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Wardian's drive makes JFK no average foe

November 03, 2005|by ANDY MASON

Michael Wardian isn't your average man.

Of the roughly 20,000 runners at this past Sunday's Marine Corps Marathon, Wardian placed 12th with a time of 2 hours, 31 minutes, 14 seconds - and he was far from pleased.

"I was hoping to do a lot better and challenge for the win," said Wardian, 31, of Arlington, Va. "But I just had a really bad race."

He'll try to make up for it Nov. 19 at the 43rd annual JFK 50-Mile ultramarathon. He's one of the roughly 1,000 competitors signed up for the backwoods journey from Boonsboro to Williamsport.

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"I want to make a good showing and give myself the opportunity to do something fantastic," said Wardian, a former Michigan State lacrosse player. "If I could break 6 hours, that would be great."

Only a dozen men have broken 6 hours at the JFK.

Then again, Wardian isn't your average man.

Fittingly, the 50-miler will be his 50th race this year, during which he's competed seemingly everywhere, from Japan to Canada to Williamsport, for the Gary Brown 5-Miler in August.

The marathon is Wardian's specialty. He's run more than 50 of them in his career, including nine in 2005. His personal best is 2:21:48, which he used to gain entry into last year's U.S. Olympic Trials. His slowest time this year was Sunday's - not that your average man would call placing 12th out of 20,000 slow.

Wardian ran an astounding string of marathons this past spring. In April, he was the eighth American at the Boston Marathon in 2:25:43. Two weeks later, he won the Frederick Marathon in a course-record 2:29:13. Two weeks after that, he won the Delaware Marathon in a course-record 2:27:48. Two weeks after that, he took second at the Vermont City Marathon in 2:27:15.

"I've really been focusing on the marathon lately," Wardian said.

No kidding.

Now the trick for him will be stringing together back-to-back marathons on the same day at the JFK, competing against some of the very best ultramarathoners in the business.

"It's a really prestigious race and I'd like to do really well," said Wardian, the world record holder for a marathon on a treadmill (2:23:58). "I'm not worrying about who everybody is. I'm just going to run my own race and try to run a fast time and hopefully that will put me in contention.

"But I don't plan to underestimate the course or the competition. I could fail terribly. If it goes bad, I'm still going to gut it out, even if it takes me 9 hours."

Either way, he won't have much time afterward to reflect on it. He's signed up to run the Reggae Marathon in Jamaica two weeks later.

Andy Mason is assistant sports editor of The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at andrewm@herald-mail.com

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