(Updated at 12:40 p.m.) Famed local ultramarathoner Michael Wardian is going full Forrest Gump and running across America.
The 48-year-old Arlington resident and noted athletic adventurer has a new running challenge: to run from sea to shining sea.
The journey begins this Sunday (May 1) at San Francisco City Hall. Wardian will follow U.S. Route 50 to Arlington and, then, onto Dewey Beach, Delaware. His mission is to dip his toes in the Atlantic Ocean on July 4. That’s 3,184 miles in 65 days.
“With no planned rest days,” he tells ARLnow on the phone from San Francisco. “At least, that’s the plan right now.”
Wardian is doing this to raise money for World Vision, an organization that works to provide clean and safe drinking water to families across the globe. His goal is to raise $100,000.
It will be his longest run ever, an attempt inspired by his run across Israel back in 2019.
“It’s something I’ve never done before. I’m looking forward to it,” he says. “But also a little nervous.”
Wardian is known for incredible feats of the foot. That includes running seven marathons on seven continents, setting treadmill records, and logging 260 miles running loops around Arlington Forest. He also has recently set his sights on mastering pickleball.
He was actually planning to run across the country back in 2020, but the pandemic pushed those plans back two years.
“This has been my dream for, like, 20 years. And now it’s finally coming to fruition,” he says.
With him running nearly 50 miles per day, Wardian acknowledges the effort will take a physical and, crucially, a mental toll. This will be the longest he has ever been away from his family, he noted.
But Wardian is not doing this alone. He’ll have support alongside him the whole way, including someone very special. Trailing behind him in an RV will be his dad, there to prepare meals, do laundry, and just be supportive.
“This is a chance to reconnect with my dad… this is the longest I’ve ever been with him since I moved out 25 years ago,” Wardian says. “He’s going to be cheering for me the whole time.”
There are several ways to keep pace with Wardian on his months-long journey from coast to coast. There’s the normal social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. There will also be real-time tracking along with a detailed day to day schedule (including endpoints).
For those who get the bug, runners can also join Wardian on his journey at any point and for any distance — yes, much like Forrest Gump and his running entourage — by reaching out to [email protected].
About 40 people have already committed to joining him at some point one the expedition, including a few Arlington pickleball buddies.
“Hopefully, I can pop in on some [pickleball] games along the way,” he says. “I’d also like to play chess at various places too.”
Oh, Wardian is an avid chess player as well.
Wardian understands why he’s sometimes compared to Forrest Gump: the beard, the long hair, and the jogging across America.
“I have been called ‘Forrest Gump’ about a gazillion times… over the years and across the planet so I completely understand and embrace that,” he says.
But there’s one difference, he says, between him and the fictional character.
“Forrest Gump, to me, wasn’t quite sure why he was running at first but eventually he found what he was looking for,” Wardian says. “Which is different than me.”
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