Mike Wardian - Israel National Trail FKT

Mike Wardian - photo by Ian Corless

Photo by Ian Corless

Michael Wardian has set a new Fastest Known Time on the Israel National Trail, covering the 1016 km (631 mile) trail from south to north in 10 days 16 hours 36 minutes.

 

The Israel National Trail (INT) is an approximately 1016km / 631mi hiking trail that crosses Israel from its southern to northern border, traversing a wide range of landscapes, a rich variety of flora and fauna, and a diversity of cultures.

The trail stretches from Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba to the Dan Kibbutz near the Lebanese border, and was named by National Geographic as one of the 20 best "epic hiking trails" in the world.

We believe the most likely Fastest Known Time on the INT to be set at 15 days in 2013 by Australian Richard Bowles (see English and Hebrew articles).

On March 12th, 2019, Michael Wardian began his attempt to complete the trail in 10 days.

Wardian is a prodigious American marathoner and ultra-marathoner with a lengthy list of podium finishes at distances from half marathon to 100 miles, with world records such as the fastest time for 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days, and the fastest 50k on a treadmill, and who has completed many of the worlds most challenging races. (See http://mikewardian.com/about/). In September 2018 Wardian ran the 184.5 mile C&O Canal Towpath in an FKT of 36h36m, beating Park Barner's 1976 time by just 12 minutes!

Follow along with us here for updates on Mike's FKT attempt on the Israel National Trail.

Mike's Progress

(Approximates.)

Day Date Distance Total

To go

Done
1 Tue, 3/12 89 km 89 km 927 km 9%
2 Wed, 3/13 98 km 187 km 829 km 18%
3 Thu, 3/14 97 km 284 km 732 km 28%
4 Fri, 3/15 71 km 355 km 661 km 35%
5 Sat, 3/16 89 km 444 km 573 km 44%
6 Sun, 3/17 122 km 566 km 451 km 56%
7 Mon, 3/18 105 km 671 km 346 km 66%
8 Tue, 3/19 105 km 776 km 241 km 76%
9 Wed, 3/20 89 km 865 km 153 km 85%
10 Thu, 3/21 86 km 951 km 100 km 90%
11 Fri, 3/22 106 km 1016 km 0 km 100%

Day-by-Day

Updates and photos from iancorless.org.

Day #11, March 22

Mike Wardian - Israel National Trail, day 11 - iancorless.org

"Mike had felt rough all day and arriving at Arbel 2223 after a very tough day allowed time for a nap, then dinner and a good 4-hours sleep."

"When we woke at 4am, he had that fire in his eye and it was clear he was feeling good."

"The first 40km of this day involved technical sections and a great deal of climbing. This group navigated and set an incredible pace that just increased Mike’s mood, particularly after the previous day’s efforts."

"With approximately 50km’s of the INT left, it was clear that Mike was starting to smell the finish. I asked, 'Is the pace too high Mike?'"

"His reply, 'I'm gonna take all the fast pace I can get, who knows when I am gonna feel bad again, look at yesterday…'"

"As daylight finally started to leave us for the last time on the Israel National Trail, Mike and his pacers arrived at Yesha Junction. The past trail section had been ‘crazy technical’ in the words of Mike, but from here the run to the end was considerably more relaxed."

"The small group of five left and `mike looked eager to be done with the final miles as soon as possible. Dropping down to river bed, climbing up and finally the running was good. in the night sky, the glow of ‘Qiryat Shemona’ and ‘Krar Gil’adi’ would eventually lead to the finish of the INT in ‘Dan.’"

"The journey was completed in a wave of emotion."

Read more and see photos at iancorless.org: Mike Wardian #FKTIsrael 2019 - Day Ten (Part Two).

See his Day 11 run on Strava.

 

Day #10, March 21

Mike Wardian - Israel National Trail, day 10 - iancorless.org

"Our calculations confirmed that Mike had somewhere between 170 – 190km to cover, to achieve that in 24-hours after the previous 9-days was an impossible ask, so, we all were well aware that the new FKT would be 10-days, ‘x’ hours and ‘x’ minutes. Whatever the finishing time is, this record will stand for some time. The Israel National Trail is a brute and what Mike has achieved and will achieve is off the scale."

"So, we awoke at 0645, had breakfast and the departed for the start."

"Mike wasn’t feeling it. He looked and felt jaded and yes, emotional."

