Jun 18, 2023 - News

Running with real life Forrest Gump: Michael Wardian

Ultra-marathoner Michael Wardian running the Marine Corps Marathon

Michael Wardian runs the Marine Corps Marathon. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Arlington ultra-marathoner Michael Wardian ran 3,234 miles across the U.S. in 62 days — and the 49-year-old father of two keeps pushing extremes.

Why it matters: "The Real Life Forrest Gump'' is a top competitor in the ultra-sphere, breaking world records in distance and speed — like the times he ran seven marathons on seven continents in seven days, each under three hours (a challenge he tackled twice).

  • His races have raised more than $121K for World Vision, which provides safe drinking water for families across the globe. Wardian is currently on a child fundraising mission in Ethiopia with the nonprofit.

Axios asked Wardian about how he steps up and winds down.

🇵🇦 Running style: Cross country, literally. "I'm gravitating towards self-directed challenges. So I just ran across Panama. It was to celebrate running across the [U.S.], but it's a much smaller country. It only took nine hours."

Side hobby: Like many, Wardian's really into pickleball. Unlike many, he's training to set a world record for playing pickleball 24 hours straight.

🥍 Recent wins: Wardian doesn't just run marathons — he lives at their pace. In May, the Michigan State lacrosse alum woke at 3:45am, drove to Fredericksburg, and smashed the world record for the fastest half-marathon wearing a lacrosse kit (1:24:01).

  • That night, he led his Beltway Lacrosse team to a championship victory. In between: a DC Bocce League championship, which his team lost in the semifinals. "I was shook, man."

On losing: "I want to win, but I want to get better and find out what I need to do to get to the next level."

Fave fun runs: Fletcher's Cove parkrun, a free weekly 5K. Or if his dogs Bash and Rosie are joining, the scenic Potomac Heritage trail.

⛰️ Next race: Colorado's Hardrock 100 in July, infamous for snow and soaring elevations of roughly 10,000 feet over 100 miles.

  • "It was so hard when they started it, they didn't know if anyone could finish."

Bucket list: Running the Appalachian Trail — 2,192 miles in under 50 days in honor of his 50th birthday. "It's a pretty audacious goal. And really fast, an average of 44 miles a day."

👶 Breakfast: Stoked Oats with berries or … Gerber baby food? Hey, it's easy.

Splurge: Beyond Meat burgers. (He's vegan "except for honey" and kept bees.)

🍼 Family time: Wardian set a 2007 world record for the fastest marathon pushing a stroller with his ten-month-old son. "I was worried that he was going to freak out or get bored, but he was great, just checking everything out."

Athlete-parent advice: "Give them the option and opportunity to try different things and see what they like, and if they are into something, foster that."

🧦 Monday motivation: An international ship broker, Wardian keeps a goal list on his desk. Done: Bench press his weight (150-ish lbs). To do: Win a marathon dressed like Forrest Gump. "I just need the shorts and tube socks, and then find a marathon to do it."

This story is part of Weekend Warriors, a new series that hits the pavement with Washingtonians who spend their free time taking on challenges and testing boundaries.

  • Know somebody who should be featured in Weekend Warriors? A lawyer who's a bodybuilder or a lobbyist who's an extreme angler? Email Anna at [email protected].

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