Michael Wardian, Dan Lawson and Nathan Montague are all elite ultra-distance runners: Michael is world championships silver medalist over 100km road, Daniel Lawson is European 24 hours champion and Nathan has been UK national trail running champion twice.
Last year they all met at Ultra Gobi – Daniel was first, Nathan third but Michael finished way off podium, suffering from food poisoning and walking all the way.
Daniel is also last year’s Gaoligong champion (joint with Mick Thwaites, they finished hand in hand), while Nathan had to settle for second place, a very close one.
All three are coming to Gaoligong by UTMB this year, and this is what they have to say about their experience in China and about each other in this interview with all three of them:
Gaoligong: Hello guys! Nathan and Dan, you had a good Ultra Gobi, but Michael had a terrible time.
Nathan: He had to fight a different battle and most would have caved. That’s strength in itself! Me and Mike shared a lot of the early 6-8 hours when we ran together. It was great to share those moments with Mike. We are brothers in arms. Though I expect much more aggressive Hairy Man in Gaoligong!
We lost the blue gazelle (Dan – blue hair) early on in the Gobi. Need to keep him in sniffing distance at Gaoligong!
Gaoligong: You guys have raced against each other before, and Nathan - you and Dan batted it out in Gaoligong last year, and now in UG, but Nathan, you lost. Plans for payback?
Michael: I didn’t get to have the chance to run Gaoligong last year so plan to make up for it this year!
Dan: It has been so nice to spend time with both Mike and Nathan in China, but when we race we are competitors. Last year in Gaoligong Nathan was very close to us (note: co-champions Mick Thwaites and Dan Lawson) at the finish. Mick and me finished hand in hand! I would have much rather been holding Nathan's hand, he is much more handsome! (laughs) So I'm hoping he can move a bit quicker this year!
Nathan: Dan is one of the most relaxed and chilled gentlemen you will ever meet. It seems like nothing bothers him. He also has charisma, charm and coolness.
He is so relaxed, that when he runs it looks like he isn’t trying, but man, that guy is professional! It is easy to underestimate him. Man, he kicks you up the backside and makes you question yourself on all levels!
I love the guy but I am not holding Mr. Lawson’s hand! He will probably be trying to absorb my powers! I (laughs)
In ultras though we are in it together and, unlike footballers (mote: Nathan played semi-professional football in the UK), ultra-runners show each other respect throughout.
(by Lloyd Belcher)
Gaoligong: Nathan – a handsome man that you are, but unfortunately you are still a runner-up when it comes to female fans in China, Alfie is the King!
Dan: At Ultra Gobi, during an interview, someone asked Alfie how he stayed so handsome during a race! (laughs). At the time, this question made me laugh, but now I want to ask the same question myself! (laughs)
Nathan: Alfie looks like a damn aftershave model!
I am bit jealous of Mike though - the amount of facial hair Mike can grow in a day is my year’s supply!
Gaoligong: Dan, in China people call you “Old Uncle”.
Michael (laughs): The Old Uncle that is still trying to be cool with blue hair …
Dan: I think the blue will have to go for Gaoligong in exchange for an even fresher, younger look. Mike, are you gonna cut off that pony tail? This will make you look years younger!
By the way, I like my name “Old Uncle!” (laughs)
Nathan: Dan, I teach students age 11-16 with similar hairstyles to yours! (laughs)
Dan distracts other runners with blue hair, his wit and charm, and then toasts their arses! (laughs) Don’t let the Old Uncle fool you. His legs are that of a 15-year kid!
Mike may have that Jesus look going, but hey that man can run! We haven’t seen the real Michael Wardian yet!
He may not be able to walk on water, like Jesus can, but he can run fast! I would love to have the testosterone that a man needs to grow this much hair, I would be a machine! (laughs)
(by KE Visual)
Gaoligong: Michael, you had terrible time at Ultra Gobi, you were going to the toilet so much that you chafed your ass cheeks and walked for 5 days with that pain! I saved you at that CP with moisturizer that you put on your bum! (laughs).
Michael: (laughing) That is true! I would prefer to avoid a repeat at Gaoligong, but I am going to bring a ton of diaper cream just to be sure and lots of tissues just in case! (laughs)
Dan: Having roomed with Mike in China I am glad he left it till the race to have his bathroom issues! I'm still waiting for the line to come out in anti-chaff “Michael Wardian Anti-Chafe Arse Cream”! (laughs)
Nathan: I had to go to the toilet a lot also in the morning of the race, but Michael went even more than me! (laughs) I had to leave Mike in the race, was scared he was going to ask for my toilet roll supplies….(laughs)
Gaoligong: Michael, any plans to run in fancy dress in China?
Michael: I definitely enjoy keeping the running fun and dressing up as a famous actor, super hero, singer... it is fun and really gets the crowds excited. Maybe I could dress as a dragon or something or someone cool from Chinese history for Gaoligong? (laughs)
Dan: It's a good idea Mike! Shall you, Nathan and I run as a dragon together? As long I'm in the front then I cross the line first and don't have to behind you!! And your toilet issues! (laughs)
Gaoligong: Dan hallucinated at the end of Ultra Gobi – what did you see exactly? Anything in particular you hoped to see?