"The route today was another green tunnel day with much climbing, some paved roads and early on, passing through congested streets. The Israel National Trail is so diverse. Nazareth and Galilee key names on the days agenda."

"He laughed and complained about his pathetic 4-mile per hour pace. 'Dude, this sport is so funny. One minute you feel like you are being stabbed in the heart 50 times and then moments later, you can feel great. I love the depths this sport can take you!'"

"Route marking was a real issue, and unfortunately this did not help Mike’s mood."

"At 2223, the team arrived at Arbel, the entrance to the National Park."

"Friday is a new day, with 100km to go, who knows what the new FKT will be? One thing is for sure, it will be 10-days, ‘x’ hours and ‘x’ minutes – that for me is remarkable."

Read more and see photos at iancorless.org: Mike Wardian #FKTIsrael 2019 - Day Ten (Part One).

See his Day 10 run on Strava.

 

Day #9, March 20

Mike Wardian - Israel National Trail, day 9 - iancorless.org

"Finishing before 10pm, having a warm shower, a good dinner and a sleep in a real bed can work wonders…  At breakfast, he confirmed it was the best night’s sleep for a long time and definitely the best night during the FKT."

"Mike got rolling at 0722 with a pacer and along the way he picked up and lost pacers for the duration of his run."

"Dense and overgrown sections of forest that had hidden markers and narrow path less than a body width. In the first two thirds, it was climbs, descents, mud and technical sections. It was no easy day!"

"As the day passed and the miles clicked by, it was clear to see that Mike was finding the heat and the endless terrain difficulty a challenge."

"All the time, despite his fatigue, despite his aches, pains and despite his frustrations, Mike never lost his cool."

"For the final sections of the days trail, he had an entourage of runners, all keen to embrace an opportunity to say, ‘I was there!’ They left the final checkpoint at 2125, the final kms of the day would soon pass..."

"All eyes turn to day-10."

Read more and see photos at iancorless.org: Mike Wardian #FKTIsrael 2019 - Day Nine.

See his Day 9 run on Strava.

 

Day #8, March 19

Mike Wardian - Israel National Trail, day 8 - iancorless.org

"Morning and our 5:45 alarm soon came. Without a doubt, Mike is feeling his runs now. It takes him a little longer to prepare in the morning."

"the arrival of Tel Aviv mixed city and trail together."

"Green vegetation moved over for paths and roads. Trees were replaced by buildings and then the beach and the sea arrived."

"Mike was joined by runners all day, at times, 20-people were with him."

"The sun came and at times it felt much hotter than the 25 degrees displayed on our watches."

"At Poleg Beach (16:47) disaster almost struck. Mike was freezing cold as the wind whipped in off the sea. Wrapped in blankets, he could not get warm. Adding layers including two jackets and woolly hat also didn’t seem to help."

"Moving slowly with Rephel by his side, he finally raised his core temperature and like Lazarus, he rose once again to start back jogging and then running."

"The final push of 12km to Aqueduct Beach in Caesura would round out 105km for the day – he finished before 10pm."

Read more and see photos at iancorless.org: Mike Wardian #FKTIsrael 2019 - Day Eight.

See his Day 8 run on Strava.

 

Day #7, March 18

Mike Wardian - Israel National Trail, day 7 - iancorless.org

"Turned out, [last night's extra] 12km was a really tough challenge. The trail was overgrown, route markers were hidden and the two of them got lost. [Mike and Yarom] eventually finished 30-minutes past midnight, and they looked broken. Mike said he felt nauseous."

"We wrapped him in a jacket and immediately departed for Yarom’s house."

"We were all asleep by 2am having agreed on a 7am wake-up and Mike starting the day at 0830!"

"Running an FKT is a balancing act and in retrospect, the additional 12km on day-6 was a mistake."

"I have to say, I was worried waking at 5am. Mike was the first to rise and when I asked him, ‘How are you?’ His reply, ‘I feel awesome man, so good!’"

"At 0829 he was on the trail with a pacer and if day-7 will be remembered for anything, it will all be about the Israeli run community."

"He was accompanied throughout the day, at times it looking like a scene from Forest Gump."

"It was also a notable day for passing through the Jerusalem mountains and gently touching the outer edges of the city."

"A marathon was soon covered. Then 50km. At 61km Mike was still saying how good his legs were and at 73km darkness came and for the first time in the day he was alone on the trail. At 9:15pm, he had covered 89km at ‘Mitzpe Modiin’ and then he departed for a final leg to close out the day at 100km."

