Local Man Fails to Set World Treadmill Record
Have you ever run more than 25 miles on a treadmill, seeking to break a world record for stand-in-place marathoning, only to get slightly confused about your distance, become overwhelmed by heat, come up less than a half-mile short after shutting off the machine prematurely and and then collapsing and then briefly winding up in a hospital? Well, sure you have, but you should read Michael Wardian's story anyhow.
More than three years ago, Wardian--a local running legend from Arlington and an amateur masochist--set a world record for running a marathon on a treadmill. It was a glorious achievement. I wrote about it here.
Since then, his record was cruelly usurped by Eric Blake, who ran a 2:21:40, bettering Wardian's mark by more than two minutes. Wardian was pretty sure he could top that, since he's run a 2:21 on the road, but he never got around to it. Then, last weekend, Wardian was scheduled to run the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, but it was canceled due to wildfires.
"I was like, 'What am I gonna do?' " said Wardian, perhaps better known for his world record for running a marathon with a baby stroller.
Well, he decided the same thing any self-respecting ultra runner would decide: he would use the several days he had at his disposal to plan another assault on the treadmill record, this one at the new Pacers running store in old town Fairfax, at which he would also attempt to set a 50k treadmill record. So what happened? Let's quote from the release"
Wardian ran 2:09:15 through 24 miles (a pace of 5:23 per mile), almost 30 seconds ahead of world record pace. Wardian slowed on the 25th mile, running a 5:40 mile, then inexplicably shut the treadmill off with just over a mile to go. He apparently thought he had finished the 26.2 mile marathon.
After being told there was still over a mile to go, Wardian increased the treadmill speed back up to run the last 1.2 miles. At that point, he began to stagger and was having trouble keeping his footing. At 25.9 miles he stopped the treadmill and collapsed. His time at 25.9 miles was 2:22:35. He was .3 miles short of finishing the marathon.
Talk about agony of defeat; running in place for 98.9 percent of a marathon, for no prize money and not even a certificate of completion, in front of only a handful of people, some of whom were just trying to buy sneakers, and then collapsing within sniffing distance of the record, with only 30 or 40 people in a suburban running store there to witness your near-miss.
"I mean, it wasn't Willis Reed or anything, but it was pretty intense," said Chris Farley, the store's owner. "It did suck, but it was a helluva effort and a really intense showing. It's just too bad he didn't get it."
"I was kind of hallucinating and stuff," said Wardian, when we chatted yesterday. "I don't know what happened, I just got confused as to where I was. The clock was behind me, and I probably should have been in front of it. I just got spaced out. It wasn't anyone's fault other than my own, I just got a little too exhausted and too hot."
What happened next was typical; the vomiting in the trash can, the trip to a hospital for two IVs over four hours, the arrival back home around 11:30 pm, the on-time arrival at his job as an international ship broker the following morning, the floating of his plan to assault the world treadmill record again.
"My wife won't let me do it this weekend," he pointed out, which is a shame.
I should note that part of the problem was the treadmill; it came from a health center, and was programmed to shut itself off every hour, and the re-starting procedure cost him 45 to 50 seconds, twice, forcing him to up his pace considerably, and also leaving him confused as to exactly how far he had run, because he had to add up the various figures in his head. His next treadmill run, Wardian promised, will only be done on a treadmill that will run indefinitely.
But in the meantime, no regrets about his ill-fated 25.9-mile run to nowhere.
"I really pushed the envelope and stepped up close to the edge, and maybe even stepped a little over, and I was ok," he said. "So yeah, it was a minor setback, you know? It was good to take a little lump every now and again.....Maybe next time there won't be as much drama."
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