The Extra Mile

Taking Baby Steps Results in Record Day

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Last weekend at the Frederick Marathon, Arlington's Michael Wardian, 32, set a world record for running 26.2 miles while pushing a baby jogger, in which sat his 9-month-old son, Pierce. Team Wardian finished third overall, in 2 hours 42 minutes 20 seconds, a pretty good time even without the kid. Wardian broke the record of 2:49 set by Michal Kapral in 2004. Kapral, you probably didn't know, also once held the marathon juggling record (three balls). This area's "joggler," Barry Goldmeier, from Rockville, certainly knew; Goldmeier was listed in the 1998 Guinness Book of World Records for juggling (five balls) over 5K in 27:53.

For Wardian, the baby jogger record is just another milepost in an eclectic, prolific and by any account successful running career. Wardian has twice qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials, most recently when he finished third in 2:21:37 at the Shamrock Marathon on March 18. Wardian set his first Guinness record when he ran a marathon on a treadmill in 2:23:58 in 2004.

All of which begs the question: Why?

"I'm just trying to keep things interesting," Wardian said. As for the baby jogger record, "I thought it would be neat for Pierce, when he grows up, to have a part in a world record."

Goldmeier theorizes that Kapral "seems like he largely does it for the publicity." Indeed, Kapral has a Web site and a blog, on which he lauds Goldmeier and features him in a YouTube clip. Goldmeier, 42, still joggles regularly at area races, often to the consternation of those he beats.

Such records are but the tip of the iceberg. Backward running, consecutive Boston Marathons and consecutive day streaks have all been chronicled in this space. Competitive runners gnash their teeth at the mention of such dubious achievements, race directors bemoan the potential safety issues and many believe these tangential pursuits dilute the essence of the sport.

But gauge your own reaction the next time you see a man pushing a baby stroller in a marathon at a pace of 6:10 per mile, or a guy juggling five balls while running a road race, and then try to take the world as seriously as most would have us.

-- Jim Hage

© 2007 The Washington Post Company