Michael: (laughing): I hallucinated that I saw Dan! …But it was not real - he was already showered and done and I still had 2 days left to run! (laughs)
Dan: I saw everything witches, elephants, giraffes… but no Mike! In Gaoligong it would be nice to see Nathan and Mike for real and spend time running with them.
Nathan: (laughs) Very funny, Mike! Hallucinations are a really strange thing!
I realy didn’t quite understand how it was possible before Ultra Gobi, but in that race, I saw an old lady running with me through the section which has really sharp bushes! Even now I can see it!
Then, once, during the night, it was very sandy and dusty, and I saw my two little girls either side of me. But they were wearing Liverpool shirts!!!? (Note: Liverpool football club) Damn, they don’t even support Liverpool! Arsenal through and through! (Nathan and his family are Arsenal fans) but was so real I can still see it now! Crazy….
Gaoligong: In the Gaoligong will be racing against GG.
Michael: I have raced Gediminas Grinius before and dude is tough especially in the mountains. He is smart, experienced, and determined. I am going to just run my hardest and if he gets away, I am going to let him go as 100 miles is way too far to run someone else’s race.
Daniel: Pavel, you are bald, like GG, can you help, tell me some tactics on how to run against a bald guy? (laughs) It will be interesting if haircuts make a difference in ultra-running, what's gonna give the advantage bald (GG) blue (Dan) or big (Mike)? (laughs)
Nathan: Man, I used to have the Pav haircut for years! Only in recent years has this hair featured on top! (laughs)
I think hair is a tactical weapon - you confuse your opponents, as Dan does with his blue hair. They spend most of their time thinking about your hairstyle style rather than competition.
That’s what I reckon Mike is doing also. Sneakily making you think he is some American woodcutter, when in fact that guy is a beast runner!
Gaoligong: Which one of you three has the greatest advantage at Gaoligong and why?
Michael: I would think that having won the race before that Dan would have the advantage as he knows what it takes to win on this course.
Daniel: I think Nathan is very strong on hills and Mike and myself more of long, long flat runners.
Nathan: Having run the course before is always an advantage. But though I know that running a course for the first time, means you more responsive, gives you less pressure. Mike can bring his speed, the mountains are tough in Gaoligong, but runnable. I think this will give Michael a big advantage.
Gaoligong: Nathan, is it true that you got bitten by some kind of spider in Ultra Gobi? Nobody else ever got bitten, just you.
It was weird, there was numbness in my right lower leg and a lot of pain. It got progressively worse during the race until weight bearing on my right leg was almost impossible.
Scans in the UK showed no fracture, or tissue damage but leg started seeped puss and several doctors attributed it to a bite. But what exactly bit me, who knows? I had other symptoms, typical of a bit, such as hissing chest, but I did not link it to the pain in the leg, only the doctors did.
Hey, I heard there are bears in Gaoligong!! I don’t want to get bitten by those, so I have Dan and Mike go first, I will follow and watch! (laugh) They can get bitten this time instead of me! (Laughs).
Gaoligong: Nathan, a lot of girls in China are fascinated with your muscular thighs – they hope you will be wearing compression in Gaoligong. Are you going to?
Michael: It is not just the ladies, those thighs are epic! (laughing)
Dan: I hope you will, Nathan! (laughs)
Nathan: Compression all the way…. (laughs)
Gaoligong: Dan – you did not get to see the floating monks in the Gobi, what do you hope to see in Gaoligong this time? (Note: Daniel told Pavel before the race that he heard some Buddhist monks in China can float and fly)
Dan: I'm always looking for the floating monks when I race! (laughs)
Nathan: I want to see those bears we keep hearing about!
Gaoligong: What are you going to ask each other first when you are going to reunite in Gaoligong?
Michael: I am going to be super excited to catch up and see where Dan and Nathan have been, how their holidays were and what they have planned after Gaoligong. I love hearing what my friends are doing and how they are feeling.
Daniel: Yes, it's going to be lovely to see them both. It will be nice to know how their families are and …I hope can just see those thighs again, Nathan! (laughs)
Nathan: It will be so good to catch up with the guys! Me and Dan see each other a lot, as we both race the 24-hour distance and hopefully will be on the England national team together again.
Man, we all come from such diverse backgrounds, we have very different lives but we have shared goals and purposes. We learn from each other and the respect is awesome. Damn, this love is good! Can’t wait to see them! It will be great to talk about our lives, our goals!
Gaoligong: Nathan, what do you look forward to most in Gaoligong – and least.
I look forward to that finish line! (laughs) It was such an amazing race. So rewarding. The people in the villages were so supportive. You never felt alone, even in the dark local people came out to support! It was amazing and I was very very touched.
What I am looking toward the least? …An encounter with a bear!!! Or with Mike’s backside! (laughs)
(by KE Visual)
Gaoligong: Michael – would you consider running Gaoligong as as Elvis?
Michael: I would definitely considering running Gaoligong as Elvis! It would probably be the first 100 miler done as Elvis! It could be fun, just in the wig it would be so hot and wearing Elvis glasses would be tough in mountains, they would be falling off. But I am definitely up for bringing my Elvis suit to run around Gaoligong! (laughs)