Marathon and ultra marathon runner Michael Wardian put in the most miles in the Sunrise, Florida, Wings for Life World Run in 2014, earning a trip to run in the World Run location of his choice in 2015. He picked Melbourne, Australia, with an eye on being the last man running when it's all said and done.
How did you find out about WFLWR?
Michael Wardian: I found out about it through Karl Meltzer; he’s one of my teammates on Hoka. Sage Canaday was another guy; his sister is in a wheelchair. I actually had an idea to try to have a 10K simultaneously all around the world and this is just so much cooler, to run and have a car chase you. When I saw it I was like, “Oh man, I want to do that.”
Describe your experience last year.
It was amazing. From the pre-race to meeting all the other athletes and getting to hang out… The course support was terrific. Media exposure was second to none. The other athletes were super excited; it was great to meet some of the Red Bull athletes and celebrities who were there. I was able to bring my family so it was cool for them to get to be a part of it. Just fantastic, really. Everything was first-class.
What was your goal for the race?
My goal was to try to win. I was well short of that, given the situation that I was running in. I didn’t even get past 56k, and the winners went almost 80k. I definitely have some room for improvement.
It wasn’t my ideal choice to run in Florida; I love Florida, but I was thinking that if I wanted to try to win, Florida was going to be a tough place to do it, just because it’s going to be hot and humid. There are a lot of other places in the world that would be more conducive to running further and faster.
Did you know that the winner of the event could choose any of the World Run locations to run in 2015?
I did; that was also an incentive for me to run because I have a passion for traveling. What would be cooler than to get to do this at a different place somewhere in the world? I was hoping to win the entire thing, because you get an around-the-world trip, which would be insanely cool. But it was really just to see how far I could go, against the car and against everyone else in the world who was running — see how I stack up. That was the more exciting thing to me, but the prize was definitely fantastic.
Why did you pick Melbourne, Australia, to run in this year?
It’s one of the only continents I haven’t raced on, or even been on. You guys don’t have one on Antarctica — yet. [It’s a great] opportunity to go to a different place and experience a different culture, and get to race. We’re taking our whole family; it’s going to be awesome.
Have you done any research on the race or contacted anyone over there?
I looked at the course; there’s not a whole lot to it, they’re all pretty flat in general to make it fair, which makes sense. Luckily I travel and race around the world so I’ve made some friends with some Australian runners, and a bunch of them were kind enough to let me know what the conditions are going to be like, what the competition might be like. I have a pretty good grasp of what I’m getting myself into, and I think I’m up for the challenge.
How was the Boston Marathon?
It was great; it was a week after I did the 80k (50-miler) in Lake Sonoma so it was a pretty good turnaround, like nine days, and I was able to run 2:27 — in pretty tough conditions. There was a pretty big headwind for most of about 30k; it got pretty windy and cold. I led rather than just sitting in, which kind of cost me against some of the other guys, but I thought the right thing to do was to take turns leading. I’m pretty happy with it; I ran faster there last year, but it was a nicer day. I’m hoping to run faster in Big Sur this weekend.
How many races do you run (per year)?
Last year I did 54 events, including 11 marathons and 17 ultra marathons.
How does the Wings for Life World Run compare to all those other events?
There are some similarities in that you have to be very thorough and particular about what you’re doing in terms of being prepared, to have done the work to achieve the results you’re looking for. It’s completely different in that you’re competing against the other people in your race and also around the world. Even if you’re winning your event, someone else could be doing more distance somewhere else. It’s really cool, because you know you have to keep pushing.
Are you training for WFLWR any differently this year?
I compete a lot, so I feel like my fitness is building. I’ve done more longer events before this year’s World Run than I did last year, so I feel that’s going to help me for some of that strength, and then I’ve added in some more speed, so all those factors are going to bode well for having a nice race.
What are your goals for this one?
My plan is to run as far as I can, and hopefully that’s further than everybody else.
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