WITH MICHAEL MIRAGLIA
A New Marathon Is Born.
The greatest athletes are those who compete against themselves. They’re their own biggest rivals, and they don’t need to be pushed by others. Instead, these phenomenal competitors are motivated by their own self image, by their own mind, and by their own desire to achieve the seemingly impossible goals they set for themselves.
The first athlete in Ten Thousand’s Feats Of Strength series exemplifies this unique and gritty approach to competition. Rather than attempt to beat someone else’s time or a pre-existing record, Michael Miraglia is doing something entirely different.
Read the full story
Michael Miraglia is setting his sights on a challenge that has never been completed, let alone attempted. His unheard of challenge is the Strongman Marathon: 26.2 back-to-back miles with each mile being its own test and bringing its own set of challenges. A mile of burpees, a mile tire flip, a mile handstand walk, and a mile 300lb yoke carry are just a few of the 26 miles staring him down.
“I just need to push the boundaries of what the human body is actually capable of doing. And I know I’m the person to do it. If anyone wants to try, go ahead, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. I’m about to get this done and get this thing in the history books.”
Michael has always been competitive. And, growing up with an identical twin brother, he not only had himself to compete with, but also an exact replica to measure up against. As a natural-born competitor, this just fueled his fire. The brothers competed over anything and everything, whether it was in the classroom, on the field or in their family’s home.
“We were always trying to one up each other, always trying to prove who was the alpha,” Michael said. “And you know what? It was always me.”
Michael established that he was the family’s alpha male, which came with both significant bragging rights and immense responsibility. Raised with pressure to support his family and friends alike, he quickly found himself on a specific and narrow life path – one that would ensure that Michael would achieve the traditional financial and reputational definition of success at a young age.
However, while most would be comforted by a clear life trajectory towards medical school and a stable career in anesthesiology, Michael was lost. He wasn’t in it for the money, he wasn’t in it for the prestige, and he simply wasn’t passionate about it. This weighed on him.
“It was always in the back of my mind that I wasn’t going to medical school for myself, but it clicked when I began watching my friends pursue what they really loved,” he said. “I could see it on their faces, and right then, I gave up this ‘perfect’ route for something unknown. I couldn't imagine my life any differently.”
Instead, Michael turned towards fitness. Obstacle course racing came first, and he podiumed in multiple competitions. Then, he fell into CrossFit, completing such feats as a consecutive 500 lb deadlift and sub-five minute mile on the same clock. Now, Michael does what he calls “crazy things” – anything that inspires someone to try something new.
“Although unconventional, fitness is my love and my creative outlet. I’m building a life out of it, and I’m never going to look back.”
To this day, Mike believes that taking that leap of faith is the best choice he’s ever made and one that’s prepared him for the rest of his life. Although he has no regrets about abandoning his steady life plan, he acknowledges it wasn’t easy.
“There’s always fear in the unknown and in things you can't control, but as you accept it and you’re along for the ride, you'll end up being much happier for it,” he said. “It's hard to be vulnerable and accept that there will be challenges.”
The Strongman Marathon will soon be the greatest feat of Mike’s life, and his alpha tendencies and competitive edge make him confident in his ability to face this arguably insane challenge. Mike admits that carrying over 2,000 lbs over 26.2 miles in one day is “outright ridiculous,” but that mentality and notion of accomplishing something unthinkable is what drives him.
“This Strongman Marathon is something that no one has ever achieved or has even thought of doing,” he said. “I just wanted to do something that was so out-of-the-box outrageous that as soon as someone hears about it they’re sure it can’t be done,” he explained.
To prepare for a feat as ambitious and physically taxing as the Strongman Marathon, Michael is relying on what he's always done - being consistent in putting in the work to build strength, endurance and mental toughness. He hasn't developed a specific training plan and isn't trying to cram in extra workouts in the last minute. Michael is trusting in the fitness he's developed over years of putting in work day after day to be the preparation needed for the Strongman Marathon and its 26 challenges.
