Running from south to north, Michael Wardian of Arlington, Virginia has set an FKT on the 631-mile (1,009K) Israel National Trail of 10 days, 16 hours and 36 minutes (unofficially). That’s like running a 100K race every day for 10 days–or, looked at another way, more than twice his accomplishment of a few weeks ago, when he set a world record for 10 marathons on 10 consecutive days.
Wardian was accompanied on the journey by photographer Ian Corless, who documented the run in photographs and video. Wardian reports having a “huge sense of accomplishment” from having completed the run, but it’s apparent from Corless’s interview with Wardian (above) that the most meaningful part of the whole experience was the chance to learn about the country, to learn about Judaism, and to connect with runners from the local community, some of whom drove for several hours to join him for sections.
“I was lucky to have been adopted by the Israeli running community,” Wardian told us once he was back in the US, “and sharing time on the trail with them was a highlight and made me super happy.”
Corless comments on Wardian’s ability to continue running four-minute kilometres even towards the end of long consecutive days of running. Wardian’s attitude towards those who joined him was, “Can you keep the pace? Can you find the trail? Can you remind me to eat? Sweet–then we’re doing this together.” This was an FKT attempt, after all, with an ambitious goal of 10 days, give or take, and those who couldn’t keep the pace didn’t last long.
But Wardian clearly relished the chance to run with others in this way, with some taking on the role of pacers and running ahead, then dropping back, recovering while he took breaks, then jumping in again. “If you’re trying to push like that by yourself, it’s just not happening,” he says.
— michael wardian (@mikewardian) March 25, 2019
“It was a tricky trail,” Wardian says in the interview, above. “Every time you think, I’ve got this, something would happen–there would be headwinds for 10 hours, or it would be overgrown bushes, or mud, or something we didn’t expect…” When we reached him by email, he told us, “The hardest part… was staying healthy and continuing to line up each day. Every day was a tough day, and every time you thought you could relax something would happen.”
Wardian gets emotional in talking about his last day, when he crested an hours-long climb and could see the finish line, so to speak, 50 or 60 kilometres in the distance. “That was the time when everything kind of hit me. I was standing there, and… I was still not close–I still had 50 or 60K to go. But I was like, I made it.”
Corless speculates that it will be a long time before someone takes down this record. Wardian admits there were parts where he lost time taking wrong turns and having to go back and find the right trail, but says the support of the local community was integral to the success of the mission.
“I feel fulfilled, and I have a lot of gratitude for everybody that came out and supported me and and allowed me to do this.”