Podcast: Episode 50 with Michael Wardian

By Mario Fraioli |

“I hope people can find joy in what they’re doing, I hope people find things that are exciting, I hope people can look at me and say, ‘If that dude with a job and a family and 1.5 cars and all the same things that I’m dealing with can get out and do something, maybe I can do something too and maybe I can set a big goal and maybe I can find something that excites me and motivates me and I’m passionate about that I want to chase.’ And then I hope they go out and they do it.”

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Stoked to welcome another awesome guest on to the podcast this week: Michael Wardian. Wardian is the exception to almost every racing rule and for his latest trick he just broke the Guinness World Record for running ten marathons in ten consecutive days, covering 262 miles in 29 hours, 12 minutes, and 46 seconds, or an average of 2:55:17 per marathon. He ran the first seven of those 10 marathons on seven different continents as part of the World Marathon Challenge and completed the last three around a certified 5K loop near his home in Arlington, Virginia in 2:50 flat, 2:48:43, and 2:44:33. Oh, and on the 11th day, he raced a 5K with his vizsla Rosie in 17:01. Perhaps more impressively, he did all of that off about 20 total hours of sleep, which is something I pressed him on in this conversation.

If you know of Wardian’s way of doing things, you know this is just how he rolls. The 44-year-old races around 50 times a year on average and he’s not afraid to line up at a mile on the track or ultramarathon on the trails, sometimes doing both on the same weekend. He’s also set a number of wacky world records —like the  fastest 50K ever run on a treadmill, fastest marathon ever run wearing various costumes, fastest marathon ever run on an indoor track, and even pushing a baby stroller— and he regularly tackles challenging ultra endeavors such as Badwater 135, Marathon des Sables, and the Hurt 100 to name a few. He’s also qualified for three Olympic Trials marathons, won a number of national titles and placed on the podium at world championship events.

Wardian’s a great guy with crazy goals, unmatched ambition, and a big, selfless heart. We talked about his most recent feat, what lies ahead, how he recovers between big efforts despite being a notoriously bad sleeper, how he fits it all in around a family and job, the importance of giving back and helping others, the power of positivity, what he hopes the average person can take away from his approach to life and running, and much, much more.

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Don’t Try This at Home

By Mario Fraioli |
Wardian running a marathon in Antarctica in 2017. Photo: Courtesy of Michael Wardian

When last week’s newsletter arrived in your inbox, Michael Wardian was only halfway through what ended up being a pending Guinness World Record for running ten marathons in ten consecutive days. He covered 262 miles in 29 hours, 12 minutes, and 46 seconds, or 2:55:17 average, on about 20 total hours of sleep (that last fact alone makes me want to take a nap). Wardian ran the first seven on seven different continents as part of the World Marathon Challenge and completed the last three around a certified 5K loop at Hains Point near his home in Alexandria, Virginia, cheered on by local supporters. He covered the last three marathons in 2:50:00, 2:48:43, and 2:44:33, respectively, closing out the final mile under 6 minutes. Oh, and for shits and giggles, on the 11th day, Wardian did not rest. Why rest when you can race a 5K with your dog in 17:01? I’ll get the answer to this question—and many more—later today when I talk to Iron Mike for next week’s episode of the podcast. Stay tuned.

Podcast: Episode 49 with Hillary Allen

By Mario Fraioli |

“There were days when I was just so exhausted and I didn’t even want to get up out of bed because I didn’t even see the point. There was so much time that I spent wishing that the accident would have killed me because it felt like it was easier than to have to face the pain and face the challenges of everyday life. But then I’d receive a message and some voice of encouragement, sometimes from a dear friend, sometimes from a complete stranger, and it just built this community that I felt that I had near and far and it again let me discover the strength that I had within me, whether or not it was still there. Trail running, I felt, I could experience it in a new way but talking with complete strangers or my friends supporting me, it also allowed me to dig deep and find that within me.”

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It was a real treat to sit down with Hillary Allen for this week’s episode of the podcast. Every week on this show I try to glean as much insight and inspiration as possible from some of the top athletes, coaches, and personalities in the sport of running and this week’s guest has those two things in SPADES—and it really comes out in this conversation.

The 30-year-old Allen, a North Face-sponsored trail and ultra runner from Colorado, has made her biggest mark in sky running, which takes place in super gnarly, technical, high alpine environments. She was the U.S. Sky Running Ultra Champion in 2015, and has course records and podium finishes at races all over the world. The crazy thing is: she’s only been in the sport for a few years and rapidly ascended the ranks—quite literally—in a very short amount of time.

