Mike Wardian On How He Won the Quarantine Backyard Ultra Marathon After 63 Hours and 262 Miles


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"There’s something inherently interesting about people going out to seek out what their limits are. The format is interesting too because you don’t really know if the race is going to end in one day, two days or six days. It ends when the last person either can’t go forward or isn’t allowed to go forward. That’s something I hope people would find interesting and maybe it brings more eyeballs on what we’re doing or inspires them to do it on their own."

Mike Wardian joins the podcast less than 12 hours after winning the Quarantine Backyard Ultra Marathon. The race featured more than 2,000 runners from more than 50 countries competing over Zoom. How’d it work? Each competitor had to complete a 4.167-mile loop every hour - starting exactly on the hour and it goes on until there’s just one person remaining.

The race started on Saturday morning and on Monday, Radek Brunner of the Czech Republic and Mike Wardian of Arlington, Virginia were locked in a duel.

There were two different approaches on display. Mike was running loops around his block. Brunner was running on a treadmill in his home.

At 11 p.m. on Monday night, Lap 63 begins. Wardian takes off for his loop. Brunner stands by the treadmill but doesn’t move for about 90 seconds. It looked like he was doing something on his iPad.

According to the rules, you have to be in your starting corral (so for Brunner that was his treadmill) and you have to start on the hour (and it appears that he did not). Race organizers from Personal Peak made the decision to disqualify him and then Wardian kicked it in for a 31:05 final lap - his fastest of the whole race. The decision was not without controversy and uproar on social media.

"Radek Brunner failed to leave the corral when the bell rang," Personal Peak said in a Facebook post. "This is what makes the backyard format so heart-wrenching. The bell doesn't care. The bell just rings. It is we who care. It is we who do not wish it to end. But it never ends well. It may only end gracefully."

I caught up with Mike on Tuesday morning to get his side of things, hear more about his strategy and how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted his own plans for 2020.

Read my brief recap and a transcript of the interview on Sports Illustrated: https://www.si.com/edge/2020/04/07/quarantine-backyard-ultra-marathon-winner-mike-wardian-radek-brunner-disqualified

More information on the race and its origins by Sports Illustrated's Jessica Smetana: https://www.si.com/more-sports/2020/04/03/quarantine-backyard-ultra-marathon-virtual-race-coronavirus-pandemic

Follow Mike on Strava: https://www.strava.com/pros/1108954

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