Crazy About Running: Going The Extra Miles

Serial racer Michael Wardian is set to tackle the Comrades Marathon on Sunday.

Race Smitten: Michael Wardian

Michael Wardian is not your average weekend warrior. On any given Saturday or Sunday throughout the year, you will find the 39-year-old from Arlington, Va., on a starting line—sometimes twice in the same day.

Last Nov. 17, Wardian, a three-time U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier with a personal best of 2:17:49 for the 26.2-mile distance, won the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Marathon in 2:31:19, then hopped on a plane to Las Vegas, where that same night he raced the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon, finishing 10th in 2:57:56. While he came up short in his quest to win both races, the challenge of trying to pull off such an ambitious feat is what drives Wardian to race, and race often.

“I am a highly motivated guy and I want to always push what is possible,” says Wardian, who will turn 40 on April 12. “And I hope to inspire other people to do a little more than they think they can.”

Marathons are only part of the ongoing racing equation for Wardian, who in 2008 raced 53 times at distances ranging from one mile to 135 miles. He’s run under 15 minutes for a 5K, bagged national championships at 50K, 50 miles and 100K, and set a handful of zany world records along the way, including the marathon world record on a treadmill (2:23:58 in 2004) and the fastest marathon ever run pushing a jogging stroller (2:42:21 in 2007), both of which have since been broken.

“I set lofty goals and then try to do the work to achieve them and that gets me fired up to train and compete,” says Wardian, who works full time as an international ship broker and is married with two kids.

Wardian has been a model of resiliency throughout most of his competitive running career, however he hasn’t always been able to avoid injury with his serial racing schedule. In 2012, he suffered five stress fractures in his pelvis, along with five hernias. Those injuries sidelined him for six months, but they didn’t keep Wardian entirely off his feet. True to his never-sit-still nature, he swam and biked, went to physical therapy, ran on an AlterG treadmill, hiked with his family, and walked a 15 percent incline on his treadmill for four to five hours at a time while he was unable to run.

“I love a challenge and I viewed my injuries as a challenge,” Wardian explains. “And I was trying to stay as fit as I could during that time and come back as fast as I could. We also as a family started doing a lot more hiking together, and while I hated being hurt, I loved spending additional time together.”

RELATED: How To Train For Your First 50K

More about Michael:

Favorite shoes: Hoka One One’s Bondi B, Rapa Nui Trail and Conquest

How many shoes do you go through in a year: 30–40 pairs

Go-to energy fuel: Vitargo (carbohydrate mix) and Succeed S! Caps
(electrolyte supplement)

Most essential piece of running gear: My lucky hat

Personal mantra: “I have a few I fall back on, such as, ‘Stay after it,’ ‘Stay small,’ and ‘Why not today?’”

—Mario Fraioli

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