How Mike Wardian Keeps Setting World Records
New world record for 10 marathons in 10 days? Check! Here's how Wardian is consistently one of the most prolific and successful ultrarunners of all time.
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Freak of nature—in all the right ways—is one way people describe Mike Wardian, and for good reason. The 44-year old international shipping broker and elite ultra runner just set a new world record by running 10 marathons in 10 days, with an average time of 2:55. The first seven of those 10 were part of the World Marathon Challenge, which took place on all seven continents. He won the event for the second time, having captured his first title in 2017.
For a finale, the day after his 10th marathon, Wardian took his dog out for a 17-minute 5k.
Just how Wardian pulls it all off is the big mystery. Much of it likely comes down to genetics, but that is coupled with a smart approach to recovery, nutrition, and solid strength training—and don’t discount the joy he brings to his runs each and every day. This is, after all, the guy who holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon dressed as Elvis.
Eat, Drink, Sleep—and Keep Moving
After each of his recent 10 marathons, Wardian kept moving, something he believes is an essential component to keeping at an effort like this. “As soon as I finish up, I am walking around, cheering others in and loosening up the legs,” he says. Hand in hand with the movement, he says, is getting food and drink into his system. “Within the first hour, I make sure I am eating, even if I don’t feel like it,” Wardian explains. “I also continue to drink.”
Mostly he drinks water, but in a situation where you’re running that many consecutive marathons, Wardian recognizes the value in drinking calories as well. A vegetarian who borders on vegan, Wardian is choosy about his nutrition, although in the context of international travel he often had to make do with what was on hand. “If I could find fresh-squeezed juice, I had it,” he says. “On the plane, I avoid the more highly processed juices they offer, but I did water down some cranberry juice to give me additional calories.”
As to food throughout the 10-day period, he again went with a “beggars can’t be choosers” attitude, but stuck as close to his normal eating approach as possible. “I wouldn’t normally eat chips, but in Australia at 2 a.m., I had an egg sandwich topped with chips because I was craving sodium and that’s what was available,” he says. “I brought along a bunch of almond butter and honey sandwiches and used those to supplement.”
Also in his packed food were miso soup packets for additional sodium, cup of soups, and fresh fruits. “I had to think of foods that were easy to pack and that I could also get through customs and immigration in various countries,” he says.
The trickiest part of the equation this go-’round was sleep, which Wardian recognizes is important to recovery. “All told over the seven-day span of the challenge, I probably only got between 14 and 16 hours,” he estimates. “I’m over six-feet tall, so being able to stretch out on a plane is tough.”
While he would have liked more shut eye, Wardian says that for a short period of time, living without the proper hours of sleep is manageable. When you look at his results, it’s hard to argue with that philosophy.
A Year-Round Machine
One of the reasons Wardian is able to pull off results like 10 fast marathons in 10 days is that high volume and lots of events is his norm. “On an annual basis, I run around 50 races,” he says. “I like to keep my schedule full and I get excited to see what the next challenge is I can try.”
Harder for him, he says, is respecting when to dial things back a bit. “After the 10 marathons, I just wanted to keep it going, but I knew I needed a little break,” Wardian says. “This past week I ran about half of my usual 80 to 100 miles.”
Self coached, Wardian is a believer in allowing his body to dictate his mileage. “I don’t need to hit an arbitrary number in training,” he says. “If I need to back off, I back off.”
Wardian has also added in some dedicated strength training of late, which he says helps significantly in the final miles of long events. “I work out with a trainer twice a week and do my own shorter routine on the other days,” he explains. “I really see the benefit longer into an event, when everyone else starts breaking down, I have some reserves to use.”
Whatever Wardian is doing, it’s working. Not only are his results impressive, but his blood markers were all normal or optimized following the effort. Wardian works with Inside Tracker to run his blood work throughout the year. Following the marathon challenge, markers like C-reactive protein (CRP), testosterone, and liver enzymes all remained right where they should. “I felt great most days but you do worry about what’s actually going on inside,” he explains. “It’s nice to have the blood results to back it up.”
Not one to sit still, Wardian has his next challenges lined up. “I’ll probably go for an FKT (fastest known time) on the Washington and Old Dominion (W & OD) trail in Virginia this coming weekend,” he says. “After that, I’m headed to Israel for an FKT attempt on the Israel National Trail.”
That little run? A mere 1,000K. Wardian hopes to cover it at a rate of around 100k per day. At his core, Wardian is an athlete who does it for pure joy: “I just love being out there.”