- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 9, 2006

Michael Wardian won the second Ocean City Marathon yesterday, his third win in the past 20 days.

“I felt really good until 18, 19 miles, then I got really flat,” said Wardian, who also finished 21st-place effort at the Cherry Blossom 10-miler six days earlier. “And my stomach started hurting pretty bad. But I gutted it out.”

Wardian, a 31-year-old from who lives in Arlington, ran the 26.2-mile scenic course, which started in downtown Ocean City and meandered down to Assateague Island and back to West Ocean City, in 2:33:21.

Aside from a little company along the way, compliments of runner-up John Piggott of Williamsburg, Wardian said he virtually had the road to himself. Piggott, a 40-year-old veteran marathoner who won the Potomac River Run Marathon in Alexandria in 2004 and 2005, finished in 2:38:30.

“He was there,” Wardian said. “I ran in the lead for most of the race, but he caught up to me at nine miles. I said, ‘Good job,’ then I did a tempo until 14, 15 miles and he was gone. I got a cushion and I just rolled. I was definitely losing momentum, and I didn’t want to get caught. I was using my new Polar heart rate monitor and keeping my heart rate between 165 and 172.”

Wardian also ran without a shadow at the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach on March 19 (2:28:31) and six days later at the inaugural National Marathon in the District (2:30:55). In the fall of 2003, his racing season included four quality marathons in 34 days, and he won the last one at Marathon in the Parks in Montgomery County.

“I was paying the price at the end today,” said Wardian, who expects to race from Hopkinton to Boston at the Boston Marathon on April 17. “And I wanted to give them a good time.”

With numerous marathon victories and his race-jammed schedule, Wardian has become a local cult hero for many runners, a status he enjoys but is surprised by at times.

“A friend of a friend works at the Green Turtle [Sports Bar & Grille] in Ocean City, which was 1.2 miles from the finish,” Wardian said. “As I went by, he pointed to the bulletin board in front of the restaurant and the sign listed the drink specials, then said, ‘Welcome to the Runners’ and then, ‘Good luck Mike Wardian.’ It was just awesome.”

Wardian also was approached before the start by a runner who said he had seen him on television before the National Marathon two weeks ago and was inspired to sign up for yesterday’s race.

“That’s the kind of stuff that makes you feel warm and fuzzy,” Wardian said.

The first Ocean City Marathon last year was criticized for poor course markings. But Wardian said the problem was corrected this year.

Heading for another sellout — It seems very strange that area races like the Marine Corps Marathon and the Cherry Blossom 10-miler sell out in a couple of days but year after year the Army Ten-Miler goes months before reaching its registration limit.

This year, however, the pace has picked up and the race is registering people at record rates. Registration for teams and individuals opened April 3 and as of midday yesterday, nearly 6,500 runners have signed up for the 22nd running Oct. 8 starting and finishing at the Pentagon.

“While this year boasts an increase in the running field to 24,000 [from 20,000], the race is still expected to sell out in advance of last year’s close of July 10,” race director Jim Vandak said last week.

Major league — More details were revealed this week about the World Marathon Majors, a group of five of the world’s most influential marathons — Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York — coming together in a two-year Grand Prix format.

I’m not convinced of the greater good it does our sport to award $500,000 apiece to the male and female who score the most points in a minimum of three marathons over two years. The good news, however, is that the major powers of the sport are collaborating on ways to improve the global view of the sport for everybody, not just elites.

I see one major benefit coming — the increased international television coverage. But when all is said and done, most runners are truly more interested in participating than watching.

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