Running a marathon is grueling enough in itself. There’s no need to make it any more difficult than it already is.
But Arlington resident Michael Wardian disagrees. He recently set a Guinness world record in the Fredrick (Md.) Marathon for running while pushing a stroller.
Wardian broke the previous record, set in 2004, by running the 26.2 mile race in two hours, 42 minutes and 21 seconds — all while pushing his 10-month-old son Pierce in a stroller.
Unluckily for Wardian, the winds were high on that early May day and the stroller, which had a plastic wind cover over it, acted like a parachute and created a tremendous amount of drag. Wardian, a highly-experienced runner, said it was one of the most difficult races he has ever run.
In an interview with the Arlington Connection, the alumnus of Oakton High School in Vienna spoke about his outlook on running, his Olympic plans for the future and his son’s awareness of the historical implications of the race.
Arlington Connection: How did you get involved with running?
Michael Wardian: I was a lacrosse player growing up and running was always part of the game but I did not do much running outside of lacrosse.
AC: When did you run your first marathon? What was that like?
MW: My first marathon was the Marine Corps Marathon and I ran [it in] 3:06. My goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon which I did (the cut off was 3:10). My first marathon was terrific but hard, I had trained but it was still a challenge and I will never forget it.
AC: How did you come up with the idea of running a marathon while pushing your son in a stroller?
MW: I came up with the idea of running with Pierce because I had seen it happen at the Toronto Marathon a few years ago when the record was established. I said to myself during that event if I was ever lucky enough to have a child that we would try and break that record.
AC: What was the reaction of your wife and the rest of your family to this idea?
MW: My wife and family's reaction was positive and supportive. They always support me and I could not have done it without them.
AC: Do you think your son was aware of what was happening during or after the race?
MW: I think that Pierce did have some idea that we were going for a long run but don't think he knew that we had set a World Record. He is only 10 months old.
AC: What was going through your mind during the race? Were you afraid that you might fall over and injure your son?
MW: My mind was focused on the task at hand, just like it always is during a race. I had mile goals and I was determined to hit them, even with the wind battering us. I was concerned that something could happen during the race and I wanted to make sure that Pierce was comfortable. But I was not more concerned than when we go to the store in the car, for a walk with the dogs, etc.
AC: You also used to hold the world record for fastest marathon on a treadmill. How did that come about?
MW: Yes, I did used to have the World Record for fastest marathon on a treadmill and I hope to get that back soon. That came about because I saw Josh Cox set the World Record at the Boston Marathon and I said that I could beat that time so I trained for it and I did.
AC: Was that more difficult than running with a stroller or less difficult?
MW: I would say that the World Record with the stroller was more difficult because of the wind, the wind was very strong with gusts up to 35 mph.
AC: Have you ever sustained any serious injuries while running?
MW: I have never had any serious injuries while running. I am lucky in that respect. I hope to continue to be healthy and run for a long time to come.
AC: What's your favorite race that you've ever run? What's your least favorite race?
MW: My favorite race is always my next one, I love competing and being given the opportunity to test myself. My least favorite race is one when I don't perform up to the goals I have set for myself. However, these races when you fail are sometimes even more important than the races when you do well.
AC: You've qualified for the 2008 Olympic trials for the second time. What happened at the last Olympic trials you ran in? When and where were they?
MW: Yes, I have qualified for the 2008 Olympic Trials and I am very excited to run in November at them. [In the 2004 Olympic Trials] I finished in 2:22:40 or so and was 33rd overall. I was very pleased with the race but I hope to improve my finish this time.
AC: Do you ever listen to music when you're running? If so, what is your favorite song to run to?
MW: Yes, I do listen to music when I run, normally just for easy runs as you cannot race with music; no sense in getting used to it. My favorite [music] to run to is probably "Rage Against the Machine." They just get me pumped up.
AC: Do you ever run in Arlington? Where is your favorite place to run in the county?
MW: I mostly run in Arlington as that is where I live and I like the bike paths and trails in and around Arlington. My favorite place to run in Arlington is probably on Four Mile Run as that is right near my house and I know area so well. It is very beautiful.
AC: What is your current job?
MW: I am an International Ship Broker for Potomac Marine International, Inc. in Alexandria and have been with the company for 11 years.
AC: How long have you lived in Arlington? What brought you here?
MW: I have lived in Arlington for about eight years and I moved here after college. [I] have enjoyed watching it grow and change over that time.
AC: Do you have any other children aside from Pierce?
MW: No, Pierce is our only child but we do have two dogs, Nikki and Maggie.
AC: If you qualify for the 2008 Olympics, would you take your son with you to Beijing?
MW: If I qualify for the 2008 Olympics I would definitely take Pierce, Jennifer, my wife, and probably my entire family and in-laws. [I]t would be fantastic.
AC: Has Pierce become your good luck charm?
MW: Yes, Pierce is definitely a good luck charm.