"One thing is for sure, Mike will need all the help he can get for that big final push – we know the Israeli run community will come out and help."

See his Day 7 run on Strava.

Read more and see photos at iancorless.org: Mike Wardian #FKTIsrael 2019 - Day Seven.

 

Day #6, March 17

Mike Wardian - Israel National Trail, day 6 - iancorless.org

"The rain, mist and cold of yesterday did not disappear! To say we were disappointed is an underestimation. But Mike smiled regardless. 'I slept so well, I feel fresh and I am ready to go!'"

"Mike departed for a big day at 0629 with two pacers, Uri and Yarom, the latter would run the whole stage with Mike. A huge challenge and one that Mike really appreciated."

"For the first 30km or so, conditions were a challenge. Intermittent rain, cold temperatures and grey mist made it feel very much like the UK. The red and warmth of the desert was soon a distant memory. Now trees, green and lots of mud would accompany the runners for day 6."

"Today felt very different to the first 5-days. Not only because of the terrain but mostly due to the amount of support Mike received. Throughout the day runners joined him. At no point was he left alone."

"Before 10pm, 110km had been completed in 15.5 hours."

"Now the delicate balance of when to carry on and when not to carry on must be considered."

"Weighing up the pros and cons, it was decided that Mike would push on at 10pm from ‘Mitzpe Mesua’ for another 12km making for a daily total of 122km.

Read more and see photos at iancorless.org: Mike Wardian #FKTIsrael 2019 - Day Six.

 

Day #5, March 16

Mike Wardian - Israel National Trail, day 5 - iancorless.org

"It was 2130 when Mike finally came off the trail [last night] and nobody was asleep until 2330. That allows for approximately 5-hours sleep."

"Mike says he falls asleep with visions of the INT marker before his eyes."

"Mike was on the trail just after 6am and was clicking off the miles. It was his last day in the desert and although there were some difficult sections to slow him down, it was nothing like what the first 4-days had thrown at him."

"Today, the weather was the challenge. Constant gusting wind and very heavy rain showers."

"Having multiple pacers has helped Mike relax and switch off from worrying about finding the trail markers. It’s a huge relief for him."

"Del Arad marked 91km for the day."

"Day 5 or 6 are not the days to push over the edge, as a team, decisions will be made on day 7 on what is needed over the final couple of days. Mike is prepared for that and quite simply it may well come down to one or two very long days and then a big rest."

See his Day 5 run on Strava.

Read more and see photos at iancorless.org: Mike Wardian #FKTIsrael 2019 - Day Five.

 

Day #4, March 15

Mike Wardian - Israel National Trail, day 4 - iancorless.org

"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 that required a length drive out."

"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!"

"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."

"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."

"...to conclude his day at 2130 in the evening, over 13-hours on the trail."

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

See his Day 4 run on Strava.

Read more and see photos at iancorless.org: Mike Wardian #FKTIsrael 2019 - Day Four.

 

Day #3, March 14

Mike Wardian - Israel National Trail, day 3 - iancorless.org

"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."

"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!’"

"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!’"

"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."

"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!"

Read more and see photos at iancorless.org: Mike Wardian #FKTIsrael 2019 - Day Three.

 

Day #2, March 13

Mike Wardian - Israel National Trail, day 2 - iancorless.org

"The first day of the #FKTIsrael had been a tough one – far tougher than Mike and the crew had anticipated."

"Day 2 was a planned 103 (ish) km and that was pretty daunting after a long day 1 covering just over 80km."

"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."

"The highlight of the day came at Vardit and Barak Canyons. These natural wonders are truly spectacular, no, mind-blowing."

"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."

See his Day 2 run part 1 and part 2 on Strava.

Read more and see photos at iancorless.org: Mike Wardian #FKTIsrael 2019 - Day Two.

 

Day #1, March 12

Mike Wardian - Israel National Trail, day 1 - iancorless.org

"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."

"The landscape and scenery on day-1 is truly spectacular. Beauty comes at a price though – the trails are technical, have plenty of climbing and descending and then add some intense heat."

"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."

"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 [...] 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 into tomorrow’s mileage."

See his Day 1 run on Strava.

Read more and see photos at iancorless.org: Mike Wardian #FKTIsrael 2019 - Day One.