The About Perception Podcast: Insights from an Ultra Marathoner

By The Garrity Group


We discussed World Vision and racing strategies with Mr. Michael Wardian, Ultramarathon Runner. 

Full Transcript

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:00:01] It’s. Welcome to the Perception podcast. This is Tom Garrity. We have a lot going on here at the guarantee that I wanted to share with you something that is off the beaten path, literally and figuratively. Some of you know, I’m training to run the Black Hills ultra 50-mile race for Team World Vision. It’s in South Dakota at the end of June. And as a part of the training and encouragement, I had a chance to speak with world record holder. An ultra-marathoner, Michael Motian was gracious enough to share some insights that I think are also applicable in the world of public relations. And we’ll tell you how at the end of the interview. Right now, picking up on Michael Wardian, talking about his background in running

Michael Wardian, Ultramarathon Runner [00:00:50] qualified, ran the Boston Marathon, got hooked with running and then fell into Ultra shortly thereafter. I did my first 50-mile race in nineteen ninety-seven, so quite a few years ago. Then I’ve progressed through things. All ranked runners to international runners eventually earn my way through teams and been a pro athlete now for going on 20 some years. So, it’s been it’s been quite a journey from not even knowing how many laps are in a 400 to running for multiple days running across countries and representing Team USA along the way. So I’ve been really fortunate to have had the chance to, you know, take up a sport that I’m so into and passionate about and excited about. And I think the greatest thing, too, is just the chance to meet people along the way and do some good. And so I think that’s what we’re doing here.

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:01:59] Outstanding team World Vision. How did you first get become aware of team World Vision?

Michael Wardian, Ultramarathon Runner [00:02:07] And I’d say. I was probably I’d seen the logos and the shirts at some events. I feel like I may have seen team World Vision at Comrade’s one year in South Africa. And then I was in twenty seventeen. I won the World Marathon Challenge, where you run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents and one of the prizes for winning that was you won fifteen thousand dollars. I think it was actually fifteen thousand euro donation to any charity of your choice. And in my professional life outside of running I’m an international broker. And so we work with like a bunch of private voluntary relief organizations, including World Vision ship, like bulk wheat and stuff to places all around the world. And then I’d seen the team, World Vision people, and I met some of them. And I thought, well, that would be a great charity. It’d be a two for one. Like, they do stuff up and running and they do stuff and in humanitarian food aid. So I was able to donate that check to World Vision and I kind of got introduced to Brian and Josh along the way. And then I was asked to be a part of the hood to coast relay. So that was that was really cool. And then I did some of the six ks for water locally. So definitely, definitely been, you know, a lengthy kind of journey with World Vision. I haven’t got a chance to go to any of the mission sites yet. So that was something I was hoping to do when I ran comrade’s. And it just hasn’t happened yet. But hopefully that’ll be coming up in the future.

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:04:04] Outstanding. Outstanding. Well, what a what a great story. And I’m very curious, even though I know we’re on limited time to learn more about being a ship broker, I think that’s just a fascinating occupation and stuff to be able to move cargo from one from point A to point B, but my mind is a little weird like that. So we’ll stay focused on the running.

Michael Wardian, Ultramarathon Runner [00:04:28] Yeah. Yeah, well, yeah. Well maybe at some point we can go for a run and I can, you can chat me up all about it. But in the meantime if people want to see like what we do is everyone’s all like what happened in the Suez Canal probably. But then also there was a ship called the Maersk Alabama. They got hijacked by pirates. So that was Tom Hanks was in the movie about it called Captain Phillips. So that was that was one of my ships that they got hijacked. So, you know, most people you say to international shipping and they have no idea what you’re talking about. So that’s that’s usually their eyes just glaze over. But, you know, it’s fine. What about you? How did you get involved with World Vision?

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:05:15] Well, I first got involved with World Vision through actually the through the Wisconsin Iron Man program. Oh, neat. Yeah. Yeah. Twenty sixteen had a chance to get engaged with the team World Vision with up in Madison. And it was a great day. It was a lot of fun. And of course in the process I learned a lot about the water projects that, you know, all throughout Africa and it’s just really connected with me. And since then, I’ve had a chance to do, you know, a six cape for water, as well as ran with the San Antonio team at the Alamo Marathon last year. I was sweet. Yeah, cool. Yeah. So it’s been a it’s been a fun journey. And now I get a chance to let people know about the opportunity to sponsor children through child sponsorships and help communities in Africa, Latin America. So if you know of anybody, send them my way, be more than happy to get them connected.

