Michael Wardian: “If you want to be a great runner, you need to run."

Michael Wardian has become somewhat of a household name in the ultra running world.

The seasoned 43-year old marathon and ultramarathon runner has clocked up an impressive list of achievements and continues to break records and push boundaries.

Mike’s story is one of hard work, humility and raw understanding of what it takes to go all the way from square one to world beater.

The four-time USA Track and Field Ultra Runner of the Year has not only amassed an impressive following of his own, he’s helped to elevate the profile of ultra running and continues to inspire young runners everywhere.  

For many the dream of running a marathon is where it all begins – and things weren’t all that different for Mike.

Here we talk to the former 50km treadmill world record holder about where it all began, his inspirations and what the future looks like…

Tell us a bit about your first ever race…

MW: My first race ever was a Turkey Trot at Oakton High School.

I heard if you won you got a free school lunch.

It was about 5K around the school and fields, and I thought “I have a chance to win this”. So I ran it and I did win it, but didn’t really think much of it at the time.


What does your average day involve in terms of training?

MW: My training is pretty straightforward really. I like to keep it simple.

Most days I run twice. Sometimes three times. Morning runs can be anywhere from 6-10 miles.

It’ll either be before I commute to work by bike or I might even run to work. I then workout for another hour at lunch by running and I run or bike home.

I am getting between 12-20 miles per day but would say most days are about 15 miles.

Where has been your favourite place to compete and why?

MW: Antarctica. Because it is so remote, vast and beautiful.

I can’t wait to explore it more in the years to come.

What do you do to prepare yourself for a race?

MW: I am usually pretty fit so physically, I just loosen up and get ready to hammer.  

Mentally, I love to race and I want to get excellence out of myself and I want to beat the other athletes, so mentally I am strong and ready to hurt.

How do you manage pain and fatigue during races?

MW: I normally do really well dealing with pain and fatigue as I keep reminding myself that it’s fluid and that eventually it will end and it will be worth it.

What/who are your biggest inspirations in sport and in life?

MW: I think some of my biggest inspirations in sport are Yuki Kawauchi and Marco Olmo.  

In life I am inspired by the wife, Jennifer, kids, Pierce and Grant. My sister Mariele, brother Matthew and my parents, Dick and Vivienne and of course my in-laws – they rock!

What has been your biggest achievement so far and why?

MW: I have been lucky to have had a lot of really huge achievements.

But I think the achievement that has resonated with people the most is when I set the world record earlier this year for running 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents.

What’s been your biggest challenge and why?

MW: I think our biggest challenge so far has been dealing with our son, Grant’s epilepsy diagnosis a few years ago.

That caused us to re-evaluate life and my running as I got injured really badly during that time with 5 stress fractures of my pelvis and 5 hernias.

What are your goals for the future?

MW: I have huge goals!

I want to inspire people to do more than they think they can. I want to raise money for charities that are doing good in the world. I would like to push myself and have new adventures and challenges and I can’t wait to do things that look impossible but are within grasp.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

MW: If you want to be a great runner you need to run.

How has running changed your life?

MW: Running has given me a dream life.

I couldn’t be happier with how absolutely blessed we are and that I have the opportunity to do so many incredible things and have experiences that really are second to none.

…and there’s more to come

After superb back to back finishes at The Western States 100 and Hard Rock 100 this summer, it’s clear Mike’s still got plenty left in the tank.

The man from West Virginia has ambition coming out of his pores, his ability isn’t to be sniffed at either.

Everything that’s come good for Mike is the result of graft, passion and self-belief.

Definitely someone to look up to, that’s for sure.

You can follow Michael at @mikewardian and keep up-to-date with his adventures here.