Arlington runner sets a record on the Israel National Trail

Michael Wardian finishes his record-setting run on the Israel National Trail. Photo by Ian Corless

The Israel National Trail is 631 miles long and traverses deserts and snow, mountains and valleys. It takes the
average person six-to-eight weeks to make the whole journey.

Last month, Arlington resident and competitive runner Michael Wardian did it in a little more than 10 days — 10 days 16 hours and 36 minute to be precise.

“I’ve been training almost my entire life for this run,” he said. “It’s the pinnacle of everything I have ever done. I’ve done some pretty extreme stuff, [but] never anything as big as this.”

Wardian said his journey, between March 12 and March 22, set the record for the fastest known time to complete the trail. He said he plans to submit the results to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Wardian, who isn’t Jewish, said he was convinced to try out the trail by fellow runner Zoli Bihari, an Israeli.

“He outlined to me how amazing [the trail] was,” Wardian said. “Zoli is really the driving force behind me choosing
Israel. I thought it would be an incredible challenge.”

And a challenge it was. The 44-year-old father of two woke up between four and 5 a.m. each day, and began running as soon as it got light. Wardian said he averaged 12 to 16 hours of running a day, aiming to cover around 100 km per day, or about 62 miles. He was followed by a crew including Bahari and photographer Ian Corless.

Occasionally, he stopped for a 10 minute break to change his shoes, drink water or eat hummus, which he
especially loved.

“Israeli hummus is [something] I could eat at every stop and never get sick of it,” Wardian said. “I was eating a full sandwich with potato chips and tons of coconut water. My body just couldn’t get enough calories. I’d basically eat anything they’d put in front of me. [I still] lost two to three kilos.”

He spent the nights as close to the trail as he could, often just camping out. Sometimes someone in the
running community offered their home. He spent one night sleeping on the floor of somebody’s store. Members of the Israeli running community even joined him for parts of the trail.

“I met people on a daily that are somehow connected through my running. One of my favorite things is getting to connect with someone on a real level. Running strips away a lot of pretense,” he said.

Wardian has been running since 1996, when the mom of a friend one of his friends’ moms told him about the Boston Marathon. Since then he said he’s competed in around 300 marathons and 100 ultra-marathons, which is any distance longer than the average marathon.

He said he didn’t do anything special to train for his Israel run. In fact, just a few weeks before, he ran 10 marathons in 10 days, on all seven continents.

He ran in Antarctica in shorts.

“Antarctica is probably most surreal place I’ve ever run a marathon,” he said. “It still gives me goosebumps to think about it.”

But the Israel National Trail, wasn’t only just the toughest run he’s done, it was one of the most educational, he said. A rabbi friend of Bihari ran alongside Wardian and gave him a crash course.

“I got a brief history of the very beginning Old Testament and 12 tribes. [We went] all the way through World War II and the creation of the Israeli state and all the wars that happened. It’s amazing what you can learn when you’ve got 14 hours.”

And once he finished on that Saturday, he took a plane home and went straight back to work on Monday at Potomac Maritime, a shipping company. He already has a few more marathons scheduled for this year: the Boston Marathon, the Big Sur Marathon and one in Wales called Man Versus Horse, where runners compete against horses.

“Running is a huge part of my life. I love that moving in kinetic fashion across the world. It’s as natural as breathing.”

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