Michael Wardian, Ultramarathon Runner [00:06:18] Yeah, well, it’s really powerful. Yeah, totally. It’s a great opportunity to change lives indeed.

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:06:26] So we have this big race that’s coming up in about five weeks, the Black Hills Ultra. And overall, what are some overall race strategies that people should keep in mind when approaching a 50 mile race?

Michael Wardian, Ultramarathon Runner [00:06:43] Yeah, I mean, there are people that are newer to the distance, I think I just the first time I did a 50 mile run, I thought, oh, it’ll just be like doing a marathon twice. And it is that way as far as the distance goes, but it’s a little bit different as far as the timing and the ability to keep eating and drinking becomes a little bit more important. You can kind of fake your way through most of a marathon. But as the distances get longer and especially around thirty to thirty five miles, when you’re just far enough that you may be in unchartered territory, but you’re not close enough that it’s like, oh, I only have five K to go like whatever, no big deal. Then it becomes important with the, with the fueling, the nutrition, the management of little things that usually aren’t such a big deal. Like you start to feel like a hot spot on your foot or you have a little bit of chafing like in your underarms or in your nether regions, like making sure you take care of that stuff because it is it is going to be the difference between having a really nice day and having a day that you wish you could have done some stuff differently. So like the biggest thing I tell people that I coach is keep eating, keep drinking it. The other thing is a lot of people in their first 50 miler and I haven’t looked at the profile much on this one, but I think it’s mostly trails. Is that right? Correct. Yeah. Yeah, that’s what I understand. So, like, the biggest thing for me is switching from, you know, road running to trail running was like you’re used to running or whatever your pace is. It’s usually a little bit slower on trails just because you’re navigating the terrain and maybe there’s some elevation, maybe there’s some altitude. And so you have to kind of figure all that stuff out while you’re trying to continue to remember the fuel. And so the biggest thing I say is try to take care of issues before they become problems. And so it’s worth a couple of minutes to retire your shoe or knock that rock out that got stuck in there or stop and put some lube on then to keep going. And then it bites you that much longer on the on the backside. But the biggest thing is like you can do it. Like, I remember the first time I was like No. One, the first time I heard you run fifty miles. I thought that was a lie. I didn’t think that it was possible, but it’s completely possible. And the nice thing with World Vision is they really do a good job of getting you prepared physically with the training. And so then it just comes down to like executing on the day. And, you know, some things you can do or I do is set an alarm to ring every 30 minutes or remind you to eat or drink. And if you already did, then fine, no big deal. It’s just in twenty seconds of annoying. But like, you know, set that alarm so that you’re prepared to have a lot of choices. Always have a spare gel, kind of like an emergency. Twenty but always have a spare gel in your bag somewhere like you know in a stash spot, get used to the equipment like it’s going to be more stuff than if you’re just running a marathon where they’re having aid station. So get used to how the pack feels on you get used to knowing how to actually work it, like because as you start to eat and drink, like it might start out bigger on you and then as you drink your water, it’s going to shrink down closer to your chest. And if you’re going uphill, you don’t need it as tight as when you’re going downhill and, you know, zigzagging on the trail. So kind of get a feel for what your pack is like, know how to open and close it like I’ve gone and not knowing how to, like, get my bladder to work or like how to put your bottles on and off. And then depending on if you’re racing or not, like most of us are, you’re just trying to complete it. But if you’re racing like I have an idea what you want before you get to the aid station, have a good idea of a fueling strategy. It doesn’t necessarily have to be intact the whole race. But like, you know, I’m planning to get in X amount of calories or I’m going to eat a granola bar or a gel every thirty minutes or something. And so have a good sense of what that looks like. I would highly recommend getting used to like liquid calories. So like Rock Thayn or other people use other stuff. So having those are really nice because you get water and calories. At the same time and don’t have to, like, try to force yourself to eat.

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:11:47] What about solid foods, early, sweeter stuff later? What’s some of that philosophy? Is it to each his own or what? What do you recommend?

