Michael Wardian is a little crazy.
He must be, right?
After all, he recently ran seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. Oh yeah, he set a world record along the way.
He once finished a 100-mile race (Leadville) and turned around and ran another marathon, (Pikes Peak, perhaps the toughest) that same day, just to see if he could.
“People said it was impossible anyone could ever do it,” he said.
Impossible and Michael Wardian are opposites.
This is a guy who set the record for fastest indoor 200-meter track marathon record in 2010.
He set the world record for fastest marathon while pushing a stroller in 2007.
He’s once held the record for the fastest marathon on a treadmill.
In the 2012 US Olympic marathon trials in Houston, he ran two hours, 21 minutes on Jan 14. The next day, he ran a 2:31 at the Houston Marathon.
Well, you get the idea.
The man can run very fast for very long (and short) distances and very often and has been doing this for more than two decades. And for the most part, injury free, over hundreds of races, covering thousands of miles — and we’re talking some tough, treacherous terrain over mountains, through deserts and in freezing temperatures.
So let’s ask the obvious questions: How does he do it? And why?
After all, this guy is married, with two sons and has a demanding, but rewarding career as an international ship broker, working with ocean-going carriers to provide humanitarian food aid to starving people in places like Ethiopia, Kenya and Yemen.
Running, he says, helps in his work when it comes to figuring things out and making decisions.
“When you’re racing, you’re always trying to solve problems,” he said.
But how does he find the time to travel the world, race, win, set records and remain humble and humorous, too?
It has something to do with attitude.
“I’m just super passionate about running,” the 43-year-old said in a phone interview with The Garden Island. “I love the training. I love the travel. I like this part of it (interview). There’s nothing about it that I don’t love. I think that helps a lot.”
Being positive is key, and Michael Wardian is as positive as they come, particularly when it comes to his preferred sport.
“I can’t think of a more enjoyable way for me to spend some part of my day in kinetic motion, running down the road, moving in some way,” he said.
Return to Kauai
The Arlington, Va., man will be doing exactly that Sunday when he competes in the Kauai Marathon. It’s a race he’s familiar with, having won it in 2010 in 2 hours, 30 minutes and 52 seconds, placing second in 2011 and third in 2013.
He’s back because he’s taking a break from the the 103-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, also the first weekend in September. The route goes through France, Italy and Switzerland and is regarded as one of the most difficult foot races in the world.
Kauai’s full marathon is no fun run. Its course is notorious for its hills, not to mention the humidity and heat, but Wardian still plans to push a fast pace and perhaps collect his second win here.
“I’m looking forward to coming back. We love Kauai,” he said. “We’ve been wanting to visit again and this was a good opportunity to go back.”
The Kauai Marathon, he said, “is an incredible event.”
“Thank you to the people of Kauai for having us,” Wardian said.
He believes he’s in shape to post a quick time.
“It’s a tough course for sure but you can still run pretty fast there,” he said. “I’ll run as hard as I can.”
Which means, based on past performances, he’ll do well.
In January, he was among 33 competitors in the World Marathon Challenge that went from Antarctica, Chile, Miami, Madrid, Morocco, Dubai and Australia in one week.
He won and set a new record.
When it was over, Wardian averaged 2:45 for each marathon, breaking three hours in each race including the one in Antarctica, where it was pretty damn cold, try sub-zero temps.
He called it “one of the most incredible things” he ever attempted.
“Each day, you have to bring your A game,” he said.
He received the sportsmanship award, which was good for $15,000 that he directed to a charity to provide water for a Third World village.
While the record and win were wonderful, Wardian didn’t stop after the final marathon, which left him with 183.4 miles of racing in seven days.
Nope. He didn’t go to Disneyland.
He ran another 17 miles.
“Because I’d never run a 200-mile week before,” he said.
In April, he added to his titles by winning the Big Sur International Marathon.
Wardian and wife Jennifer have two sons, Pierce, 11, and Grant, 8. Both run and may compete in Saturday’s keiki races at the Grand Hyatt.
Jennifer will not be running the marathon.
“No, she’s super normal,” Wardian said, laughing.
Racing and training
After graduating from Michigan State, where he played lacrosse, Wardian took up running in 1995 because he wanted to complete the Boston Marathon.
He did that. And more.
That was the start of a career that sees him run about 40 to 50 races a year, from a recent beer mile (He rarely consumes alcohol so this was a tough one. “I was super hung over the next day. I’m not going back to drinking anytime soon.”) to a 5K (15:47 to his credit this year) to your normal 26.2-mile marathon (PR of 2:17:49) and seemingly insane ultramarathons (completed the Marathon de Sables, 156 miles over six days in the Sahara Desert, three times).
You get the idea. These are not your casual jogs in the park. Tough course? So what. Bring it on.
“I can grind for a long time,” he said.
Wardian typically runs 70 to 110 miles a week. He does some biking and recently started working with a personal trainer to build strength and stability.
To relax, he likes to play chess, hang with his family and is becoming a big fan of Fantasy Football.
His success on roads and trails could be attributed to a slim build, 6 foot, 140 pounds, consistent training, and a disciplined diet (he’s a vegetarian), which certainly helps.
But then, you come back to another reason that seems too simple to explain his good mojo: He is doing what he loves.
“I like to compete. I like to mix it up. I like to put my nose in it,” he said. “No matter what I did the day before, if I step to the line I like to get the best out of myself.”
“I’m seeking excellence,” he continued. “I’m seeing what I’m capable of.”
It would seem, quite a bit.
There are several activities today and Saturday related to the Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon set for Sunday morning
The Wilcox Health Sports and Fitness Expo, part of the Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon, is scheduled 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at The Grand Hyatt Kauai Grand Ballroom.
There will be marathon logo merchandise available and vendors.
Runner’s World Ambassador and Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon Host Bart Yasso and Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon champion Tyler McCandless will be hosting a talk story session at 11 this morning.
There will be other complimentary talk story sessions at the expo. Physicians, health specialists and athletes will be on hand to discuss ocean safety, hydration, and more.
The Eighth annual Fun Run begins 7:30 a.m. Saturday at the end of Poipu Road, just past the Grand Hyatt Kauai.
The 3-mile run will be led by Yasso and McCandless. The free fun run is not a race and is not timed. Park in the designated event parking lot on the left at the end of Poipu Road.
The Fifth annual Kauai Marathon Keiki Run presented by Wilcox Health begins on the far west side of the Grand Hyatt at 9 a.m. There is a 100-yard toddler trot for 2-4 year olds, a quarter-mile run for 5-7 year olds and a half-mile run for 8-12 year olds.
On-site registration begins at 8 on race day.