MISSOULA -- While running a marathon on the edge of the world, it’s not the frigid 40-below-zero subarctic temperatures that kill right away.
Getting too warm is the real concern.
“The object is really counter-intuitive; you don’t want to get too hot,” said ultra-marathon runner Michael Wardian, who ran near the South Pole for the first leg of the World Marathon Challenge.
The challenge? Seven marathons, seven continents, seven days. Day 1: Union Glacier, Antarctica.
“If you get really hot then you start to sweat and your sweat starts to freeze. That’s when you can get into real trouble.”
Wardian won’t have to worry about his perspiration while running the half marathon on Sunday as part of the Missoula Marathon festivities. With forecasters calling for weekend temperatures in the high 90s, any extra body cooling will be very much appreciated.
But why just the half marathon for Wardian? Aside from finishing sixth overall in last year’s full Missoula Marathon, he set the world record average time in the World Marathon Challenge (average race time 2 hours, 45 minutes). Wardian then went and ran an additional 17 miles to make it an even 200 miles for the week, just because he’d never done it.
No, Wardian – who will be speaking about The Growth Mentality at the DoubleTree runner’s expo on Saturday at noon – hasn’t gone soft. The rock and roll runner, one who dressed up as Elvis Presley in a marathon win last year – will be running in the Hardrock 100-mile endurance race less than a week later.
It’s one of the world’s most difficult races, sending competitors over 66,100 feet of elevation change with an average racing elevation of 11,186 feet.
“Everyone that’s doing the Hard Rock race is already out in Colorado trying to get acclimatized because it’s all above 10,000 feet and a pretty tough course. I’ve got my son’s birthday on Tuesday so I can’t make it anyhow,” said the father of two.
He may have a few bruises come July 14th in Colorado, too. His son has a paintball party planned for his 11th birthday.
“Those guys shot me up last time we went,” Wardian said, laughing.
Wardian is also coming off three sprint 5K events from the Fourth of July weekend, the last one on July 3rd. The mixture of events and constant racing – Wardian plans 40-50 races per year – is part of that mentality he hopes to share with the Garden City running community.
“There’s something to be gained from trying to see exactly what you’re capable of and how many races you can do,” he explained. “If you’re comfortable with a marathon, maybe try an ultra-marathon, and if you only do ultra-marathons, maybe try a 5K; it allows you to have different experiences and meet different people.
“There’s various ways you can achieve, it doesn’t always have to be what you set out for. If you don’t set high expectations for yourself, then you’re never going to get anywhere other than where you’ve been.”
And Wardian’s been places.
Jennifer Wardian, Michael’s wife, says she isn’t a runner – in fact she doesn’t really enjoy running – but she appreciates her husband’s pastime.
“His running hobby is kind of our vacation hobby,” Jennifer said Thursday after helping her husband put the finishing touches on his pseudo-Ted Talk for Saturday.
Although she didn’t join him for each leg of his World Marathon Challenge, she did fly down from their home in Virginia to Miami – stop No. 3, just after Chile and Antarctica and before Madrid, Morocco, Dubai and Australia.
“I saw them get off the buses, they did the race and we hung out for a bit – it was like a movie, they looked like they were having a great time,” she said.
In fact, Jennifer has never seen her husband have a bad time running.
“Never in between races – maybe the last leg of an ultra, when he’s in it, he looks pretty rough – but never in between. He genuinely loves it,” Michael’s wife said. “My dad always says that (Michael) has his running goggles on, he just doesn’t want to say no.
“He runs every single day, he never complains about it. He doesn’t drink coffee, he doesn’t eat chocolate, doesn’t eat junk food, doesn’t drink – he’s sometimes not that fun,” Jennifer said, jokingly.
But Wardian does know how to have fun – albeit in different ways.
After completing the world marathon majors – Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York – in one year, he wanted to celebrate. All he needed was some blue suede running shoes.
“(In 2016) for a celebration I went to Las Vegas to run for fun and I actually ended up winning the marathon in an Elvis outfit,” Wardian said. “It was like pandemonium the whole race. I think there was maybe another 100 or 200 Elvis impersonator, but everybody in Vegas loves Elvis.”
And everybody loves a winner.
Wardian not only crossed the finish line first at the 2016 Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon, he set the Guinness World Record for fastest marathon while dressed as Elvis Presley. His time of 2:38:04 bested Ian Sharman – who is also Wardian’s friend – by over 4 minutes.
“It was a very cool place to run as Elvis and a fun way to celebrate,” said Wardian. “(Las Vegas) probably couldn’t be a better place other than maybe Nashville to set a record as Elvis.”
Wardian, who wore the iconic white Elvis jumpsuit – modified for mobility, of course – said he recently acquired a magenta getup. With a new suit in a shade close to that of Montana's maroon and silver, there might very well be another sighting of the King come race day in Missoula.
“I can’t wait to break out now, maybe I’ll have to bring it for (Saturday’s) 5K,” Wardian said.
Hopefully the one-piece outfit breathes; after all, getting too warm is always a concern.