Based outside of Washington DC, Ultra-Marathon runner Mike Wardian does this while holding down a fulltime job as an international shipbroker, and as father to two young children. He was in Australia for the Ultra-Trail [May 2017] in the Blue Mountains of NSW, having just made a visit to Kosovo as a fitness ambassador for the US State Department. Inside Sport asked him how the hell he does it…
“When I first looked at it, I thought it would be like another stage race. I’m pretty good at stage races, I’ve had pretty good results in them. What I didn’t expect was, just finding food and getting to the start line and doing this every day for a week, this is going to be all-encompassing. I expected to have a lot more energy when I finished every day. Normally with a stage race, you run, then rest, then eat, then you get to do it again the next day. But with all the travel, the clearing customs, I think I slept 16 hours over the course of the week. Yeah, I didn’t get any rest, so that made it more difficult than I expected it to be.
“What was cool about the World Marathon Challenge was you had such a range of temperatures, from freezing cold in Antarctica to absolutely blazing in Dubai and Sydney … Each day, your body is ‘wait, where am I?’ It was one of the harder things I’ve ever done. That being said, I just got my butt kicked in the Barkleys Marathon – I missed my first cut-off and got timed out of the race.”
“What I try to do is get as fit as I can, and then in the couple of weeks leading up, get as specific as I can. That’s why I want to jump in and get the stair training [because of the stairs in Utra-Trail Australia]. Get ready for the pounding that you’re going to take, and it’s different muscles – a lot of stepping up that we’re not doing in other races.
“Usually, that seems to work well for me. It’s my first Ultra-Trail, but I won the Wings for Life World Run in Melbourne in 2015. It was cool – they didn’t have the course set up because no-one had run that far. I ran outside the course, and it was pretty awesome. In that race, they send a car to catch you, and you get a half-hour headstart, then the car starts a 10 or 15km/h. I ran 71km before the car caught me, it was a pretty good run.”
Marathon in the mind
“On some of the longer races, you’re sometimes like, ‘Why do you do this?’ It just depends on the mood you’re in, what kind of space. I think about all kinds of stuff: what I’m going to eat when I’m done, what I need to do. A lot of times, you’d be surprised, 30 hours just goes by. How much battery do you have left in your headlamp? How many calories have you eaten?
“I sometimes think of myself sometimes as a car, looking at the dashboard. Is the tank half-full, or empty? And where am I in the race? All those kind of things are in my head, and then, ‘Oh crap, did I send that card to Aunt Betty?”