Michael Wardian, Ultramarathon Runner [00:11:55] Well, it might not be an earlier later, but when you feel like it, try to get in because you might not feel like it later. And so if you can bank some calories, that’s not a bad thing. And then the other thing is think about when you’re going to consume the calories. So if there’s a big climb, like, it’s nice to start eating right before you get to the climb, because, like, I always thought, like, oh, it’ll be so easy when I’m going downhill. And I find that actually the worst time to eat is like when you’re running downhill all out in your stomach, like not really feeling it in like after you start actually getting to the next part of the climb. I don’t really feel like eating any like. Either as third dude, like, I really don’t feel right as you’re coming in, if you look up and you’re like, oh, that’s going to be like a 20 minute climb, like if you can start putting in some calories right there before you get to the part of the climb, that’s going to jack your heart rate. That’s a good time to eat. Or for me, that’s a good time to. The other thing is like try to stay cool because it’s a lot easier to put in calories when you’re not feeling like your body is on fire. So, you know, and stuff doesn’t taste the same at 90 degrees as it does at 50 degrees in your house or 70 degrees. So get a good idea of what the stuff tastes like at different temperature and then where you’re going to carry it, too, because if you’re carrying like a gel right next to your body, it’s going to be like soupy, warm blood that you’re drinking. You so like. Yeah, just know where you’re going to put the stuff and then also like have a little place for trash too, because there’s not going to be you can’t just throw it on the ground. So just have a good idea of like sometimes I have one pocket that’s dedicated for fuel, one pocket on the outside that’s just trash. And so when you come in to an aid station to you can just get rid of it if there is stuff or you can just keep it in your pocket. So it kind of like one garbage pocket.

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:14:07] How do you deal with nutrition when you don’t feel like eating any more on a long run when you basically go, OK, I’m just tired of Gel’s and tired of everything and just want this to be done.

Michael Wardian, Ultramarathon Runner [00:14:17] That’s going to that’s what I mean, sometimes your body just needs a break, but then only let it go through one alarm and then I’ll try to get back on it, because if you want to go too far, it’s just going to be a problem. And so. The biggest thing I could recommend at that point is if, like, nothing that you have sounds appealing and go to the aid station and walk through the aid station, so take your time. It might take you an extra 20 seconds, but have a good look around and they’ll probably have, like, you know, Chips or Reese’s Pieces or Swedish fish or pretzels or and if none of that looks good, just even get some water with sugar in it. So then switch to soda or something that might be able to settle your stomach, maybe have some ginger juice on you, too, that can help your stomach. So they sell these little Gingin things or even ginger ale if you have crew. One of the big things when I get hot and I somebody told me this, oh, was Paul Terranova. He’s like a really good athlete. He does Ironman, too, but he’s a kind of a badass like runner also. But his wife has like Slurpee. And those things are ridiculous because there’s like a ton of calories and they call you from the inside. And so, like, if you can get something cold in you, sometimes that can bring your stomach back around. And then, of course, like you can also have, like Pepto and that kind of stuff. And I would also just have an Imodium tab with you, because if things start to go really poorly, sometimes you can just pop that and that’ll stop you up a little bit and so you can get to the finish line.

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:15:59] Great insight. Let’s can I ask you about uphill and

Michael Wardian, Ultramarathon Runner [00:16:03] downhill strategies to attack and how to enjoy? Yeah. So I guess starting with the uphill. It’s there’s no shame in walking and you can call it power hiking or whatever you want, but it’s basically you’re walking and so and sometimes it’s actually as fast to walk or hike as it is to run. So don’t blow yourself up trying to run the hills, get used to you’re probably not going to need polls for this race, right? Like, I don’t think you’re going to have sticks or anything. Right.

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:16:40] I like taking polls with hold with them. The elevation gain is about sixty seven hundred.