“I’m in the gym five or six days a week and sometimes I’m hitting it twice a day. No matter what, I’m never missing a workout. It always comes down to consistency, and that’s where I’m gonna shine.”
Michael is confident in his strategy. He’s keeping everything consistent, from his training regimen to his diet and sleep schedule. He’s in a routine, going in and out of the gym most days, performing the same CrossFit workouts as everyone else. He’s front-loading the work, though, so that he’s able to taper before the big day.
“Starting from a few days out, I won’t touch a weight,” he notes. “I’ll do a ton of walking. For the two days before go time, rest and relaxation are going to be key.”
In addition to the physical prep, Michael has been preparing mentally for the challenges that lay ahead. Michael has been visualizing every challenge and every mile since he first decided to attempt this feat of strength. “I’ve already done the whole event at least 20 times in my head,” he said. “And I’ve realized the mental side is by far the toughest.”
“There’s one mile in particular that is going to absolutely wreck me. It’s going to be that one mile of burpees,” he said. “I have it early on so I can get it done and out of the way. That’s easily going to take forty minutes to an hour alone, and it's going to thrash my legs, tear apart my arms and set the tone for the entire marathon.”
Given Michael’s undisputed fearlessness and competitive edge, it’s no surprise that the mile he most fears is also the mile he’s most excited for. It’ll beat him up, but it’ll also set him up. The feeling of accomplishment and complete physical dominance from completing the burpee mile will power the rest of the marathon.
“Once I go out there, it’ll just be just another time, and I've already done it,” he said. “That’s the way you have to go in. I’ll go in guns blazing and hit a suicide pace right from the beginning, I’m gonna start hot and get it done with. If I’m going to burn out during the event, at least I went for it.”
The day was here. It was pitch black, windy, and below freezing as Michael approached the Bonneville Salt Flats for the challenge he’d been anxiously awaiting: the Strongman Marathon. The seemingly endless desert he had driven through the day before was unrecognizable at this hour.
The sight of the expansive landscape where Michael was about to spend his day made the feat feel real for the first time. Before arriving, he didn’t feel the gravity of the moment. But now, for the first time, it hit him. Michael was acutely aware of what he was about to attempt: 26 miles of physical challenges – and where he was attempting it: in the middle of nowhere. His cool, confident and collected facade had faded – and Michael was terrified for what was to come.
“I’ve been talking about this feat like it’s going to be a walk in the park. Whenever I do something like this, I have to tell myself that. I play it down like it's nothing, even though I know it's huge. And that really became clear when I saw the Salt Flats.”
As 6 a.m. rolled around, Michael knew he needed to get started. He was facing what he expected to be a 14 hour event, and he was racing against the sun. With no other competitors or officials to make the rules, Michael decided it was go time.
“I started it just like it was a regular workout at my home gym. It was so different from most competitions because it was all on me. Me and myself. I was the one calling the shots.”
After a quick first mile run in the weighted vest, Michael was already facing the task he’d feared the most since planning this outrageous challenge: one mile of burpee broad jumps.
“It started out problematically,” Michael said.
Still dark out, he couldn't see a thing, and the 800 meter marker he placed that morning was nowhere to be found. The camera crew jumped in their cars and drove around searching for it; finally, they found the marker and got Michael back on track after he had veered off into the darkness.
“From there, we were good to go,” Michael said. “Surprisingly, the burpees ended up being one of the easiest miles by far.”
Just a few miles later, Michael realized he had inaccurately predicted which miles might break him. When running through the various events in his head to train for this marathon, he imagined “kicking up in mounds of soft salt” and breezing through the handstand walk. However, instead, the frozen ground was rock solid, and his shoulders were immediately weakening beneath him. After coming down from his first handstand and turning back to see he’d only traveled 15 feet, Michael grew alarmed for the first time – and he began to feel like “there is really no way I’m going to finish this fourth mile, let alone the entire marathon.”
