
MRW: I have an amazing wife, Jennifer and she really supports me and allows the time to train and then my co-workers are very active in making sure I am training and allowing me the ability to compete. I also have great sponsors in The North Face, MarathonGuide.com, PowerBar among others.
Danielle: Do you have any words of wisdom for other 30+ runners?
MRW: I don’t consider myself old and I think that has a lot to do with how I run and train. I just go out and mix it up and work hard in my training so I am ready to battle anyone at any age.
(Danielle: so he didn’t tell us about the magic elixir after all).
Danielle: Did you taper before the men’s Olympic trails in Houston-if so, what do you consider a taper???
MRW: I did taper before the Olympic Trails and that was because I was a little sick and had a bit of an issue with my foot but I was still running a lot of miles, just not getting the speed in that I needed. (Danielle’s note: most people’s idea of a taper and his are polar opposites, clearly he is a super human).
Danielle: How did it feel to run the Houston Marathon the day after the marathon trails on the Saturday?
MRW: I was actually in a lot of pain for the Houston Marathon the day after the trials and was not sure I was going to run as I couldn’t put any weight on my foot even walking to the start but I did a warm up and then decided I would just run until it hurt more and it never did. (Danielle’s note: I’m in awe over this comment, my mouth drops when I read it each time).
Danielle: Do you log many miles on your treadmill? I think that I read somewhere that you run indoors alot while the kids are watching tv, then you do your work and then run some more on the treadmill…
MRW: I run a lot of miles on my treadmill and I love it as I can watch the boys and spend time with the family.
Danielle: Have you ever considered going pro and giving up the day job?
MRW: I have considered going pro but I love my job as an International Ship Broker too much to give it up.
Michael Wardian is a super human runner amongst us all: vegetarian, long haired and baseball capped, family guy and prodigious runner of a vast amount of mere marathons and great big long ultra marathon distances. One of my favourite runners because he breaks every convention and defies every law known to running, he is truly one of the sport’s most talented and remarkable runners. I can’t wait until he finds the time to write a book!