Michael Wardian, Ultramarathon Runner [00:16:49] The elevation. That’s a pretty that’s a pretty substantial yeah, that’s a pretty substantial amount of elevation gain. But if you’re not used to them, I mean, if you’re not used to them, maybe try them out and see what you think. But the other strategy is just do hands on knees. And so you kind of use your hands as polls and really get used to. And if you can practice ahead of time, put a treadmill on like 15 percent grade and just hike for forty five minutes and try to like try to go 15 percent grade and try to it doesn’t even really matter how fast you go. But if you can try to average, if you put it on 15 minute miles and you have it at 15 percent grade, you will feel what it’s like. So like get a feel what that feels like or if you have a big hill by bike. I know I’m a flatlander, so like I don’t have like a forty five minute hill, so I just treadmill and then get used to running downhill and get used to that pounding on your quads because like a lot of times like it’s not the people that kill people, it’s the downhill. And no one really thinks about that. But that’s actually can be a problem. So just get used to running downhill and then get used to siting. So like, when you first start, you’re probably going to be siting, like, near your feet. But the more that you can scan ahead on the trail and know where you’re going to put your feet the better. So just get comfortable, like siting further out on the downhill and then also just get comfortable in your in your kit. So if you’re using handhelds, like most people maybe are doing hydration best now with soft bottles. But, you know, some old school people have like Weisfelt or something, but, you know, get comfortable and what you’re going to use. The nice thing about having handhelds is if you do tweak your foot on the trail and you fall, you’ve got like built in like bumpers for the ground. But the you know, the bad part is like when you’re climbing uphill, you have to, like, slide them to the back of your wrists to be able to hike so you don’t spray the bottle development. But, yeah, just get used to whatever you’re going to use and know how it feels to go up and down.

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:19:06] So drop bag strategies. You talked about having some ammonium made in there in a drop bag. What other drop bag secrets do you have.

Michael Wardian, Ultramarathon Runner [00:19:17] Well, so I would carry that in your vest, so carry the Imodium in a zip lock in your vest, carry some Tylenol, carry some tape in case you start to get a chafe or you, like, roll your ankle or something so you can just get some tape or duct tape, throw that in your bag, carry some. I learned this the hard way, knocked out of a couple of races for taping. But I also carry like I run for squirrels, not butter, but carry like a little like snack bag of squirrels, not butter after you put it on, because if you get caught in a rainstorm or something, it’s like squirrels now. But these are pretty good. But depending on what you’re sweating or not, or maybe you get a rash going or whatever, so like have a little extra butt in your drop eggs, you can have you got it. You probably aren’t going to need headlamps or anything like that. But I would have like a special snack. Maybe it’s Pringles, maybe it’s like Oreos, maybe it’s celery sticks. I don’t know, whatever, like you can look forward to have that have some extra juice. You maybe have like a windbreaker, like a crappy one that you don’t care about, like a poncho or something in case you get bad weather. I would carry a space blanket with me, especially after what happened. Those things don’t really weigh that much. You can just stick it in your pack. What else? Most of the time you’re like the aid stations are going to be fine. But like, if there’s something that like if you’re gluten free and you know, there’s not going to be gluten free stuff at the aid station, put that stuff in your bag like I’m a vegetarian. So a lot of times I’ll put like an almond butter and honey sandwich in the bag just because I know, like, if I really need some calories, like it’s not going to be on the table. So, like, make sure I basically have something that, you know, that you’re going to really crave or you think you are. And most of the time you’re not even going to touch it. But it’s nice to know it’s there as like a little carrot to get you through. And then a big trick, I would say, as you’re coming in to the aid station. First off, know what your number is and then know what your bag looks like. So if you can decorate your bag or something like that. But I also usually write like super big on it, like my name and number and really big like I put, like, duct tape on it or something and then start calling it out before you get in. So like, hey, I’m Wardian bag ninety seven or whatever, you know, could you please grab that for me because that’s why the people are there. So don’t be afraid to use the volunteers.

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:22:07] How do I get the mind, you know, the mental game so to speak. Because sometimes you just wondering, you know, am I going to make the cut off or at least I am anyway. You have never I have had to worry about that.

Michael Wardian, Ultramarathon Runner [00:22:20] Oh, I’ve had that and I’ve had that. It’s not very. Yeah, yeah. It’s scary.

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:22:27] So what do you do to get out of that? Or if you do get into that zone, what recommendations do you have to try and get out of that zone?

