I recently had the chance to interview running phenom Michael Wardian.
If you haven’t heard of Mike Wardian yet you have been living under a rock. Mike is one of the most accomplished runners on the planet. He has podium finishes from half marathons all the way up to ultra-distance races.
Mike is an International Ship Broker by trade, and lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and two children. Despite having a full-time job and family, he pulls off amazing wins and endurance events such as the World Marathon Challenge, which is seven marathons on seven continents in seven days!
So here it is, my interview with Mike Wardian:
You have set a lot of crazy/zany records (such as fastest marathon dressed as Elvis). Where do you get the ideas and inspiration for these crazy goals? And which accomplishment do you consider the most outlandish?
MRW: I have definitely enjoyed going after records and being a huge fan of the sport and reader. I see things and I think I could and would like to try that and then I figure out how to make it happen. I am also really into testing myself and going after a record, which is always a challenge no matter what it is - a world record is incredible and just can't believe I have gotten a few. I think one of the world records that I love the most was a shared record with Pierce for the fastest marathon while pushing a pram, that is just a fancy word for jogging stroller. I always want to bring my family with me on this journey of discovery and having a world record with our son, just rocks.
How do you balance being an elite athlete on top of a full time job and yet still finding the time to be a great dad and husband?
MRW: I definitely feel like balance is a key to becoming and then being able to maintain elite fitness. I try to train in such a way that I have the most minimal impact on our family as possible; so currently, I am using my commute to work as my training by running to and from work about, 10K each way and then training again at lunch. So when I am home, I am just like most other dads and husbands.
Do you have any crazy stories about running to work, or running on your break? I talked to a guy recently that had car trouble the day before he started a new job, so he ran a marathon to work the next day. He became infamous as the guy who ran a marathon to work on his first day (true dedication). Have you ever forgotten a change of cloths, been heckled by co-workers on the way in? I do think the bright side of using your own feet to get to work is car problems are never an issue!
MRW: That is a great story and I have plenty of interesting run/bike commuting stories but one that comes to mind is running to work with Rosie our vizsla and she ran the 10K into work no problem, but when the day ended and we were heading home on the 2nd leg of the run commute, she refused to run so I tried to walk with her and she was just done, so I ended up calling an UBER to get home...that was unusual and she runs a lot further but she was just done and I think that respecting that is really important. I also have gotten to work with a bag full of mush as when I first started run commuting, I would place fresh fruit like berries and bananas in my backpack and that normally ended up as a smelly, wet, gross mess. I have gotten a lot better about what to bring and how to pack it over the years
What has been your favorite family vacation? What made it so great?
MRW: We have been really lucky to have a bunch of incredible vacations and most of the time I am racing, so for me I have obligations and commitments but it is always super cool for Jennifer and the boys. I think one of the best trips that we have done lately was to Kauai for the Kauai Marathon a few months ago, we had a blast and the boys really loved it and so did Jennifer and I. It was a majestic place and really is paradise. What made the trip so special was that we took a side trip to Oahu and Pearl Harbor as Pierce our oldest is super into World War II and it was so neat to get to education ourselves on a bit of history and also satisfy Pierce's curiosity.
Out of all your accomplishments, which one are you most proud of, and why?
MRW: I am super fortunate to have a long list of things that have been noteworthy and made me super proud. I think anytime that you help your country earn a medal in international competition is really special and I did few times as part of the 50K and 100K World team and those memories especially in 2011, when I was the silver medalist.
When you ran the World Championship Races did you spend a lot of time training with the team, if so, what was that like?
MRW: When you are selected for a Wold Championship race it is with people from all over the country and that means unfortunately, it is hard to train together before an event so what typically happens is you arrive a few days early and get a few training runs in but mostly, you just train your butt off and show up ready to rumble.
What's the best advice you can give to somebody that may not be an elite athlete but wants to set a big goal that pushes his or her limits?
MRW: I think the best bit of information I can share is set a goal, write it down and every single day work toward that goal...be relentless and don't allow things to get in the way. I have found that consistent pursuit of a public goal is achievable and profound and you will be surprised of what you are capable of.
I think the public goal can be powerful as well. I believe it helps hold you accountable. Are there any other forms of accountability you use? Coaching? Relationships with other runner friends?
MRW: I think some of the other forms of accountability I use are definitely relationships with other athletes but also time goals and standards. I love to track what I have done and where I am so that in the future I can draw on that information.
What advice would you give to somebody wanting to take the plunge into marathons or ultra marathons?
MRW: I would suggest that anyone that is interested in doing a marathon or ultra-marathon just go sign up…that is the step that stops most people. The hardest part is finding a race and getting a spot. Everything else is easy. You can find training plans on line, heck, I can train you at https://usa.squad.run/ but get signed up and everything else will fall into place.
What is it like to be a lead pack runner? You have several first place finishes. Does it get lonely/boring at the front of the herd?
MRW: I love leading races, it feels incredible and it means you get to dictate what you would like to do and set the pace. It is amazingly cool and I feel really lucky to have had that opportunity. It definitely does not get lonely or boring, it is electric and inspiring.
You recently ran Hard Rock. How many tries did it take you before having your name drawn at Hard Rock and what was your biggest takeaway from being involved with such a historic and epic event. (Side note, this is my dream race)
MRW: I definitely, was super lucky to have gotten to run Hardrock and it took me, I think 6 years of trying...What I loved most about the Hardrock 100 miler was the sense of community. When you are selected and arrive in Silverton, you really are part of the family, everyone welcomes you and takes care of you. It is insane and so beautiful. I can't believe that it was real.
As glamorous as the life of an international shipbroker must be, what other career paths/ideas would you see yourself pursuing?
MRW: I love being an International Ship Broker and hope I can keep doing brokering for the foreseeable future but I could definitely see a point where I am doing something else. I could see being a full-time coach, full-time athlete, adventurer, and also I would love to have a shop of some sort, making clothing or foods, and traveling, we love to travel and the chance to be paid to do that would be super appealing.
Do you ever wish you could just run full-time, or is life pretty sweet just the way it is?
MRW: I have thought of running full time but I think I have the most incredible life possible and I wouldn't want to change it. We are so lucky and I feel really fortunate to have some many incredible partners.
Out of all your accomplishments I’m most impressed with the 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 Days. How did you train for that? How did you pull that off on what I can only assume was very little sleep with all the travel involved. Running an ultra while losing one or two nights of sleep is one thing, but this is next level type stuff!
MRW: I really appreciate that and running the 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents was a dream come true and I think I have been getting ready for that event for years as I am always stoked to race and train and doing back to back marathons is just a dream scenario for me. I slept about 16 hours over 7 days and I just put my head down and did it and I think it opened my eyes to what I might be capable of in multi-day races and I hope to explore that in the near future.
If running weren’t your thing what sport would you see yourself pursuing?
MRW: I would love to get to do some other sports in the future. I still have to qualify for Ironman Kona. I would like to climb all the biggest mountains in the world and sail around the world and I think biking around the world too would be pretty sweet.
What race are you most looking forward to in 2018?
MRW: I don't have my schedule firm for 2018 but right now I am in the Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica in February and looking forward to that for sure.
To find out more about Mike, visit him online.