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Connecting Ultrarunners Across The Globe

International 100+ UltraRunning Foundation

Are Two 50K World Records Enough to Race the Spartathlon With Confidence? – Interview with Michael Wardian

By Andrei Nana

August 2015

The Spartathlon is considered the most elite race in the world. Each year it attracts the best of the best athletes. It is not only 153 miles long, crossing Greece from Athens to Sparta, but there are intermediary cut of points which force the athletes to run fast during the hottest part of the day. Some years, the heat combined with the humidity is so brutal that some of the athletes competing – such as Oz Pearlman and Michael Arnstein - have stated that running through Greece is hotter than running through Death Valley. Then there are the Greek hills, a continuous change in elevation, along with the “mountain” at mile 100. It’s the place where Pheidippides experienced hallucinations. It’s the place where the Sparta Alpine Rescue Team hangs from the cliffs in sleeping bags keeping an eye over the athletes as they scale the slippery scree of the mountain – sometimes crawling on their hands and knees.

Over 32 years, many world class athletes have realized they were just not ready, not tough enough, not capable of reaching the feet of King Leonidas. Some were World Champions, and some held World Records. And yet many others have completed the race successfully such as 24H World Champions Katalin Nagy or Florian Reus.

It still remains a mystery to many.

This year the U.S. Spartathlon Team will travel to Greece with 25 members, including a few favorites – one of which is Michael Wardian. An impressive athlete, Wardian is a 41 year old from Arlington, VA with a string of local, national, and international marathon and ultra-marathon finishes.

A family man, Michael and his wife, Jennifer, have two sons, Pierce, nine, and Grant, six, as well as Rosie, a two year 2 year old Vizsla puppy. 

A former Lacrosse player, Wardian learned that he loved running in college. Since then, he has completed all kinds of endurance events, from stair climbs, long bike rides, and Ironman triathlons, to running events. Lucky for us, at the moment, he seems to love running the most.

Wardian explains, “I have been really lucky to have had a tremendous ultra-running career. I started running my junior year just to stay fit when I stopped playing Division I lacrosse. At that time, I just wanted to run the Boston Marathon once and I didn't realize that you had to qualify, so I ran the Marine Corps Marathon and got my qualifier in 3:08. Then I went to the Boston Marathon and I got hooked...” But that was only the beginning. Michael tells us about some of his career highlights, “I loved the energy, the crowds, the sense of fulfillment – I keep seeking that feeling weekly and I tend to race a ton compared to most people. In 2014, I raced 54 times and this year I have already raced 26 times. I think some of my important milestones have been qualifying for the last three (3) Olympic Men's Marathon trials and setting a personal best of 2:17:49 in 2011 at the Grandma's Marathon.”

He relates his international recognition, to his success at some of the major international races. As he explains, “I have also run for Team USA for the 50K (2009, 2010, and 2014) and 100K World Teams (2008 through 2014) and brought home individual and team medals for the USA.” Wardian has been one of the top USA finishers at the Comrades Marathon in South Africa with a best finish as 11th overall in 2011. He was 3rd at Marathon des Sables in 2010 and also 3rd overall at Badwater in 2011.

But Michael is also known for his 50K World Records. In 2014 he set the 50K Indoor world record on a 200 meter track in 3:06, and in 2015 he set the 50K world record on a treadmill in 2:59:47.

As his impressive career clearly shows, Wardian is a consummate competitor. The question is, will this impressive career and the 50K world records be enough to provide Wardian the confidence required to perform his best at the Spartathlon?

With a clear vision in his mind, Michael tells us “I want to run the Spartathlon to try and win it and be one of the top US athletes to race it. I think I have the speed and endurance to do well but also not knowing the race intimately, I think it will be a huge challenge. This race has been on my radar for years but has always been tough to attend due to other commitments. I am very much looking forward to testing my limits and if I am able to complete the race it will be my longest run at one push ever so that excites me too.”

With less than fifty days to the misty morning gathering in Athens' central Acropolis that signifies the epic start of the race, we won’t have to wait too long to find out.

For more information about the U.S. Spartathlon Team and/or sponsorship opportunities please visit:

U.S. Spartathlon Team website:

U.S. Spartathlon Team facebook page:

U.S. Spartathlon Team twitter: @spartathlon_us

U.S. Spartathlon Team email: [email protected]

U.S. Spartathlon Team phone: 865-414-0362

The US Spartathlon Team is organized/admin by the International 100+ UltraRunning Foundation, Inc., a Florida registered 501(c)(3) organization under the RRCA.


U.S. Spartathlon Team website:

U.S. Spartathlon Team facebook page:

U.S. Spartathlon Team twitter: @spartathlon_us

U.S. Spartathlon Team email: [email protected]

U.S. Spartathlon Team phone:


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