About six year ago, Mike Silvio set out to tackle a challenge that only a few hundred people in the world have had the grit to accomplish: run a marathon on every continent in the world.
From the moment his feet hit the pavement during his first race abroad in Brazil to crossing the ultimate finish line in Antarctica five years later, Mike has had opportunities that most only dream of. He has run on a safari wildlife conservatory in Kenya; He has held his breath as his boat to Antarctica crested 30 foot waves; He has feasted on an authentic Australian meal underneath the constellations of the Outback.
Mike ran his marathons in the following countries:
South America- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
US- Detroit, Michigan
Europe- London, England
Asia- Tokyo, Japan
Australia- Near Uluru, Australia
Africa- Taita-Taveta County, Kenya
“The races have their own personalities, but so do the cities that you visit,” Silvio said. “The important thing about this experience was traveling and experiencing the local culture. I made it a point to go to markets, experience the food, see the culture. We visited restaurants and tried different foods… those experiences were the icing on the cake really.”
I sat down with Silvio to learn a little bit more about his experiences as a traveler and a runner. And of course, the conversation wouldn’t be complete without talking about his food experiences as well!
What an ambitious challenge! How long did it take you to complete it?
About 5 years start to finish. Antarctica has a 4 to 5 year wait list typically. Every year I had the goal of doing a continent, so I would save up and run a different race each time. The Antarctica race was the most expensive; it cost $10,000.
What was it like running a marathon in Antarctica?
Antarctica was a small race because they can only bring 100 people on shore at a time. They did 100 runners one day and then 100 the next day. That was after crossing the Drake Passage for two and a half days on a 300 foot vessel. There was a 4-5 year wait list to be eligible to run!
You said that you started this adventure because you fell in love with running and traveling. How did that happen?
I was traveling a lot for work, and one of my suppliers invited me to run a half marathon in Venlo, Netherlands. It was the most fun I have ever had. You’re running through cities you’ve never been to before, so it’s all new. When you’re running like that, you get to see things that nobody else gets to see. You’re running down side streets and along rivers and by castles, so it’s really exciting. It’s a great way to be a tourist. So I started looking for races to run next. I was going to Brazil and found the Rio de Janeiro marathon!
Are you able to eat cultural foods when you travel for races?
Runners are fairly strict in what we eat. We don’t want to take any chances the week of a marathon by trying ostrich or alligator, but we really want to experience the culture! In Africa, a few fellow runners and myself waited until the race was over and then we went into the kitchen and asked the cooking staff to feed us what they normally eat. They made us plates of what the Kenyans eat, and it was interesting! It was called funje, kind of like a porridge.
I tend to eat a little more conservatively when I’m traveling for a race. I also bring my pre-race food, so bananas and peanut butter. It’s all about preparation. If you’re just on holiday and going for a run, then experience what there is to eat.
Of all of your experiences traveling, what has been your best food experience abroad?
There’s a specific lake in Germany where they harvest eel. We wanted to try it, so we ate at a restaurant that is hundreds of years old. You peel the eels like an banana. Every time you ate an eel, before and after you eat it, the waiter comes over and gives you a tablespoon of some strong alcohol and says a short poem wishing you well and good health. I think I ate three eels that night!
It sounds amazing! This seems like such a great way to see the world, and it’s all because of your love for running! What did you learn about running from this experience?
It’s not always about your time and how fast you go; It’s about the experience. You have to figure out how to finish it and figure out how to enjoy it. Some of my races I take pictures the whole way. I stop to talk to people. I rest. And that’s fun, too. There’s lots of different ways to enjoy running.
I love that. Okay, so that’s what you learned about running…. What did you learn about the world?
I learned that there are good people everywhere. You realize how lucky and fortunate we really are to have won the lottery by being born in a country where you can pursue your dreams.
What does this experience mean to you? How did you feel when you crossed that last finish line in Antarctica?
There was certainly a satisfaction of finishing the races, and there was an appreciation for the support I received from friends and family. It was a long term goal. Once you tell someone you’re going to do something, you’re either the guy that did it, or the guy that didn’t do it, you know? When I saw other people do it, it was amazing. But then when I did it, it was like… okay, what’s next?
So what IS next? Silvio plans to write a book about his experience running internationally. He will also be hosting a talk at the Royal Oak Library on Thursday, October 11 at 7:00 pm to discuss his experience. More information can be found here.