Mike Wardian #FKTIsrael 2019 – Day Four

Last night was a late finish and normally, the priority would be all about getting off the trail, eating, getting clean and sleeping. However, Mike’s finish was in the middle of nowhere and that required a lengthy drive out. The plus side, the team had dinner with a Bedouin family (quite an experience) and then a night in a ‘real’ bed with a shower – luxury!

The following morning, we had the lengthy drive back to Mike’s day 3 finish point before he could start day 4. Time is precious in a FKT and this was eating in to Mike’s run time.

A cloudy and dull start soon cleared though to reveal blue skies with patchy white and fluffy clouds.

 I am continually blown away by Mike’s attitude. He never seems tired, always positive, gives continual thanks to the team helping and is always prepared to add 1 extra mile to his day if he can. Barring injury, I am convinced Mike will get this FKT! Quite simply, if he needs to move for 24-hours towards the end, he will!

 The first three days of this journey really have been truly spectacular. I spent a long time on the trail with Mike today (37km actually) and we discussed how we had both been surprised and impressed by the daily surprises Israel has provided. It’s fair to say, we knew very little before this FKT and our eyes have been opened.

 Mike was once again metronomic in his running, however, a troublesome stomach in the first hour or so irritated him and also a pair of shorts was just not working out! Once he solved both of those issues, the miles clicked along.

There were two incredible highlights today and both involved technical challenges, Hod Akev and Karbolet. The first had a steep climb and wonderful single-track descent with ladders and via Ferrata.

The latter, Karbolet, is known as the hardest and most challenging section of the whole Israel National Trail – it was stunning. It involved a long technical climb with rungs, exposure and technical sections. Once at the summit, the trail went up and down, mostly on angled slabs of rock. To the left, a drop to the valley below.

Karbolet was brutal. Both myself and a pacer ‘Avi’ joined Mike for this long, almost 20km section and it took us almost 5-hours – the latter hours in complete darkness. A highlight though, without doubt, was sunset on the ridge.

Once down, Mike then continued on for another 5km with ‘Uri’ to conclude his day at 2130 in the evening, over 13-hours on the trail.

 Tomorrow will be an 0600 start and will be our last day in the desert. From day-6 we head north with new scenery and experiences.

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Mike Wardian #FKTIsrael 2019 – Day Three

Mike had a sleepless night. He woke often and found the need to stretch his legs, surf on his phone and hope that the morning would come quickly. I am convinced that he is a freak of nature? The rest of the crew were desperate for sleep, slept like babies and didn’t wake up – especially at the 0430 alarm.

The winds came in last night and sand was blowing everywhere. We were expecting a really tough day and yes, rain was possible.  

At 0620 Mike was moving and early on he said he was, ‘feeling great!’

 With 10km covered, the fog like sand disappeared and the sun started to burst through the clouds and then disappear. It would remain that way all day. The wind however persisted, at times this was a blessing keeping Mike cool. At other times it was a pain as it made running difficult and, on the ridges, potentially dangerous.

The stage was stunner, with incredible terrain and majestic views. Trust me folks, this is one of the most remarkable deserts I have visited. It is a spectacular wonder of surprises.

Early on, the region of En Rahel provided a stunning backdrop as Mike climbed and the sky cleared with bursts of sunlight. Later Har Yahav was spectacular providing a stunning climb, exposed ridges and wonderful descent to the riverbed. Har Sharonim was void of sunlight but no less spectacular and then later in the day, as darkness started to approach, the climb from the Ramon River, up to the ‘The Green Backpackers’ and then Mitspe Ramon was a great way to almost bring a day to a close.

 Mispe Ramon towards Mahmal Fort brought a conclusion to the day at  1900 hours. Mike, as the previous day, was robot like. He maintained a consistent pace. At no point did he say he was tired, on the contrary, at all times, he said, ‘I feel so good!’

He clicked the miles off, and go the day done!

Despite the early morning predictions of bad weather, the day was a good one. Cooler than the previous days and intermittent sun, but this all helped Mike. It was a tough day for crewing as access is limited and the easiest way to capture images was to run along on key sections.

There were little changes to Mike’s nutrition today. He seems to have found a strategy that works for him, but a huge salad sandwich was a welcome kick late in the afternoon. Another change came with Pitta filled with Pringles – have to say, they are good!

As with all the day’s, anything of this length requires a long-term view and recovery is key. Mike has the most amazing powers of recovery – he defies logic. There is still a long way to go, but Mike is getting the job done and he is getting amazing support from the run community, not only in Israel, but worldwide. That really boosts him, so, keep that support coming!

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Mike Wardian #FKTIsrael 2019 – Day Two

Mike slept like a baby last night! I have known Mike for years and we have often laughed at his typical 4-hours a night sleep… He was in his sleeping bag not long after 8pm after day-1 and then had the ‘best sleep ever!’

The first day of the #FKTIsrael had been a tough one – far tougher than Mike and the crew had anticipated. However, doing any challenge, nothing is guaranteed and to be honest, one has to expect curve balls. The secret is all about how you bounce back.

