Mike Wardian Nears the Finish Line of his 2022 U.S. Run
On May 1, Mike Wardian set out from San Francisco on a journey across the United States. Now, he’s got less than a week of running left, so close to reaching his goal he can taste it.
Wardian’s arguably long journey has taken him through 10 states so far. It brought serious snowstorms as well as scorching sunshine, people curious, kind, and caring, and miles upon miles of fun and fellowship with runners who joined him along the way. (Wardian has run with an estimated 250 runners so far, and this number might double within the last week of his run!)
Having worked his way through several challenges, Wardian is now ready to take on the last week of his two-month journey. After eight weeks of everyday ultramarathons, it would be understandable if the body wasn’t in its best shape anymore. Incredibly, that’s not the case for Wardian.
“Everything’s great, I’m beyond strong,” he said.
On the day of the interview, Wardian’s feet got a little wet but, as he said, they should be fine and ready to carry him over the final miles once they get dry and taken care of.
“I feel like I could run 50 miles every day for the rest of my life,” he said. “I’m not fast, but I could do it every day.”
Wardian feels comfortable in his body and with the updated plan of finishing on July 1. Everything has been going according to plan so far and, hopefully, the following week will be no exception. Wardian has a simple plan for the last few days of his epic adventure.
“I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing and then celebrate on Friday when I stick my feet in the ocean,” he said.
Lots of Sunshine, No Rainbows
Though Wardian is filled with positivity and excited for his few final runs, the past couple hundred miles wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine. Or, more accurately, it was a lot of sunshine and no rainbows at times. When Wardian’s feet got covered in blisters and the temperatures climbed up into the 110s, the going got a little tough.
“Just getting through the really hot days with temperatures above 110 degrees Fahrenheit … really sucks your energy,” Wardian said.
The extreme, triple-digit heat haunted Wardian for four days before it finally gave up. At times, it made him feel like he wasn’t a good runner, however, it had a neat side effect.
“It actually proved to be a big benefit because if it only gets up to 94 [after that], it feels cool,” he said. “It’s good training. If it gets really, really bad and it doesn’t feel that bad, it makes everything else feel pretty good.”
Wardian has been spending at least 12 hours a day on his feet, including the days when the air above the road shimmered with heat and reflected the blue, completely cloud-less sky. He noticed the effects of this heat training almost immediately.
“When people come to run with me and it’s that hot, it really takes a bigger impact on them,” he said,” because they might only do an hour or two a day. Every one of my days is like 12 of somebody else’s days. So my heat training is quite good right now.”
Another trouble found its way to Wardian and his crew when his father had to take a break and go home.
“I was hoping that we’d get to share this whole journey,” Wardian said.
His father is now recovering from the illness that caused his leaving and will rejoin the crew and his son for the last few miles. Even though it was a bit shorter than expected, Wardian is thankful for all the time he got to spend out there with his father.
“We got to spend a lot of time together and I’m really happy that we had that experience,” he said.
When Wardian crossed into Virginia, he had a call with his father.
“[Virginia is] kind of my home state, so that was a really powerful thing and I just wanted to make sure that he was a part of it,” Wardian said.
As one of Wardian’s goals was to reconnect with his father during the journey, he expected this reality to take its toll. The number of crew members also went from four down to two, however, this little road bump had a surprising outcome; it made the crew stops a bit more efficient. In the end, Wardian said he was thankful that he got to experience this different way of being crewed, too.
Overall, the experience of the past eight weeks and 3,000+ miles has been a positive one.
“Every day is a hard day, every day I have to dig and fight, but then, every day, I also have good moments,” Wardian said.
He enjoys meeting people along the way and having experiences he’d never have otherwise.
“Every day has been an absolute pleasure. I feel really lucky and honored to be here,” he said.
The United States of Kindness
In California and Nevada, Mike was chased by bees and surprised by a snowstorm. That was more than a month ago; since then he’s run through eight more states and every one of them seemingly tried to trump the other when it comes to positive experiences.
From breathtaking views to good-natured people, the land and its humans made sure to welcome Wardian with open arms. Through heat and blisters, Wardian ran his way to some of the best things America has to offer: gorgeous nature and gentle people.
“I started one day on the top of an eight-mile descent so I got [to run] the first hour and a half downhill at [roughly] 9% grade into a huge canyon. I paid for it later in the day because I had a 17-mile climb out but it was a great way to start the day.”
“Climbing up Monarch Pass. It was the highest point on the route so just looking around at 11,312 feet at the mountains was one of the most spectacular moments of my life. It’s also the continental divide, the point where water runs either to the west coast or the east coast, so that was pretty special.”
“I met a guy on a bike and I told him that I was craving pumpkin pie and some eight hours later, he showed up with a pumpkin pie literally 40 miles from where I [last] saw him.”
“I ran 40 miles with a stray dog and it ended up getting adopted at the end of the run.”
“There’s a place in Illinois called Dairy King and it’s a complete take on Dairy Queen but it rocks. And they have this suicide [drink] that was like one of my favorite things on the entire trip. It’s like a citrusy soda but it was mixed with everything else in the place. It was awesome.”
“In Indiana, we stayed at a maple syrup bar. I didn’t even know there was maple syrup in Indiana. We got to learn about the maple bell and we got to have homemade maple syrup and just hang out at someone’s house. That was special. We hadn’t been to many people’s houses. And the lady made me dinner before dinner, that was awesome. She made me like a pound of pasta before we had tacos. Two dinners are always good.”
“In Ohio, we got to run with my friend Sean and a group of runners in Athens, Ohio. What else was special is that a lady drove an hour and a half so I could pet her vizsla which is the same dog that we have.”
“West Virginia was pretty incredible because that’s the state that I was born in so I was really happy to be back. I love the fact that it didn’t let me out without making me earn it. It was a big effort to get through West Virginia but I don’t want it to be easy; I want it to be a challenge and West Virginia was definitely a challenge.”
Going into the Last Week
As the Atlantic nears and the finish line comes into sight there’s still some unfinished business for Wardian. Throughout his journey, he’s been raising money for World Vision, a charity that supplies clean water to people around the world. His goal is to raise $100,000, which “would change 2,000 people’s lives,” and he’s over 60% of the way toward reaching his goal.
“I think that if we can keep getting out there and letting people know about it, then, hopefully, we’re going to be able to hit that goal,” Wardian said. Donations can be made directly through his World Vision fundraising page but people have been contributing in cash along the way, too.
The running plans for the last week have also been finalized; Wardian will finish his run across the continent on July 1 at noon in Rehoboth Beach. He plans to finish the run off in a spectacular manner: by running a hundred-miler.
“I’m excited about the challenge of having the big day to wrap up the journey,” he said.
He’s not worried about getting through the final week and the last push.
“I feel strong. I feel ready to keep doing what I’ve been doing every day,” he said.
He will start the last run of his Running Home project on Thursday morning and won’t stop until he dips his feet in the ocean on Friday. This 100-mile home stretch will start at High’s, 1230 Main St, Darlington, MD 21034. To be there for the grand finish, those interested can run the final mile with him, starting near Crystal and running down Rehoboth Avenue and into the Atlantic ocean.
After this, Wardian will do one last 1.6-mile ‘victory lap’ down to the Dewey Beer Company for a lunchtime party (2100 Coastal Hwy, Dewey Beach, DE 19971).
You can follow his last few days live with Garmin live-tracking.