But there’s so much more to this special human. Allen has a Masters degree in neuroscience, she’s got a thing for bugs and grew up wanting to be an entomologist, she was a collegiate tennis player, she coaches other runners, and is just one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Allen also has an incredible story about survival—she fell 150 feet off the side of a mountain while racing in Norway a couple years ago—which we covered from a few different angles in this conversation, amongst a slew of other interesting topics, including using running and races as a way to explore places she’s never gone, the issue of burnout in ultrarunning, how she got her nickname, “Hillygoat,” the craziest wildlife encounters she’s had on the trails, running a 2:50 self-supported marathon to see if she could go faster than she did in her first, her love of science and the outdoors and how that’s impacted her life, and much, much more.

Postscript: Allen broke her ankle in late January, just a couple weeks after we recorded this conversation, an injury that required yet another surgery. “Things happen for a reason—if you chose to let them,” she wrote on her blog. “I’m reminded to take a deep breath, feel what I’m feeling and believe. BELIEVE. That this too, will create, reignite and provide an opportunity for growth.”
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Podcast: Episode 48 with Jake Schmitt

By Mario Fraioli |

“The idea of doing what you love doesn’t happen by accident. Like if I went to drama everyday, sure I’d have fun but it would have been misdirected. And I was fortunate enough to have what I loved and learn it but really cultivate it and really be around other people that loved it. And that’s probably the theme that will come out of this conversation, whether it’s a peer of mine that I’m still friends with because we raced against each other in high school or Mike Fanelli, who was running around the track with me at age 50, or my parents—it doesn’t matter the demographic, we shared that. And I want for our high school kids to have that. They’re coming to practice with two coaches that love it so much, they’re surrounded by teammates that really love what they’re doing, and it’s the culture that we have, it’s the community we’re trying to create.”

Subscribe, listen, and review on: Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Overcast | Google Podcasts | Soundcloud | Spotify

Incredibly excited to welcome Jake Schmitt to the podcast this week. The 31-year-old is a three-time Olympic Trials qualifier in the marathon with a personal best of 2:15:09. He most recently ran 2:18:03 at CIM and has his sights set on competing well at the Trials in Atlanta a little over a year from now.

Schmitt was a state champion cross-country runner in high school and an All-American in track at the University of Washington. Aside from being an accomplished athlete, he has coached at his alma mater, Redwood High School, for the past nine years alongside his mom, Laura—who is also his coach—and they’ve developed one of the top distance programs in California. This mom and son duo also cofounded the Thoroughbred Treadmill Studio just north of San Francisco, which is the first of its kind on the west coast.

We talked about all of those things in this conversation and then some, including Schmitt’s tight-knit family, where he gets his competitiveness from, how his parents taught him to love running without forcing it upon him, why he loves monotony, the importance of restraint in bringing along high school athletes in their training, developing a healthy team culture, and a lot more.

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Wanna Bet?

By Mario Fraioli |
Would betting on races be a good thing for track and field? Photo: Michael Ivins for Global Athletics | NB Indoor GP

Darren Rovell for The Action Network:

I often wondered why big track meets run by pros also included high school events. That became more clear to me Saturday night in Boston: It’s essential to draw the crowds. Betting could change that. Plus it could change athletes’ lives. Broadcasters would pay more for rights. The USATF could sell its data like all of the other sports leagues, and it could spread the money around.

Darren Rovell, sports business reporter and senior executive producer for The Action Network, wants you to wager on track and field. In fact, he thinks, the sport would benefit from it in a multitude of ways. (more…)

The Future is Here

By Mario Fraioli |
McLaughlin en route to victory this past weekend. Photo: Michael Ivins for Global Athletics | NB Indoor GP

Sydney McLaughlin made her highly anticipated professional debut at her sponsor’s indoor meet on Saturday and she won the 500 relatively easily. Now, to be fair, it wasn’t a super strong field, but a win’s a win for New Balance’s marquee athlete and anything less would have been a bad business move for both parties at this stage of the game. The brand invested a lot of money in the 19-year-old Olympian, who, in addition to being heralded as the sport’s next big star on the track, is looking to expand her footprint off it: She’ll be putting in a lot of work into growing a mainstream, non-track insider fan base through her relationship with top Beverly Hills talent agency WME. McLaughlin’s marketability is huge. But so is the pressure of being the youngest U.S. track and field Olympian in four decades. If she has the success she’s shown that she’s capable of on the oval, along with being able to capitalize on the opportunities off it, the hurdler could reach Bolt-like global icon status by 2024 (if not sooner).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mario Fraioli
Mario Fraioli is a writer and running coach based in the San Francisco Bay Area.