Day 2 was a planned 103 (ish) km and that was pretty daunting after a long day 1 covering just over 80km. The plus, there is always a plus! Was that the terrain today was considerably more runnable and in principal, would suit Mike.

We immediately had a curve ball to the day! The ‘INT’ route early on passes through a military base and we were told late the night before that the route would be closed between 0730-0900. Bad news for any early start to make up time. However, it did allow the whole team more sleep. A plus for all.

Mike started his day at 0720 from the place he had finished the night before. It was clear, not only had Mike recovered well, he was motivated for the day. He started setting a good pace and maintained consistency, like a finely tuned metronome.

In contrast to day 1, the first marathon was relentlessly boring and featureless, a test for the mind as much as the legs and lungs. But Mike has an ability to switch off and get the job done. Today, we really witnessed why he is such a great ultra-runner.

Mile-after-mile clicked off and at each checkpoint he relaxed for 5-10 minutes, drank coconut water, ate avocado, hard-boiled egg whites, some Pringles, a little bread, hummus, vegetables and then he would fill his bottles and go.

 At one point, he received a call from home, greeted his wife and wished his kids a ‘g’day’ before they left for school.

The highlight of the day came at Vardit and Barak Canyons. These natural wonders are truly spectacular, no, mind-blowing. Here Mike was accompanied by Uri, a good-friend of Zoli’s and an ultra-runner. The main reason being for safety as there are many water pools that require you to swim, ladders, via Ferrata and other technical terrain.

Once out of the final canyon, it was flat miles all the way to the end. But Mike at no point lost pace or commitment. He was a man on a mission, and he completed the day in darkness before 20hrs (1945 tbc)  having completed the target distance for the day. The final section under strong winds and sand storms.

Mike impressed the whole team today, not only for his powers of recovery, his skill as a runner but by his generosity for all those who helped him, all those who said hello, and anyone who showed an interest. He is a true gent!

It’s Groundhog Day now, eat, wash, prepare kit and recover. It’s all to do again tomorrow.

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Mike Wardian #FKTIsrael 2019 – Day One

One year of planning finally came to fruition today, when US based ultra-runner, Michael Wardian departed Eilat at 0546 to head north covering a total of 631-mile on the Israel National Trail in a target goal of 10-days. 

It’s a huge undertaking and the man who came up with this idea, Zoli Bihari of Canaan Running Adventures knows only too well. He did a similar route over 3-years ago, it took him 23-days.

Michael is a legend in the ultra-running world and his reputation precedes his prolific achievements and his desire to run. Just recently he won the World Marathon Majors, running 7-marathons on 7-Continents. He then added 3 additional marathons so that he could set a world-record for the fastest average time for 10-marathons in 10-days.

Never one to refuse an adventure, Michael and Zoli met at the 2018 The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. The duo chatted and the idea for #fktisrael was created.

It is normal for trekkers to travel from the north and finish in the south. However, there are restrictions on the trails (in terms of movement in darkness) in the south, therefore, Zoli and Mike decided to start in the south and then if required, they could run in to the night later in the challenge and gain extra miles and time.

For a couple of days, Mike and the team explored the trails in advance of the FKT. It allowed some adjustment, planning, photo opportunities and also gain some relaxation time before a huge challenge.

Placing his hand on the metal post with the ‘INT’ markers, he looked eager and motivated for the challenge ahead. For several days he had been saying he felt good. He was off…!

The landscape and scenery on day-1 is truly spectacular. I would go as far to say, that it is some of the most impressive I personally have witnessed. Beauty comes at a price though – the trails are technical, have plenty of climbing and descending and then add some intense heat.

 Mike was always going to play a, ‘Let’s see?’ Scenario on day-1 and he was keen not to get too carried away, starting at a crazy pace. With 50-miles to cover, it seemed a sensible target.

Throughout the day Mike moved steadily, always looking relaxed and in control. However, it was clear from the outset that Mike’s ‘hopeful’ target time for day-1 would be extended. Not a problem! After all, this attempt is going to last 10-days – one needs to think of the long game!

 At each check-point he arrived, smiled, said he felt good and then stocked up on ‘Tailwind,’ drank some Coconut water, snacked on food, re-filled his bottles and off he went. Rarely did he spend longer than 10-minutes at any one stop.

 A highlight of the day came at Timna Park. The trails, the landscape and the views here are truly spectacular – for sure, it is a bucket list location. I joined Mike for a second time in the day to climb over the key mountain, run the technical trails and the descend to our feed point at 51km covered.

 Mike was moving well, using poles when required and maintaining a good pace. At the feed, he went through a similar scenario as with all the other stations and then moved on.

At the final feed point, Beer Matak at 61.5km he was notably looking tired and fatigued from the day’s efforts. He was also feeling the heat from the last big climb of the day. It was time to dig deep and push on for a final 18km.

 It was here, as darkness came that disaster struck. Mike followed the marker of the ‘INT’ but unfortunately missed the turn to our bivouac which was off the INT route. He pushed on, following the markers and it was our support runner who notified us that he was ‘missing’ after hearing from another trekker that he passed some 30-minutes early. Our camp no cellular connection, so, we departed following the approximate route that Mike would take, It was here that technology took over. We managed to liaise with Mike via WhatsApp, we shared ‘live locations’ and we were able to navigate to him a long way down the ‘INT’ route. The route that he should have done on day-2!