Michael Wardian, Ultramarathon Runner [00:22:36] There’s a couple of things that I’ve used. So it’s nice to have a mantra sometimes. So like sometimes I’ll say like why not today? You know, like if you start like today is not my day, but why not today? I’ll say that, like, you know, this is sometimes I’ll say this is what you do and like, come on. Like and sometimes I look forward to those opportunities because that’s when you get stripped down and it really shows you like there’s I think a lot of us think we’re one person. But then when it gets really hard, we’re not quite there yet. And so, like, it gives us the opportunity to maybe take that next step to that next level. And so, like having a big why, like, why are you doing this? And I think we have a huge why right. For this. It’s like I mean, OK, I’m going to be uncomfortable for four or five more hours. But if I do this, it’s going to impact it’s going to have a multiple or amplifier effect. So like having that or maybe even like sometimes I’ll write the name of my kid on my own, like, you know, I did a race once on my son’s birthday and I was like, oh, my God, I was struggling so bad. And I kept looking down like curse like I can’t believe, you know, like whatever. And so, like, sometimes I’ll just take a black marker and write. You see, you can write a vision or you could write your wife’s name or your partner’s name or your dog’s name or whatever it is. But sometimes it’s nice to have that or you can even just write it on your wrist or like just an initial or something like that, but just have that in the back of your mind. And a lot of times I can get you out of it. I would also say never make a decision when you’re going uphill. So if you’re thinking like. I can’t do this anymore. Never, never decide to drop out of a race when you’re going uphill. I’ll tell you that a lot of things feel better when it’s flat or downhill. Also, sometimes I’ve got enough funk where I’m like, I’m going so slow. Like, I never I’m never going to get it. And you think, like, the course is always going to be the same, right? So whatever it is, and no matter what it is, it’s going to change. So, like, no matter how good you’re feeling, it’ll probably change. And no matter how bad you’re feeling, it’s going to change, too. So sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s ever going to change. But if you keep eating and you keep drinking and you keep taking care of yourself, you’ll come out the other side.

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:24:59] How can people learn more about you as far as through your social media channels or a website?

Michael Wardian, Ultramarathon Runner [00:25:06] Yeah, yeah, totally. So and my accordion. And that’s my key WJR like dog I Twitter and I’m at Michael Jordan on Facebook and they can just go to either of those platforms. And then I also have a website that’s just like Wardian Dotcom, but it’s super. No one goes on people’s website anymore, I feel like. So it’s not as updated as it could be. Everyone looks you up just so at least that I know most people just look you up on social media.

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:25:44] Yeah, I like your Instagram account because I actually saw some exercises that you were doing that are just I was like, OK, next time I’m going to incorporate more of that. So I think that’s great. Well, thank you very much for your time.

Michael Wardian, Ultramarathon Runner [00:25:57] Yeah, no worries. And good luck, I hope you guys have a great race and I hope I hope it goes really well for you.

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:26:03] That was my conversation with Michael Wardian, world record holder and sponsored runner with Hoka. Some key takeaways. One of the things I liked was how he said set an alarm every 20 to 30 minutes to take fuel and then have a fusion strategy. What that basically does for me is it says create your own content calendar, have a strategy on how you’re going to engage your customers, have a plan going in and just don’t do it willy nilly. On the communication strategy side, I think it’s important to get to know reporters and engage on social media before you need to engage the reporters or social media. You want to let them know that you’re interested in them, even when things are going well and there’s not much information to share as well as during those difficult times. Or if you have a sale that you need to engage in, let them know more about what’s happening at your company. Some other things that he said is that there’s no shame in walking. Don’t blow yourself up to run the hills in layman’s terms and translating that for public relations. We basically don’t want to exert all of our energy going uphill or on a special event only to hit the precipice and start going down and not having any strength in your quads. So what that tells me is, is that you have that strategy to make sure that you, after the big events or the big sales, you are able to continue the momentum moving forward in your organization to really, you know, keep those communication efforts going. And then, you know, when things get rough, he said, never make a difficult decision when you’re going uphill. And you might sometimes say that today is definitely not my day, but why not today? So, you know, what that tells me is, is that when you hit those difficult times, just power through focus on getting from point A to point B and, you know, kind of encourage yourself as you’re hitting those difficult times, whether it’s a management issue or a communications issue. And if you’re saying today is definitely not my day. Flip it around and say, well, why not today? This is what I do. Thank you for listening. For other podcast blogs and insights, visit

Published June 7, 2021


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