Like most athletes, Michael Miraglia has a competition mantra: “Let future you worry about it.” Unlike most athletes, though, “future” Michael’s path on this freezing morning in February is paved with pain: a 250-pound tire flip, a 300-pound yoke walk, and a 70-pound farmer’s carry, each for a full mile. That’s because the 29-year-old fitness coach is tackling the world’s first Strongman Marathon, a race of his own sadistic design.
Over the course of a grueling nine hours and 18 minutes on Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, the former rugby player turned rock climber turned elite obstacle course racer turned CrossFitter, would grunt through 14 miles of running with a 20-pound weighted vest, alternating each mile with a different strongman movement. In addition to the tire flip, yoke walk, and farmer’s carry, there were burpee broad jumps, a “dummy” fireman carry, handstand walk, 200-pound sled push, 200-pound sled drag, 200-pound sandbag carry, kettlebell toss, and walking lunges.
And while the endeavor would cause nearly every muscle to seize from overuse, it would also pose an enormous mental challenge. When the scenery was endless miles of frozen salt, with no crowd of screaming spectators, and the reward for releasing one muscle group from their flood of lactic acid was the chance to hammer at another set, how did he find the mental toughness to endure?
It was pitch black and well below freezing at 6:00 a.m. when Miraglia stood, watching his breath hang in the air, at the start line. Alongside him for support were his girlfriend, father, and a camera crew from his sponsor, apparel company Ten Thousand. Traveling back and forth between three 800-meter markers as he ticked off each mile, Miraglia subsisted largely on warm chicken broth and 80-cent ramen packets to maintain electrolytes, and loads of banana bread to replenish glycogen stores (and “because I like banana bread a lot,” Miraglia confesses).