 Mike was surprisingly in good spirits, but he had been out on the trail for almost 13-hours and 20-minutes, it was a tough first day! The only plus side coming that he had eaten in to tomorrow’s mileage.

 Back in camp, it was all about recovery. He hydrated, ate some snacks, wiped down and put on fresh clothes. He soon needed a nap. It had been a very long day, both physically and mentally. The priority was good rest, some quality food and then focus the mind for the challenges that day-2 would present.

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Michael Wardian #FKTIsrael – Pre FKT Interview and Photos

We are here in Israel ahead of Michael Wardian‘s #fktisrael attempt, a 631-miles in Israel running the Israel National Trail.

The team arrived in Eilat March, 9th and 12th to prepare. Zoli Bihar and Erez Ganescu are providing planning and essential back up and support for this record attempt.

The Israel National Trail, is a hiking path that was inaugurated in 1995. The trail crosses the entire country of Israel. Its northern end is at Dan, near the Lebanese border in the far north of the country, and it extends to Eilat at the southernmost tip of Israel on the Red Sea, a length of 1,015 km (631 mi).

The idea for this FKT was created by Zoli Bihari of Canaan Running Adventures @CanaanRunning on FB and IG

The Israel National Trail has been listed in National Geographic’s 20 most “epic trails.” It is described as a trail that “delves into the grand scale of biblical landscapes as well as the everyday lives of the modern Israeli.”

Michael will start his FKT attempt on Tuesday March 12th at sunrise. Ahead of his departure, I caught up with him to find more about this epic challenge.

IanMichael we have been out there to do a little bit of recce on the course, it’s stunning so far, really incredible! What is it that fired you up about running over 600 miles from one end of Israel to the other?

Michael: I met a guy named Zoli at a race that you’re very familiar with (The Coastal Challenge) and I love, last year in Costa Rica. At first what fired me up about it was just Zoli’s passion for Israel and the trail running there and I have to say I knew nothing about that. I didn’t even have that on my radar. It was something that just wasn’t even a thing for me. My sister has been a few times….

She has some Israeli friends that she’s visited, and I remember freaking out like the first time she went just because of the media here in the US. When she returned, I said,” Wow” – It opened my eyes.! She told me how great the food was, the people were so interesting and the countryside sobeautiful.

It peeked my curiosity. Ithen met Zoli and he told me that there is a re al trail running scene.

I visited in December and I ran a few days. Weird really, I didn’t even know they had ultra-marathons there. It was just like a blank spot on my consciousness. It was something else, I had listened to the media, “That place is dangerous, that place is somewhere that if you are an American you want to avoid.” I’m sure Iran is amazing and there’s probably beautiful parts -for example!I went to Cuba a couple of years ago and that was the same thing. I was like, “This place is incredible,” It’s too bad we don’t get to explore that part of the world and so when Zoli mentioned Israel, I was like, “Wow that’s really interesting”.

Importantly, in my progression as a runner, I want to do some longer, bigger things and I’ve been inspired by people that have run across the country (USA). I work full-time and have a family, so, to disappear for a month or more is not possible. However, the opportunity to sneak away for hopefully 10 to 15 days is a little bit more manageable at this point in my life. The FKT is going to be a bigger undertaking than anything I’ve ever done and its nerve wracking and exciting – it’s something where I’m always looking for the opportunity to evolve as an athlete.

I’ve been really embracing the FKTs and that kind of way to explore what one Is capable of. It is an opportunity to explore a different way of challenging oneself. It’s also a building block to further challenges, “Yes, I definitely want to try to run across the US. Then if that goes well, it’d be fun to run across other continents and maybe ultimately doing a run across Antarctica – that would be amazing.”

Ian: One thing that’s great about running and hiking or just moving via foot is that it’s about the journey. Travelling from one end of a country to the other or travelling across a country or basically travelling on a trail, there’s something really, really satisfying about making that journey in a semi or self-sufficient manner.

I like you was contacted by Zoli and he asked would I document the FKT.

Of course, my initial reaction was yes. Then I thought, “Hold on a minute, Israel. Okay. There’s Syria at one end, there’s Jordan, there’s Egypt, there’s Saudi Arabia, there’s the Gaza Strip. What have I just let myself in for?” [I’ve had a few messages from people since we announced that the FKT was going ahead and they said, “Hey, are you going to be okay? Is it safe?” Of course, my answer was immediately, “Yes of course it is.” Then I thought, “Actually, is it?”

I went on the on the UK embassy website and put in Israel, I asked, “is it safe to travel?”

They basically said, “Yes, there’s nothing to be scared of.” Obviously, as in any of these countries, they say you need to be logical and sensible and don’t do anything silly, but effectively if you’re missing out the Gaza Strip or one or two of the red areas then everything’s fine.

The Israel National Trailwas created by, Avram Tamir, actually, he got the idea because he hiked the Appalachian Trail in the US.

Michael: Yes, that’s true, yes.

