Va. man wins Quarantine Backyard Ultra Marathon

Mike Wardian ran over 262 miles in 63 hours, enough to win the race but shy of a world record. (Courtesy Mike Wardian)
Mike Wardian running the Quarantine Backyard Ultra Marathon. (Courtesy Mike Wardian)

This is the time of year people normally start running long races, since the cool mornings offer up pretty ideal running conditions. The problem is you can’t pack thousands of people at the starting line right now.

But some elite distance runners found a work around: the Quarantine Backyard Ultra Marathon.

And an Arlington, Virginia, man won it.

There’s actually a lot of freedom with this race.

“Basically you could run anywhere,” said Mike Wardian, who won by running the same path he walks his dog every day. “My block just happens to be a 0.44 mile lap and so if you do 10 of them it comes to be almost exactly what you need to do in the hour.”

That’s where things get nutty. In a backyard ultra marathon, you run about four miles every hour. And then you stop. Then at the top of the hour, you run another four miles or so (4.167 miles to be precise) so that you finish 100 miles over a 24-hour period.

“It was close to my house so I could have bathroom facilities and get extra food and clothes if I needed it,” said Wardian. He started running at 9 a.m. last Saturday and didn’t stop for 63 hours.

All but one of the other 2,000 runners had dropped out within 48 hours.

Wardian won when a runner in the Czech Republic didn’t start the 63rd hour on time. It’s unclear what caused him to start about a minute late but rules are rules, apparently.

“Before this, the biggest run I’d ever done was 184 miles or 300 kilometers when I ran the entire length of the C&O Canal in 36 hours,” said Wardian.

This time, he did 262.52 miles in 63 hours. The world record is 68 hours and over 283 miles but the rules of the race forced him to stop when he did after the runner in the Czech Republic was disqualified.

“Even if you feel good, if there’s nobody else left, you can’t continue,” said Wardian. “So when the race ended at 63 hours, I still wanted to keep going and it’s against the rules to do that.”

In this case, while Wardian didn’t get a world record, he did win the prize for this race: a golden roll of toilet paper. It’s in the mail.

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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