Ultrarunner Michael Wardian has scored spectacular athletic victories on all seven continents. But for his most ambitious feat yet—running more than 3,000 miles across the United States—he chose a finish line close to home: the boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach.
At sunrise on July 1, friends and family cheered as Wardian, 48, crossed the finish line and kept running straight into the Atlantic, a moment he described as “absolute joy and bliss.” It was the realization of a decades-long dream (inspired by the 1994 movie Forrest Gump) and the chance to support a cause Wardian deeply believes in. He set the goal of raising $100,000 for World Vision’s global clean water projects. In typical fashion, he’d well exceeded that goal by the time he reached Delaware.
Wardian and his family have lived in Rehoboth Beach part time since buying a home here during the pandemic. Wardian’s run also included a stop at the family’s Arlington, Virginia, home. The cross-continental journey began in San Francisco on May 1. For 61 days, Wardian covered 50 miles a day, persevering despite cold, heat and a painful hamstring injury he suffered when a trucker swerved toward him, forcing him off his stride and leaving him wondering for one terrible night whether he would be able to continue running.
It was a stunning act of endurance, even for an athlete whose résumé includes running seven marathons in seven days on seven continents in 2017, smashing the speed record in the World Marathon Challenge and setting the fastest known time for running the 631-mile Israel National Trail.
All hardship seemed to be forgotten when Wardian plunged into the waves in Rehoboth. “It was one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen,” he says. “There was light cascading down on the water. There were dolphins jumping. It was the culmination of everything I’d worked for and dreamed of.”