Ian: There’s a really nice connection there, the fact that somebody goes to the US, does the Appalachian Trail, and then basically wants to take that concept back to Israel and creates a trail that goes from one end to the other.

It seems as though most people, if they’re going to do this, start in Kibbutz Dan and then go down towards Eilat. We’re actually going do this FKT the opposite way around, we’re going to go from Eilat to Kibbutz Dan.

Michael: Yes, that’s the way that we’ve designed it in. I’ve researched it both ways and it is Zoli’s suggestion to go south to north. I did a recce in December and checked out the terrain and it makes a lot of sense.

The northern end, where you were talking about, Kibbutz Dan, that’s a little bit more urban and it’s less restrictive as far as travel, so, if need be, we can run into the night.

If you start in the north, one is tempted to run bigger miles at the beginning, and I think that’s what a lot of people try to do. Then they end up getting to the desert and they’re more restricted by the night. The south is more challenging too and hence slower.

We’re thinking that it’s better to tackle, the harder part at the beginning when you’re a little fresher. Ialso think that actually having the restrictions of moving at night should be a good thing, it’’s almost like a governor. I cannot get too excited and run too much!

The route finding is maybe a little bit more difficult in the South too from the looks of it. It piggybacks on local trails, so, I need to make sure I don’t get lost. He based it on the Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail does a similar style where there is the Appalachian Trail that’s 2,000 miles or something. Offshoots of that are just local trails that everyone uses. Also, you can jump on the Appalachian Trail for 10 miles or 20 miles or 40k.

You’ve got to make sure you know which marker you’re looking for. You’ve just got to know where to look. I think that’s going to be something – to try to stay on the trail. Luckily, with modern technology I can use GPS for back-up.

As I move forward, I want to try to embrace the Israeli running communion and I think we’ll be able to draw more people out and be part of the journey as we move North rather than South. It’s more populated. It’s easier to get people out on the trails to be a part of it.

IanIn terms of logistics Michael, it’s interesting if you look at the distances for the trail because they don’t seem to be some varying distances. I’ve read on one site, it’s 693 miles, I’ve read on another 631. Let’s estimate that it’s going to be somewhere in that ballpark. It seems as though most people like to try and do it in 30 or 40 days, and you’re going to go for 10, which is effectively 100k a day. It’s quite a challenge. How many hours a day early on do you think you’re going to be able to play with? Obviously, should you get behind later on in the attempt, where the flexibility is greater for running during the night, you can obviously extend your time. Originally what sort of time frame are you working on the early days?

Michael: I think that it’ll be interesting because some of the terrain is challenging. You’ve got some climbing, soft sand, I don’t know, people think of the desert and they think it is like beach sand. Most of the time, it’s not really like that. The deserts that I’ve been in so far, like the Gobi or the Sahara or the desert in Israel, it’s more of hard crusty dirt and rocks.

Some sections I should be able to run pretty quick. One section is really interesting that is 50 or 60 kilometers long where one is running between two military training areas. It’s pretty cool, but it’s basically just like this gravel road, almost. I have done my research with runners like Scott Jurek, Karl Meltzer and others – I will look to break my day down with say a marathon, a break for food and then another marathon.I will also add miles depending on time and how I feel.

“I just want to keep moving the whole day,” I have a crew to look after me, so, let’s see! The local run community will be key too.

It’s similar I feel to the community spirit you get in the UK when you’re trying to do like the Bob Graham Round or the Ramsay Round, local runners love to get involved. Or even like here in the USA when you’re doing the Appalachian Trail or the PCT or the Continental Divide Trail – you have trail angels that come out and maybe drop some food, cash, some water for you or just come and run with you for 10 miles…

I was surprised when I did the FKT here in DC. I ran basically a little around 300 kilometers in 36 hours. I had no impromptu aid stations and then groups of like 15 or 20 people that would join with me for a bit. Other sections I was alone, but for the most part, it just became this thing and I’m hoping for something similar in Israel. I just did an FKT on a trail right by my house and I probably had 40 people that came out, it was awesome.

ZoliIs pretty detail oriented and he’s prepared this incredible spreadsheet with estimated times at all the places. It’s nice to have a target each day, but if some days I go more than 100K, we can do that, equally, I may need to do less?

IanYes. The thing is you have to have a time frame to work to otherwise, it just becomes an uncontrolled endeavor. It’s good for you to understand that maybe you need to try and cover X number of miles per day. Also, for myself Zoli and Erez, we need to have an idea of your ETA in places.I’m going to be documenting what’s happening, but also, I’ll be crewing as well, we’re going to double up. We need that timeframe to understand what your objective is and the speed that you’re moving.

Like you say, on something like this, there’s going to be times when you’re clicking along on good hard trail and then other times when moving slow.

Michael: That’s what I was going to say. Just from the little small part that I witnessedin December, some of it it’s like, ‘Wow, you can move pretty quick.” In other parts of it, you’re like, “Huh, this is going to be slow. I’m going to be going like 5k an hour here.”

IanAbsolutely. National Geographic,has listed it as one of THE most epic trails out of a list of 20.

Michael: Totally, yes.

