- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 12, 2003

Michael Wardian was dreaming big when he set out to qualify for the 2004 U.S. Olympic marathon trials. The Arlington resident was a long way from the standard he needed to achieve for the trip to the trials in Birmingham, Ala., on Feb.7.

But with just 12 seconds to spare, nearly the time it takes to read this paragraph, Wardian succeeded last Sunday in Detroit and chopped off a whopping seven minutes from his marathon best of a year ago.

“That was a big monkey off my back,” said Wardian, who placed fourth and won $1,000.

Qualifying certainly didn’t come by accident, but an accident certainly contributed to it. Wardian used focused training, as well as a training secret to qualify.

Wardian wanted to attempt to qualify at today’s Chicago Marathon, which just announced it is offering $2,500 to any trials qualifier. However, Wardian had a wedding to attend this weekend.

So Wardian shifted his sights to the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct.26, but Wardian shifted course again during a training run a couple of weeks ago.

“We were running really early in the morning in Rosslyn at the end of a 10-mile run, just off the Key Bridge crossing the street at the corner, and a guy was trying to turn right from the middle lane,” Wardian said. “I went up on the hood of his car. I put my hand on the hood and jumped up on the hood. I didn’t roll up on the hood, but it was enough to frighten me.”

“When we jogged down the last mile of the run, we said, ‘Let’s not take any chances and find the next marathon where he can qualify,’” said Chris Farley, one of Wardian’s training partners. “I think he made a great decision to run three weeks earlier. He was ready.”

Detroit made sense in other ways. Wardian went to school at Michigan State and knew many people in the area. Plus, it was close enough to drive.

In the end, Wardian was indeed ready. His 100-plus miles a week, combined with a perfect two-week taper, propelled him to a strong finish on artificial grass at Ford Field, averaging a 5:25-mile pace for 26.2 miles.

“That was an awesome effort out there,” said Farley, owner of Pacers running store in Old Town Alexandria, which includes Wardian on its racing team. “I am really excited for him. I wasn’t surprised. He’s done the necessary things to take his running to the next level over the past six months.”

Wardian obviously had plenty left in the tank; he shared the driving duties with his girlfriend.

Farley, a 27-year-old Virginia grad, hopes Wardian’s success will rub off on him. He wants to shave 11 minutes off the 2:33 that earned him fourth at Marine Corps last year.

“I’d like to go for the Olympic trials qualifier, and it is encouraging to see the jump he made, thinking that this time last year he was running around a 2:30 marathon,” said Farley, who is entered in the Dec.7 Cal International Marathon in Sacramento. “Seeing him run 2:28:37 in Chicago last year and seeing where he is now, he’s given me a great amount of confidence that if he can do it, why can’t I?”

Although Wardian never ran cross country or track in high school or college, he has been a superb athlete since childhood. He played lacrosse at Oakton (Va.) High School, where he graduated in 1992, and at Michigan State and took up running to stay in shape.

In 1996, he tried his first marathon, a 3:06 at Marine Corps, and the following year he was down to 2:54 at Boston. “I thought, that’s really cool, this is what I want to do. I was hooked.”

Over the next few years, the 6-foot runner completed in triathlons and some other mind-boggling events: a 150-mile, seven-day race across the Sahara Desert in Morocco and a 100-miler along the India-Nepal border at 13,000 feet in the Himalayas, to name just a few.

“Then I had to make a decision: if I wanted to qualify for the Olympic trials,” Wardian said. “I started that in 2002 with about a year and a half as my goal. It’s so excellent that I made it because I missed so many 50-milers and 100-milers.”

While Wardian credits his training program for his recent success, Farley thinks he knows Wardian’s ultimate training secret.

“He doesn’t believe in supplements except that he does religiously take his Flintstone vitamins,” Farley revealed. “With all these people taking EPO and all this illegal stuff, he takes his Flintstone vitamins. I think I’m going to start taking them, too.”

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