Michael Wardian has the power and speed of a racehorse, the all-day endurance of a workhorse, and the glorious mane of a show horse. The man is more than a unicorn. He’s a mythical creature unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
On Saturday, Wardian further cemented his legendary status, as he completed a superhuman feat: setting the pending world record for completing 10 marathons in 10 days, with a cumulative time of 29 hours, 12 minutes, and 46 seconds.
To put that in context, that’s an average of 2:55:17 per marathon. And it’s more than 43 minutes faster than the previous record (29 hours, 54 minutes, and 56 seconds), set by Brit Rik Vercoe in 2013.
But wait! There’s more!
This wasn’t just a local, single-location phenomenon. Wardian initially set out to complete seven marathons in seven days across all seven continents, as he did in 2017. But before leaving for marathon No. 1 in Antarctica, Wardian called his good friend Chris Farley and asked for a favor.
“After he decided to do seven in seven in seven, he called me and said, ‘I’d like to add three more. I think I can break the record,’” says Farley, owner of Pacers Running stores. So Farley mapped out an eight-loop, USATF-certified marathon course around Hains Point and invited D.C.’s enthusiastic running community to watch history in the making for Wardian’s final three marathons here at home.
Spindly, hirsute, and glowing with energy, Wardian crossed a makeshift finish line on Hains Point on Saturday afternoon, completing his 10th marathon in as many days, with a time of 2 hours, 44 minutes, and 33 seconds (averaging 6:16 per mile). It was his fastest race of the entire journey.
Upon breaking the tape, Wardian appeared extraordinarily casual for smashing a world record, especially one this physically demanding. He high-fived the runners who joined him for few loops, took selfies with dozens of supporters, and invited all the kids present to participate in a Fortnite celebration dance. “Do you guys know ‘Jubilation’?” he asked, before throwing his hands in the air.
Farley is far more inclined to brag about his friend’s mind-boggling achievement.
“I’ve been trying to think of how to put it in context so that people can understand how difficult this is. If you did a 30-mile week, that’s a strong week for most runners. This guy did close to that distance every day for 10 days straight,” he says. “He ran more than 262 miles in the last 10 days. And today, he finished the last 5K of a marathon in under six-minute pace. That’s insane.”
Wardian did all of this on just 20 hours of sleep over the past 10 days. While most of that deprivation can be attributed to his rigorous travel to all seven continents, he slept in his own bed, at his home in Arlington the past three nights. Apparently, that isn’t enough to get a full night’s sleep.
“Too excited,” he explained after the race. “I’m just ready to go.”
This is perhaps what makes Wardian most impressive. He is absolutely relentless.
While elite marathoners tend to do one or two key races in a year, Wardian doesn’t hit the brakes. In the distance running community, he’s well known for his punishing race schedule of ultramarathons and marathons. His speed is good enough to claim a spot on the podium in a number of races.
But the ability to maintain this pace over 10 marathons in 10 consecutive days is straight up bionic. “Sure, great Olympians could beat him in a regular marathon, and a few ultrarunners could beat him in an race,” says Farley. “But this combination of speed and strength over time is unmatched. This is not just a local story. There’s no one else who could do this.”
To successfully tackle an odyssey like this, Wardian kept a rigorous training schedule, which included finishing the one of the most difficult 100-mile courses in the world—the HURT 100—just last month.
“The training for each event just builds on itself,” he explains. “I ran the HURT 100 back in January, which was 27 straight hours of running. That’s almost as long what it took to run these marathons. So, it really just builds on it.”
But Wardian’s training was only part of the equation. There were plenty of other challenges he’d have to face, including hydration and nutrition, travel logistics, and weather.
“During the seven marathons in seven continents in seven days, the most challenging part was staying on top of my nutrition,” says Wardian. “You’re really at the mercy of where you are and what food is in front of you.”
“I just eat whatever my body will tolerate,” he adds, noting that he did get sick during his marathon in Santiago, Chile.
But with such a tight travel schedule, it was just a matter of pushing through the tough parts, get enough calories to fuel his next run. For a vegetarian like Wardian, this can be doubly challenging. He started to crave spicy foods before his wife, Jennifer, talked him “off the ledge.” The 44-year-old plans to replenish with some Indian food, maybe a burrito, a Sweetgreen salad, and some fresh squeezed juice.
The weather also threw some curveballs at Wardian. “The temperature fluctuations were tough,” he says. “One day might be cold, and the next is hot. While usually your body gets the chance to acclimate to those conditions, this time it was just go-go-go.”
In many ways, that go-go-go schedule was a beast all its own. Not only did Wardian have to run almost immediately upon arrival in a new country, he also had to factor in international flight times and time zone changes. Wardian almost lost his passport in Chile, where he ran marathon No. 6.
“Then I did lose it in Miami,” he says. “Good thing by then we were already back in the States.”
On his final three marathons, here in D.C., Wardian only seemed to get stronger. “My legs feel incredible right now. I didn’t know or expect that I’d feel this strong each day,” Wardian said shortly after the race, shaking his head with relief and disbelief. “It’s crazy that my last marathon was my fastest.”
As for what drove him to finish on such a high note, Wardian didn’t credit his training or superhuman strength. Instead, he gave the assist to the supporters standing in the winter wind at Hains Point.
“D.C. is where I really started my running career. So, seeing the community out here was so inspiring. This wasn’t about me,” he said. “It felt like we were all part of something bigger. It was really special, and I just want to thank everyone who came out or followed me on this journey for their support, and for supporting each other. This is such an incredible community.”
That’s all thanks to Farley, who not only organized the course but also invited the D.C. running community to join for a few miles, or at the finish line.
“This is who we are. Running is what brought a community of people together,” he says. “And I’m so proud to have been part of this because Mike is authentically a champion of all runners, not just people who can do 10 marathons in 10 days. He’s a champion of anyone trying to get out the door for a run.”
The very next day, Wardian didn’t sleep in or take a day off from running. No one would’ve blamed him for wanting to do so. But instead, he competed in the Love The Run You’re With 5K with his vizsla, Rosie, near his home.
Wardian finished ninth overall in 17:01 (a 5:28 per mile pace). The machine can’t stop.
“If you dream big, if you throw down big, audacious goals, you’ll find a way,” he says. “You find strength to get the job done.”