Ian: It seems as though it’s definitely a hidden secret. Of course, you undertaking this FKT is certainly going to open up this trail to a whole new audience, and it will certainly come on people’s radars. I have to admit, I was a little bit like yourself. I was aware of the trail because I interviewed a guy who had done FKTs in the past, who attempted this, an Australian, Richard Bowles.

Michael: He had some issue. I don’t know what happened. I couldn’t figure out. You interviewed him about that?

IanNo. I interviewed him about another FKT that he’d done, but I knew that he tackled the Israel National Trail. I never quite got to the nitty-gritty of what happened. I loved one of the descriptions that I read. It says, “The trail delves into the grand scale of biblical landscape as well as the everyday lives of modern Israel.” I thought, “You know what? If anything made me want to go on this trail, it’s that.”

Looking at the map, you seeJerusalem, Tel Aviv,Bethlehem – they’re all places that have been on my geography radar for such a long time. I get to travel a lot. I’m very, very lucky. But I never thought I would go here! We’re on this epic journey crossing the country. It really, really fascinates me. I’m sure you’ve done a little bit of research. Are there any particular points that you’ve looked at and you thought, “You know what? This is going to be amazing going through this area?”

Michael: I think that that’s a really great description or introduction to your audience. There’s some stuff that’s actually not on the trail that’s actually interesting too. We are going to be running through terrain that I mentioned in the bible. That really excites me. It may feel quite Spiritual, I am not sure, but I am keeping an open mind.

Zoli did a really good job just teasing me with some really cool parts. Canyons, ridges, a section with waterfalls and evenVia Ferrata,

I got this sense of peace and calm while I was out there, and I’d love to get that feeling again at some point. I don’t know if that’s only near Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but I felt it in the desert.

IanI was just going to say this because I was having a look at the breakdown of the route and some of the places that they talk about and there’s the Naftali Ridge, the Ramim cliffs, these Kadesh Stream.

Michael: Those cliffs are amazing dude.

Ian: Mount Tabor, Tzippori Stream, Shayarot Range, Judean Mountains, Yatir, Dragor quarry, Mamshit stream and then it’s mentioning words like Jerusalem and I’ve already got images in my mind…

Michael: That’s what I was going to say. You’re just like, wow, okay, I hope there’s room for us at the inn!

IanAbsolutely.

Michael:It’s like, wow, this is crazy.

Ian:It motivates the mind and of course until you get there and start to experience that you don’t really know what it’s going to be but certainly my anticipation is high.

From an ultra-running community and a trail-running community perspective, most people just seem to naturally think that Michael Wardian is the perfect person to try aFKTlike this, primarily because it seems though you just never stop running Michael.

I have interviewed you many times, but I think back to our interview a few years back when I spoke to you and basically you were just fractured all over from running.

You had stress fractures everywhere, almost to the point that, for a time, you didn’t quite know what running was going to be after. I remember having this chat with you and saying,“I future you’re going to have to run a little bit less and control yourself.”You replied, saying, “Yes, yes, yes, I’m going to be more sensible.” Then it just seemed as though within a couple of months, forget that. You were back to running a marathon one day, running an ultra the next day. Then once you finished an ultra, getting in your car and going running a 17-minute 5k at a park run or something.

What is it that is in your psyche, because you’re a family man, you’ve got kids, you’ve got a busy professional life, what is it that just makes you want to run so much?

Michael: I just love it. I love all aspects of it. I like the hard work that I put into it. I love the training. I love doing the little things. At 5am today I’m heading to my coach to do strength training, mobility and pliability, but I also think that the reward for doing all those little things and putting the time and energy in is the chance to compete against other people and yourself, the opportunity to be out there pushing the boundaries of what I think is possible for myself and the exhilaration you get when you toe the line. I don’t know about you, but when you have that brief moment before the race, when you have the expectation of whatever It is, you’re trying to do, you have this idea and then you actually go and prove it. It’s like solving a scientific problem!

I may say, “Yes, I’m going to run across Israel in 10 days and I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that.” But, to actually have the courage to stand there and try it is what fascinates me. I may fail, but I have to try.

Then once you start, that’s when actually all of the fun starts. I have to decide, “What kind of pace am I going to run?” It’s like playing a game. I have set myself a target of ten days, but I have no idea how I will feel. What the weather will be like. How my legs feel. Will I have stomach issues, and so on, and so on. It’s a complex game and that is what is interesting.

I love that aspect when one is not quite sure. I have a good idea of how I things will go, but who knows? For me, that’s the reason I like to be out there. It’s an opportunity, it’s real, it’s raw. There’s no subjectivity to it, it’s you either do it or you don’t, and it’s very binary.

You’re like, “I’m going to knock this out in a couple hours,” and all of a sudden it gets hard and you have got to decide how to proceed. There’s always that point in a race where you decide, “Am I going to give in? Or am I going to master this? Or am I going to be able to overcome this?” I love that experience that one has. It’s so many little binary decisions that you have to make, “Do I go faster? Do I go slower? Should I eat now? Should I stop? Should I change my shoes? Should I change my socks? Should I take on more water? Should I drink more?

