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Michael Wardian

The May/June 2009 issue of Marathon and Beyond magazine contains a delightful interview/profile of elite distance runner Michael Wardian, written by Jeff Horowitz. Wardian breaks all the rules: he's his own coach; he works at a regular job; he runs dozens of major races a year; he's got a family and kids, and he doesn't ignore them. Yet he also wins national championships and qualified to compete in the 2004 and 2008 Olympic marathon trials. He takes responsibility for his own training. "It's not that hard to figure out what works for you if you're motivated," he tells Horowitz. "It's just running, at the end of the day." He treats himself rough. "I usually don't eat or drink too much on runs as I like to train in the worst possible condition, so on race day, when I have water and PowerGel, it really works." (He's a vegetarian too.)

But as Jeff Horowitz observes in the thoughtful conclusion to his article:

... [W]e need to watch this man because he is not just another elite runner following a predictable training and racing schedule toward a career of moderate success. Wardian is different. He is an experiment.

Michael Wardian is straddling an ocean of running talent. On one shore stands a huge group of runners. They are the ones who toe the line on race day not because they ever expect to win or because anyone else might even notice that they're there, but simply because they love to run. These are the people who are in love with the motion of their bodies and with the pain and suffering that tell them that they're alive, and better yet, that they are part of that small percentage of people on the planet who can cover a marathon course. They are almost equally male and female and they are in all shapes, sizes, and ages. They are the pople who consider qualifying for Boston to be one of their greatest dreams, and if they are lucky enough to make that dream come true, one of their greatest achievements.

And then there are the people on the other shore. They are runners, too, but there are not very many of them. They are generally small, thin, and youngish. They are the ones who have their own personal water bottles set aside on a special table at the race aid stations. They are the ones who get all the room they need to warm up in the elite corral before each race, with access to private port-a-johns. They try to spot their competition at every race starting line, and they check their rankings. They are the ones with Boston race numbers in the single and double digits. They love running as much as the group on the other shore does, but they experience it in a different way.

Wardian stands on both shores, Horowitz explains, and by his mere existence he may be starting to prove that "... it is possible to have it all, to race as many of us do—or try to do—but at an elite level, without major injury or interruption."

In other words Wardian is an existence proof, in the same way that Raymond Chandler saw Dashiell Hammett's writing as a proof that the mystery genre could support good writing. Like the one-legged dancer Crip Heard, Wardian can be "a sensation and an inspiration to us all".

(cf. Eric Clifton (2004-10-01), ...) - ^z - 2009-05-24

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