Each time he came down from a handstand, he felt defeated – as though he were just walking in place. But he wouldn’t stop. Ultimately, after countless stops and starts and even more frustration, it was his mental rather than physical strength that got him through the handstand walk and on to his favorite mile.
Michael made up time during the Dummy Fireman Carry portion of the marathon. He flung his girlfriend over his shoulders and picked up the pace. Fueled by her support, distraction and lightheartedness, he was able to get out of his head and remember to enjoy his attempt at this unheard of feat.
Riding that high, Michael felt strong mentally through the rest of the challenge. However, the same couldn’t be said about his physical strain. By the middle of the day, Michael was feeling the effects of doing so many movements over such a long period of time. However, he knew he was too far in to quit, even as more difficult miles lay ahead.
At the top of that list was the one mile tire flip, which was – unsurprisingly – a physical bruiser for Michael. To complete the mile, he flipped the 300lb tire over 500 times, and it went straight to his back. It felt like he was hardly moving, as each flip carried him only 5 or 6 feet forward. It took 45 minutes alone, but Michael finished and his back held out. Once he got through this grueling mile, though, Michael began to lighten up – he felt the toughest miles were behind him.
From burpees to handstands to tire flips, Michael pushed himself hard. He struggled. He failed at times. But he refused to back down. After 9 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds, Michael finished the Strongman Marathon and its 26.2 miles of physical, mental and emotional challenges.
In true Michael fashion, though, 26.2 wasn’t enough. He ran that extra 0.8 to pick up the mile markers before turning around and sprinting through the finish line.
“Pushing your body past what you thought it was capable of is easy; the hard part is pushing yourself even further ... past what your mind wants to let you. That’s what ultrarunning is all about; introducing you to a self you’ve never known.”
As Michael picked up the mile marker and turned to the camera, the faces of his girlfriend and father standing at the finish line gave him the final push needed to finish the Strongman Marathon.
Despite the support of his family and friends, though, Michael knew that it all came from within. To get through this, he had to dig deep into his psyche and capture the mental strength needed to complete the Strongman Marathon. While seeing familiar faces helped, they weren’t going to get him to the finish line.
“If I say I'm going to get something done, it shouldn't be taken lightly. Even if we put limits on ourselves, it's so easy to flip a switch and break that barrier. It really comes down to your mental fortitude. You can translate this to any part of your life. There will be struggles but once you master the mental part you can do anything.”
When reflecting on the marathon as a whole, as well as each of its individual events, Michael had no regrets in terms of planning or preparation.
“The miles had to be in this order, or I wouldn't have been able to get it done,” Michael explained. “The handstand walk would have been a quitting point if it was any later on in the marathon. Everyone came out such a long way to support me so I just had to keep going.”
Michael was proud of the strength, determination and sheer fearlessness he displayed as he accomplished this unthinkable feat. Despite his seemingly confident and unfazed demeanor, this was a terrifying challenge – and that made his personal victory feel all the more sweet.
Although this entire feat was based on Michael’s self actualization and motivation, his friends, teammates and competitors at home were undoubtedly in his head throughout the marathon – and returning victorious was an unforgettable feeling. “Coming back and explaining what I did - that’s when it really hit home,” he reflected.
“It was more badass than I even realized. I set a new standard for what the body can do. I took it upon myself to do something people have never even thought of. This is my creative outlet, I'm not a painter, I’m not an artist. This is how I express myself. I hope I inspired people, even if they just want to try one mile. If it inspires anyone to do anything at all, that's a win for me.”
Michael wasn’t the only winner that day. After crossing the finish line around 3:30pm, he spent the rest of the afternoon “just waiting for the soreness to hit.” After a long, hot shower and a much deserved nap, it never did. “Instead, we did what anyone would do at the Nevada / Utah border. We hit the casinos,” he laughed.
Before heading home at the end of the night, Michael’s father found himself at the roulette table. Choosing 9, 18 and 33 for his son’s 9 hour, 18 minute and 33 second Strongman Marathon finishing time earlier that day, he took home the jackpot.