All these little things one has to navigate.Even if one does this perfectly, it doesn’t necessarily mean I am going to end up where you I want to be. If I do it poorly, sometimes I can just overcome. The opportunity to be out there and learn something more about myself, that’s what I want to do as an athlete. I want to continue to evolve. I want to be able to do more things and bigger things, but I also want to do the things I do well and hone those and tweak those. I don’t know, it’s a craft to me, it’s part of who I am and what I do. Every time I go out there, I feel I become a little better at what I do.

I definitely like to be out there and racing. already this year I’ve done 13 or 14 events and I set a world record for the 10 marathons in 10 days. Last weekend, I just did an FKT and before that I did probably arguably one of the harder 100 milers in the world, the HURT100. It’s been a pretty big, amazing year already. This FKT will be that next progression for me.

IanAbsolutely. Our journey starts on March 12th. Target is 10 days for the FKT. Obviously, what we’re going to be doing is updating everybody as this happens as much as we possibly can, and the hashtag is going to be #fktisrael. There’s also a Facebook page which is FKT Israel. We’re going to put a link to all these below. Obviously, we’ll get uploads on Mike’s personal Facebook page. There’ll be @talkultra on Twitter. There’ll be @iancorlessphotography on Instagram and my feeds on Facebook.

We’ll put all these links in and of course Zoli and Canaan Running who are behind the organisation of this. There’s going to be hopefully plenty of media, of course folks this is reliant on the wonderful world of 3G 4G andInternet connections. We are going to be in some remote places, so, bear with us if there’s gaps in feeds and getting things out there and of course, to make this all official, Mike is going to be using multiple instruments to track his progress. One will be his Garmin inReach. I think you’re going to use a polar as well. Is that correct Michael?

Michael: Yes. I have a polar vantage. I’m going to try to upload all that data to Strava. That’ll be one way I do it and then I have a Garmin inReach that I’m planning to use, and I think Zoli is actually going to rent another one there just in case we have any issues with mine. But hey, Ian, I am hoping you will join me some days.It would be fun to share some kilometers and miles with you.

IanYes, I think most certainly, I’ll be on the trails with you at some point. We obviously have to balance this with my role to document what you are doing.

Michael: Yes, exactly. We can’t just hang out the whole time.

IanExactly. Running with a camera does take a toll but I’m sure there’s going to be opportunities for myself and Zoli to spend 5K with you, 10K with you. Now the FKT is imminent.

Michael: It has been almost a year ago now since Zoli first mentioned this. It’s been bubbling in the background. We weren’t sure it was going to happen. I have got to give a big shout out to Zoli and his team for helping to put this together and then for you for being able to make it fit your schedule because I know how busy it is.

Lastly, I want to also just put an invitation out there to anyone that’s reading, especially if you’re close to Israel or based in Israel. We are completely open to people coming out on the trail. I’d love for people to be a part of it in any way. If you want to run with me that would be amazing, or if you want to just come in and cheer, or set up an aid station, or just come out and heckle me that’s all welcome. I look forward to a being out there and sharing the amazing trail with everyone and the opportunity to see what is possible.

The entire FKT will be documented here on iancorless.com on Instagram at @iancorlessphotography and on Twitter @talkultra – I will be providing an extensive photographic story that will delve into the entire FKT showing the highs and lows of this epic undertaking. In addition, there will be regular stories and videos to help explain this journey across Israel.

More detail and information will follow every day. #fktisrael will have updates and information.

#thenegevfriendlydesert
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Friendly Negev Desert

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Michael Wardian to take on Israel National Trail Fastest Known Time – #fktisrael

Ultra-running legend, Mike Wardian, to take on the 631-mile Israel National Trail

#fktisrael

Michael Wardian needs no introduction to the running world. For year’s the husband, dad and international ship broker has blazed a trail of incredible running performances that have defied logic.

Just recently, he broke the world record for 10-marathons in 10-days. He ran the first 7-marathons as part of the World Marathon Challenge, running 7-marathons on 7- continents. An event he has already completed once. However, 2019 was different… Read on Runners World (here) – “I wanted to do it last time I did WMC, but we ended in Australia that year, and I had to go back home to get my family to go to Tarawera 100K, so it didn’t work out,” Wardian told Runner’s World. “This year, we ended in Miami, so I set it up with a guy at Pacers (Running Store in Washington, D.C.), Chris Farley, who had a planned marathon course at Haynes Point in D.C.”

Running The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica 2018.

In March, Michael will take on 631-miles in Israel running the Israel National Trail. Dates are to be confirmed, however, the current scheduled start date will be March 12th (tbc).

The Israel National Trail, is a hiking path that was inaugurated in 1995. The trail crosses the entire country of Israel. Its northern end is at Dan, near the Lebanese border in the far north of the country, and it extends to Eilat at the southernmost tip of Israel on the Red Sea, a length of 1,015 km (631 mi).

The idea was created by Zoli Bihari of Canaan Running Adventures @CanaanRunning on FB and IG

Michael will start his journey in Eilat.

The trail is marked with three stripes (white, blue, and orange), and takes an average of 45-60 days to complete. It does not enter the Golan Heights or the West Bank.

