Israel Vibrations
Trail Runner|July/August 2019

Famed U.S. ultrarunner and marathoner, Michael Wardian takes on a new goal—to set an FKT on the 631-mile Israel National Trail, a surprisingly wild, unique and technical challenge.

Michael Benge

One year of planning finally came to fruition, when U.S.-based ultrarunner Michael Wardian, 45, of Arlington, Virginia, departed Eilat, Israel, on the Gulf of Aqaba, on March 12, 2019, at 5:46 a.m., to head north on the 631-mile Israel National Trail. His target goal? Run the trail in a record 10 days or less. Placing his hand on the metal post with the ‘INT’ marker in Eilat, Wardian paused briefly, then suddenly he was off.

It was a huge undertaking and the man who came up with the idea, Zoli Bihari, knows it well. He did a similar route over three years ago, and it took him 24 days. The INT is a diverse trail consisting of super-technical, gnarly terrain. The trail markers are three-colored stripes, with each color representing a certain landscape in Israel—orange for dessert, blue for the sea and white for the mountains.

"I was running daily on exposed cliffs, over massive sand dunes, slippery rocks across deserts, deserted roads through fields, near highways, on tarmac through towns, on beaches and on trails," says Wardian. "It was incredible and really gave me a feel for all Israel has to offer and that is the point."

A full-time shipbroker by trade and family man with a wife and two sons, Wardian is one of the most prolific, durable and versatile runners anywhere, competing in dozens of races and events, year after year. With hugely diverse racing interests, he has competed in everything from the Western States, Hardrock and UTMB 100-milers, the multi-day stage race Marathon des Sables, Comrades Marathon and hundreds of road marathons (in which he has gone sub-2:30 around 90 times). Just recently, he won the World Marathon Challenge, running seven marathons on seven continents. He then added three additional marathons so that he could set a world record for the fastest average time for 10 marathons in 10 days.

After an odyssey over a huge variety of terrain and ecosystems, Wardian reached Dan Kibbutz near the Lebanese border in an impressive time of 10 days 16 hours 36 minutes.

Q&A with Mike Wardian

There are plenty of great trails in the U.S. and elsewhere—where did your interest in the INT come from?

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