Mike Wardian Says His 'Bucket List' 60K Exceeded Expectations, Even If He Did Not Win

Runners at the start of the NYRR NYC 60K Sunday

Michael Wardian, pictured above second from right, had grand aspirations for the NYRR NYC 60K on Sunday, a race he said has long been on his personal bucket list: He would drive to New York, one week after running the Athens Marathon The Authentic in Greece, and two weeks after serving as an ambassador for the TCS New York City Marathon – Virtual 26.2, which he ran in Hong Kong (he ran the first half as part of the Hoka One One Half Marathon and the second half on his own, on the trails in the city’s hills). He’d spend the night in a hotel with his family, the first time they would do so with the family dog, Rosie. He’d run 37.2 miles on a chilly day in Central Park with his wife, kids, and Rosie watching, win the race, and drive back home to Arlington, VA. 

The only part of his plan that did not come to fruition was the win. Wardian was passed late in the race by James Gorman (bib 99 in the above photo), who won, and Daniel Lemelman (bib 207 above, in the blue balaclava) and placed third in 4:08:47. But he received his medal from his sons, Pierce, 13, and Grant, 10, with his wife, Jennifer, and Rosie also looking on with pride.

“I just had an unbelievably great time,” Wardian said from the warmth of his car after the race.

Had a blast at the chilly @nyrr 60k. I was leading for a while, going through the marathon in 2:39, but bonked HARD the last 11 miles...which meant I got to ride the pain πŸš‚. I slowed to finish in 4:08 for 3rd place. Think every now and then having a race go sideways is fantastic. The πŸ”₯ is stoked for the next one. Thank you so much to everyone that cheered and yelled at me. It meant the world to me. πŸ™πŸ™πŸ™#running #trailrunning #relentless πŸ“· @nyrr

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Most ultramarathons now, Wardian said, are 50K or 50- or 100-mile races, and many are on trails. The opportunity to run a more unusual distance was appealing to him, as was an ultra run entirely on roads. The longevity of the race, too—the NYRR NYC 60K dates back to 1978—was attractive. “I like going to races that have a lot of history,” he said. “This race had this super old-school feel to it, but still had that professional feel you come to expect from NYRR, from the packet pickup to the bags and the timing systems.”

He praised the race’s volunteers. “They checked on us constantly, made sure we knew where to go, showed us the aid stations,” he said. “At the end I got pretty cold and they wrapped me up like a burrito and got me soup. It was a pretty chilly day and to be out there fired up and cheering all day, I just want to thank them.”

Going into the race, Wardian—like eventual winner Gorman and runner-up Lemelman—had looked at the times from last year and worked out a strategy. He had wanted to break four hours, which he was unable to do. “I was a lot faster than the time that won last year,” Wardian said. “The other guys were just better today.” Wardian said that he felt very strong until the 50K mark, at which point he could no longer hold his pace. He struggled to the finish line. “There were a lot of little bumpy hills,” he said. “You have to dig pretty deep.” Wardian said he expects his recovery to be speedy, despite the mileage and the hills.

James Gorman breaking the tape at the NYRR NYC 60K
This was the first ultramarathon for both Gorman and Lemelman. Gorman, pictured above, set his sights on the race after finishing the Boston Marathon in the spring. He lives just blocks from Central Park, in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, so it was a short walk to the start. Gorman saw Wardian in the lead for most of the race but edged him out with about seven miles. “I didn’t really know what to expect,” he said, “but I just got into a groove.”

Tiffany England, pictured at top to Lemelman's right, won the women's race. England, a Manhattanite, said that she knew she was ahead from the start, but said that the final loop was "one of the hardest things I've ever done." An ultramarathon veteran, England usually runs on trails. She praised the race's "community vibe" and praised New York Road Runners for "going beyond the marathon." 

Lemelman, who lives in Brooklyn, just completed his Abbott World Marathon Majors six stars and is midway through running a marathon in each of the 50 United States. He hopes to do longer ultramarathons like the Western States race, and said this was a good way to ease the ultramarathoning world. He said he enjoyed the camaraderie of running with Wardian and Gorman for much of the race. And he praised the spectators at the 60K. “They were so supportive,” he said. “It helped keep our spirits up.”

Author: Lela Moore

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