Michael will look to run the entire route in 10-days or less. 

The Israel National Trail has been listed in National Geographic’s 20 most “epic trails.” It is described as a trail that “delves into the grand scale of biblical landscapes as well as the everyday lives of the modern Israeli.”

          Israel Trail Information taken from ©wikipedia

The entire FKT will be documented here on iancorless.com on Instagram at @iancorlessphotography and on Twitter @talkultra – I will be providing an extensive photographic story that will delve into the entire FKT showing the highs and lows of this epic undertaking. In addition, there will be regular stories and videos to help explain this journey across Israel.

More detail and information will follow in the coming weeks. #fktisrael will have updates and information.

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Taming The Dragon – The 9 Dragons Ultra 2019 Summary

Running a race in Hong Kong is a unique experience! Failure to do your research will no doubt results in a painful and potentially traumatic experience. Heat, humidity and steps – hundreds if not thousands of steps hurt the legs and mind to an overwhelming experience.

No other place in the world (that I know of) has soaring skyscrapers and city life so close to a myriad of trails that weave in and out of the landscape providing endless possibilities. It is why Hong Kong’s is such a popular destination, and let’s face it, trail, mountain and ultra-running is booming here. Each weekend there and multiple opportunities to race.

I was in HK for The 9 Dragons Ultra organized by Race Base Asia – a trio of Steve Carr, Michael Ormiston and Nic Tinworth. After just two editions, word was out that The 9 Dragons was a brutal race – statistics proved it, the DNF rate as high!

Comprised of two races, a 50-mile race and a 50-km race, 9 Dragons is an action packed weekend of trail running. However, the real challenge was the 50/50. Open to just 250 people, the opportunity to run 50-miles one day and then wake up the next and complete 50-km was of course the ultimate test.

Ultra-runners love a challenge!

The 50-mile race starts as the clock counts down on Friday evening and with the chime of midnight, runners depart for a night and day of running. Of course, the faster you finish, the more rest you get. Cut-off time is 1900 at the Tai Po Tau Playground.

The following morning, the 50-km race starts where the 50-mile race finished at 0730. The finish is at Shing Fung Studios and all runner’s must finish before the cut-off of 2000 hours. 

Both races weave in, out, up and down Hong Kong’s network of trails and in the process runner’s must slay the ‘8 Dragons’ climbing 8620m – 5070m for the 50-mile and 3550m for the 50-km. The respective male and female winners (combined time) become the 9th Dragon!

The 8 Dragons are Kowloon Peak, Tung Shan, Tate’s Cairn, Temple Hill, Unicorn Ridge, Lion Rock, Beacon Hill and Crow’s Nest. The 9th Dragon was a title given to the Emperor himself and herein the story of The 9 Dragon Ultra was created.

View images from the race HERE

The 50-Mile Race

Darkness provides its own challenge and as runner’s departed on the stroke of midnight, it was clear that the challenge ahead had not be missed by every runner – there was no shortage of anxious looks. Temperatures were a little chilly and a strong wind swirled. One unique element of the 9 Dragon’s is the race within a race. The 50-mile would have a 50-mile winner, but at the same time, it would have a 50/50 winner. Pre-race discussion and been all about Hong Kong trail running legend and 2018 9 Dragon, John Ellis. However, just a couple of weekend’s ago he had run at HK100 and then the following weekend he had competed in the ‘King of the Hill’ series. It is here that he picked up a calf injury – would a week of rehab get him fit for the start? Well, the answer was yes! He is a master of pacing and from the off he settled into his own rhythm and he allowed the rabbits to run off into the night. Julien Chorier from France and Kazufumi Ose from Japan dictated the 50/50 pace and Justin Robert Andrews took the reigns in the 50-mile race.

Eventually, Chorier opened a gap and started to pull away from Ose. Ose has experience of the 9 Dragon’s course and he commented after the race that Chorier managed to run when others have walked. Ose managed to yo-yo to Chorier but it was in the final 20-km that the Frenchman opened a 9-minute gap on the Japanese runner. John Ellis despite his injury relentlessly battled the terrain with his usual 100% commitment rounding out the podium. Their times, 10:47:51, 10:56:15 and 11:21:15. Remarkably, the top three 50/50 runners all ran faster than the standalone champion, Justin Robert Andrews who concluded his journey in 11:46:56 ahead of KurtErik Evans in 12:22:42.

For the women, Magdalena Boulet dictated the race from the front and although her lead was slender at times, by the time she reached the finish in 13:45:51 her margin of victory was convincing over race revelation JCY Ho who finished in 14:17:52. Boulet, who is a remarkable ultra-runner, was way out of her comfort zone on the HK trails. She notably said post-race that the trails were the hardest she has ever run and of course, the stairs would haunt her for weeks and months to come. “It has been stair 101 for me,” she said with a laugh. Christine Woon Chze Loh was the 3rd woman.

