Credit: The North Face Endurance Challenge

Mike Wardian could easily be called the DC area’s best ultra runner, but he could also be called one of the best ultra runners in the world.

For many, Mike Wardian needs no introduction, but for those that do, let me break down just a few of his recent accomplishments:

  • 3 time Olympic Trials Qualifier
  • 2nd place and silver medalist at 2011 World 100k Championships
  • 8th pace at 2012 World 100k Championships
  • 5 time winner of the National Marathon (now Rock n Roll USA)
  • 2nd place at 2011 Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) even after losing nearly 45 minutes for a wrong turn
  • 3rd place at 2011 Badwater Ultramarathon – 135 mile race across Death Valley
  • 1st place at 2011 The North Face Endurance Challange 50k – Kansas City
  • 11th place (1st American) at 2011 Comrades Marathon (87k), largest ultramarathon in the world
  • USATF Ultra Runner of the Year in 2008, 2009, and 2010

The man is a beast.

I was recently honored by the opportunity to speak with him about a few past races, upcoming events, and running tips for all of us who will never run as many races as he is running this year along.  You can find audio from the interview below.

Getting to Know Mike Wardian

Mike lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and two young sons. When I told my girlfriend I was going to interview Mike, I listed off a number of his big races, mentioned he has two kids, and that he works at an international ship broker, she said, “What does this man not do!”  That was the correct response.

Mike is known for stellar performances at an incredible amount or races each year, but when not racing, Mike keeps up an impressive training schedule as well.

I run in the morning, run again at lunch and bike to and from work,. Once I get home I’m usually just a dad, and then some evenings I do another work out. So usually anywhere form 2 runs a day to 3 runs a day and then two bike rides, but it is really more commuting, not hardcore or anything.”

With his office located around near Dupont Circle in the District, most of his lunchtime runs are in or around Rock Creek Park.

If you ever find yourself out running around lunchtime, keep an eye out for Mike on the Glover-Archibald Trail or around the great horse trails off Beach Dr.  Those seem to be his favorites.

Or maybe his pre-dawn runs on the Potomac Heritage Trails.

“I’m trying to get ready for Mont-Blanc, so I’m doing the headlamp, early morning, technical, pick your feet up so you don’t smash you face thing.  It’s a great way to start the day.  Nearly poking your eye out on the sharp jagged rocks is a great way to get the blood moving.”

Expert Advice

With so many races and miles under his shoes, Mike has learned plenty of lessons.  He was happy to share some of that advice. 

“The one rule for training is being consistent.  For racing, make sure you eat, drink, and take salt.  No one told me that.  If you don’t fuel there is no way you are going to finish.  Getting down that nutrition is really important.  I think a lot of people get the miles in but then forget about that part, but you need to do both.”

As a proud No Meat Athlete, I had to bring up his diet.  In regards to Mike being vegetarian,

“For me it seems to work well.  I feel like my body works more efficiently that way.” 

But he knows that a plant based diet might not work the same for everyone. 

“Other people have had good experience with lean proteins.  It is something very personal that people need to figure out.”

What Mike has Coming Up

I went into this interview knowing that he has an incredibly busy race schedule. I asked him what he had coming up, assuming he might name off a few of his bigger races throughout the year. Instead he listed off an amazing variety of races including two 100 mile races, numerous marathons, and ultras all over the world.

“I have a pretty low key May, just trying to get ready, maybe some local marathons or something like that. I have a 5k.  My boss’s school is putting it on in Landon, it’s the March run this weekend, and then I that is going to be pretty sweet, I’m looking forward to talking to some kids there.  Then I have the Comrades ultra marathon in South Africa again this year. It’s the biggest ultra marathon in the world.  I was 11th there last year, so I’d like to improve on that this year.  I have the Western States 100 miler near the end of June, the oldest trail run in the world. It was kind of the beginning of the 100 mile runs, and is kind of an epically stacked race with fantastic guys coming in from all over the world, so I’m looking forward to that, kind of mixing it up with those guys on trails. Then I have the Grant-Peirce indoor Marathon in July, San Francisco Marathon in July, which I won last year, so hopefully I can go back and do well there. And then I have UTMB in August, which is the, Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc, where you kind of circumnavigate Mont-Blonc.  I have the Ultra Race of Champions in September, and then a race in New Findland in November and maybe a race in Chile in November.   Oh, and a race for North Face in November; the Kansas city 50k road race.  December I’m not really sure yet.”

I know what you are thinking, and yes, it is OK to be exhausted just thinking about it.  But even for your typical elite ultrarunner, that is a massive race schedule.

When I asked him how his body keeps up, Mike’s modesty shined. 

“Usually I’m pretty lucky. This year I’ve had more issues that I’ve had to deal with so I’m really learning what it is like to have to battle through injuries.  I’ve never really had to do that much, and it has made me have a really great appreciation for how important it is to try to get some good sleep and eat well, and just kind of persevere. 

Having such a positive outlook on the pain, he continued,

“I guess everyone has to deal with stuff, so it is just going to make me stronger, well, it already has.  I guess once I can kick this foot thing I’m having I’ll be even more jazzed up to push the boundaries even more than I have.”

It was such a pleasure speaking with Mike and I wish him the best on all of his upcoming races.  Unfortunately we will be at Comrades instead of toeing line with me at TNF Endurance Challenge – DC 50  this year, but hopefully we can all run into him on the trails sometime soon.

Listen to the Interview!

Interview link.

Follow and Support Mike Wardian:

You can follow and support on his Facebook Page.

Author Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running -- beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

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One thought on “Expert Advice: Mike Wardian Interview

  1. Great interview! I have raced against Mike loads of times most recently at the Rock ‘n Roll half/full marathon in March. I was doing the half and he was doing the full yest we were going the same pace! Talk about inspiring. Who would have thought he played lacrosse in college?

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