5 Surprises for Me in 2020 – A Quick Review of a Strange Year

Written by Charlie

Here are 5 surprises in 2020 that involved the blog and me – including being the best year ever for the blog! Others include running, airports, and more!

Anyone that made travel predictions, race predictions, etc for 2020 is looking at those now and realizing how amazingly wrong they had been. This isn’t because they were making ridiculous predictions but all due to this thing we now call Covid-19. I promise – this isn’t one of the surprises for me (though it was) but it did impact these!

5 Surprises for Me in 2020

1. The Blog – Running with Miles – Best Year Ever?!

For years (actually just had an anniversary of the blog the other day), this blog has been about travel, running, travel tech, and deals – basically, all things that interest me and, it turns out, a few hundred thousand other people as well.

As anyone with a travel-related blog can tell you, 2020 was not the year for this area of the internet! Sure, early on, we had a lot of quick-breaking news as to which countries were closing down, airline policies, etc. But, things like travel deals were not often sought after.

Combine that with falling ad rates and you had a very tough year for most travel-related blogs. I was expecting the same thing – except, something different happened.

Back in March, the stimulus bill was passed and I was surprised when I found out that there was a lot of confusion about how much people were going to get since I had just found an easy calculator that gave that exact information.

Well, it turns out that this interested a lot of people – like hundreds of thousands. Since this was something people were looking for (though not part of my past content!), I would give updates and answer people’s questions as I researched various aspects of it. I have received thousands of messages with people looking for help in how to find information about this as the months went by – many, many thousands! So, I was a bit busy trying to answer those!

In the end, even with ad rates down, this ended up being the best year for the blog ever – in turns of revenue and page views. Millions more people visited this year than any year before and I even saw my best day of traffic ever – 283,000 page views in one day! 

I’m glad that in an otherwise bleak travel year that my blog was able to serve as a resource for many that were looking for information about this!

2. Flights

This was another surprise – I had some refunds on travel that was not taken/canceled so that made it that in 2020, I did not pay for one flight out of pocket. I had one that had existed from last year that someone else paid for and we did a couple of award flights but I did not have to pay for any flight at all.

Good think my main airline, Aegean Airlines, extended my elite status because I would not have earned any miles this year!

I did fly back and forth between Europe and the US a couple of times this year (and headed back to Europe next week) and that was indeed a very strange experience. While I certainly like having as much room as I want in lounges and airplanes, I will be excited to welcome fellow travelers back to those spaces when travel comes back again!

3. Races and Running

This year saw a monster move to the idea of virtual marathons. It all started back in February when marathons started to postpone or cancel and I covered these pretty extensively (so much so that this is when traffic on the blog really began to take off). After many realized cancellation was the only option, many of these same organizers decided to make it virtual instead – as in, allowing runners to run the marathon distance wherever they were, submit the data from their tracker, and claim a medal for that race.

I have actually done over 40 of these 26.2 mile (or longer) solo runs over the past many years. I did these either as training runs or in my events to run 6 (solo) marathons on 6 continents in under 5 days. So, I was quite used to running alone for long distances! But, many thousands of others also found out how enjoyable this can actually be when they get to start at whatever time they want, on whatever day they want, and do it all in areas they are intimately familiar with!

I actually did a strange marathon event myself back in the spring. With a lockdown in effect for our area that did not allow me to run more than a couple/few miles from my home, I decided to make it interested by running 26.2 miles – around a 100 foot loop. Yep, that was over 1,300 laps for that but the time flew by as I had my kids around me throughout the day and even joining in for a while. 🙂

6 marathon

This was our finish in DC, the final run. Glenn from Military Frequent Flyer ran this leg with me

I did only a couple of virtual marathons this year, including one that I have always wanted to do – the Marine Corps Marathon. I actually did the course for this as my final marathon event of the round the world run but have never been able to run the actual event. This year, I got my medal for it! I know it is not the same as running it but it still felt cool to get!

Also this year, I crossed the 25,000 mile threshold of total distance run over the past 14 years!

4. Empty Airports

The empty Frankfurt airport

Back in June, I had to fly from Europe to the US. I transited via Frankfurt am Main Airport. Frankfurt was the 4th busiest airport in Europe in 2019, hosting over 70 million passengers throughout the year. For 2020, it has had just over 18 million.

I ended up there right after Athens Airport began flying to other European airports (as departed from there to Frankfurt). It was one of the eeriest travel experiences I have ever had. I had to walk from one end of the airport to the other and counted no more than 200 people in the entire airport area. There were areas where I was the only person around at all. It was so strange to only hear my footsteps echoing through the terminal.

Of course, this meant no restaurants were open (only one coffee shop) and no lounges were open in the area. It also meant that less than 50 people were on my flight to the US.

We flew through Zurich in September and it was a little bit busier but still pretty empty in comparison to past trips. It was definitely a big surprise to be in airports like that this year!

5. Credit Card Programs

This was another surprise for me in 2020, though not unexpected as we saw where 2020 was heading. Major credit card issuers shifted their programs and reward programs a bit to accommodate the fact that almost no one was traveling. To do this, they expanded their rewards and credits to cover things like dining, groceries, and others as people were hunkering down in homes for a long time.

I never thought I would redeem Chase Ultimate Reward points for grocery purchases – but that is exactly what I spent tens of thousands of points on this year (and this post details why). Also, it has been strange to see my Chase Sapphire Reserve $300 “travel” credit quickly get eaten up in the last week by grocery purchases. 🙂

Bottom Line

2020 brought no end to surprises for the world and I know many are looking to put it all behind as we start 2021. I know many lost loved ones this year (and weren’t even able to be with them near the end) and many lost jobs that would otherwise seem very secure. I feel very badly for all who have been impacted in these ways in 2020.

Tonight brings 2020 to a close – of course, tomorrow will not bring any great change or be more than a flip on the calendar (and a resetting of credit card and award program credits for many!). But, I know that we all look forward to the world being a bit more like we were used to when it comes time to say goodbye to 2021.

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.