View images from the race HERE

The 50-KM Race

Morning came all too quickly and as light rain dampened the 0730 start, heat and humidity soon became the order of the day. Unsurprisingly, the 50/50 runners eased into the day allowing the 50-km runners to speed off at a breakneck pace. In particular, Guomin Deng looked set to blaze a trail all the way to the line. He had company early on but from cp1 he opened up a gap and never looked back. At each checkpoint he was ahead of the old course record and at the finish, he smashed it by an amazing 40-minutes ahead of Yuta Sudafed and Blake Turner. Deng’s time a remarkable 6:09:21. 

In the 50/50 race, Julien Chorier looked to be running a smart and sensible race early on and coming from a cycling background, he no doubt used the tactic of marking the 2nd placed runner Kazufumi Ose knowing that his 9-minute margin, if held, would provide him overall 50/50 victory. However, unlike day-one, the heat and humidity was relentless. It soon became apparent that Ose was handling the conditions better and with just over 20-km to go to the finish he had managed to break away and take 3-minutes from Chorier’s lead – could Ose break the Frenchman? Chorier pushed, but the more he pushed, the hotter he became… The intense humidity and countless steps conspired against him and at the finish, Ose managed to claw back the lost 9-minutes from day-one and win by 3-minutes. It was an epic battle and one that will go down in the history of the race. John Ellis despite incredible pain, somehow, managed to hold on for 3rd place in the 50/50 in 19:27:15 combined time. As he ran the final meters, he was doubled in pain and at the finish he collapsed, racked with pain. His result only confirmed his legendary status to the HK trail community. Ose’s combined time was 17:34:28 to Chorier’s 17:38:19.

The women’s race had a similar feel to the men’s with the solo 50-km runners setting of at a relentless pace; a pace they would hold to the finish. Whereas the 50/50 runners would ease into the day and take on the challenge, one stride at a time. Charlotte Taquet was a convincing winner in 7:07:11 ahead of Sandi Menchi and Kim Mathews.

Magdalena Boulet had recovered remarkably from her day-one efforts, no doubt all her multi-day experience coming to the fore. She looked fresh and strong all day and although the local HK trail community hoped that JCY Ho would use her local knowledge to reel Boulet in, the Hoka One One runner was just two strong. Boulet crossed the line first once again in the 50/50 runners and became the 9 Dragon for 2019. Ho finished 2nd in a flood of tears and emotion. It was a huge day and weekend of running for this women who only started running a few year’s back. Christine Woon Chze Loh once agin placed third and secured the final 50/50 podium slot. Combined times for the women were 22:18:04 for Boulet and 24:24:41 and 25:32:23 respectively for 2nd and 3rd.

View images from the race HERE

Race Notes

I see many races and I have to say, The 9 Dragon Ultra race and team excelled from beginning to end. The HK trail running scene is like a huge family. It is more than running, it’s like a huge social experiment that brings people from all walks of life together, for one common goal. The Race Base Asia team headed by Steve, Michael and Nic really know how to put on a race and make it go like clockwork. There are so many things to praise, from the detailed documents that explain how a checkpoint should look, to the incredible burger (veggie option available) and beer that is offered at the finish-line. I only wish that all races could be like this.

Personal Thanks

Many thanks to Steve, Michael and Nic for making my stay slick, enjoyable and fun. We had some great times in our week long adventure. Hannes was my man with a motorbike for the 50-mile and he did a stunning job of getting me around in the dark. Janine and Mo hosted me for the week and well, it was just a pleasure – I cannot wait to return, And finally, thank you to everyone who came and said hello. You made my HK adventure a pleasant one and I am keen to return.

Images are available at www.iancorless.photoshelter.com

The 9 Dragons Ultra 2019 in Images

An epic weekend of racing took place in Hong Kong over two days for the third edition of the 9 Dragons Ultra.

The main event, the 50/50 offers the brave two races, a 50-mile and 50-km event where the combined times provide a female and male 9 Dragon champion.

Many congratulations to Kazufumi Ose and Magdalena Boulet who produced two incredible runs to be crowned the 50/50 9 Dragon champions.

The 50-mile event was won by Julien Chorier and Magdalena Boulet. The 50-km event was won by Guomin Deng in 6:09:21 obliterating the old CR by 40-minutes, Ch Chaa was the female winner.

In the words of Mo Devlin, who placed 6th in the 50-km event:

9 Dragons…this race really is something special.

In our world of ultra running words like epic, legendary and awesome get thrown around like confetti at a wedding but 9D is the real deal. It’s a unique race that deserves every accolade it gets.

This year only added to its reputation and growing status in the Ultra calendar with international Elites like Julian Chorier, Magda Boulet, and Ben Duffus rubbing shoulders at the start line with our own Elites such as John Ellis, Guomin Deng and Kazufumi Ose…what a line up!! We even had the renowned Ultra photographer and host of Talk Ultra Ian J Corless in town for the race.

Congratulations and Thank You to Steven Carr, Michael Ormiston, Josianne Robb and Nic Tinworth. You have created a monster of a race that is unlike anything else in Hong Kong, provides an unforgettable experience for everyone who is involved and should be on everyone’s Bucket List….

Race summary and report to follow

All images available at www.iancorless.photoshelter.com

IMAGES 50-MILE EVENT

IMAGES 50-KM EVENT