Something that is high on bucket lists for many travelers is to visit 6 continents (many have the line item of visiting 7 continents but that last one can be a reach for many!). For some, they do it several times in a lifetime (or even in a year!) while for others it could take a lifetime to visit 6 continents.
Here is what it was like for me to visit 6 continents in less than 5 days (here is a post that breaks down the numbers involved as to miles spent and more).
What It Was Like to Visit 6 Continents in Less Than 5 Days
Let me say right up top – I certainly do not recommend this for everyone/anyone! This was for a specific event. I would much rather take my time to enjoy countries on each continent rather than race through as fast as I did. But, since most people will not visit 6 continents this fast, I thought it would be interesting to share my experience in doing so!
Read: If you want to see what it is like to actually run 157 miles on 6 continents in less than 5 days, check out this post.
Visiting 6 Continents in Less Than 5 Days
Why Visit 6 Continents in 5 Days???
In 2015, I did a little project of running 6 marathon distance runs (26.2 miles) on 6 continents in under 5 days. There is a great, organized event run by Richard Donovan (World Marathon Challenge and it just finished this week) that lets runners run actual marathons on all 7 continents in 7 days but it is an expensive event (due to the cost and logistics of transporting people around the globe – including Antarctica – and putting on the events themselves).
So, I wanted to challenge myself to do 6 continents and fly it all in business or first class for as little as possible (using miles, of course!)
Here is the list of places I went to and how long I spent in each place:
- Thessaloniki, Greece (Europe) – 15 hours
- Cairo, Egypt (Africa) – 8 hours
- Abu Dhabi, UAE (Asia) – 8 hours
- Sydney, Australia (Australia) – 15 hours
- Santiago, Chile (South America) – 8 hours
- Washington, DC (North America) – 8 hours
As you can see, I was on the ground in most countries for 8 hours. That gave me enough time to clear passport control and get from the airport to the location of my run. That would leave me about a maximum of 5 hours for my run before needing to get back to the airport to catch my next flight.
Here’s the thing – 8 hours is an exceptionally short time to “visit” a country. Yet, when you are going to run 26 miles in a country, that does give you a way to see and enjoy quite a bit about a place in such a short time! Except for Egypt, every 26 mile run was done outside (Egypt was on an airport treadmill though I did a warm-up run outside) so I was able to see a nice bit of a city – sometimes, many times!
Read about the run in Thessaloniki here.
Takeaways: Very early in the morning let me see people heading home from many venues and many heading out to go fish. Humid!
I have spent a ton of time in Greece so it was not anything new, yet the time of day that I was running was new for me! I started my run at 4 in the morning. My route took me out 13.1 miles and back with much of it being along the Aegean Sea. I saw many fishermen out for early-morning fishing (some being pretty successful!) and many people just leaving some of the cafe/bars that dotted the seaside.
After my run, I had some things to do before heading to the airport and flying to Athens and then Cairo. With this as my first run and from a place I was very familiar with, there wasn’t anything that notable at this point.
Read about the run in Cairo here.
Takeaways: Hot and humid! The run was done on a treadmill so even more humid than normal! More time with visa stuff here than anywhere else. Also, Cairo airport is just ridiculously busy and crowded!
I have been to Egypt a few different times and even went there on a scouting trip for the run a couple of months before (which is when I ultimately decided the best situation for my middle of the night run here would be to run on a treadmill – confirmed by local runners as well).
This was the only stop on the trip that required getting an actual, physical visa, though it was a pretty simple process of just paying the fee after filling out the form. The problem was the utter lack of pens as most people just pocketed them after filling out their forms. Fortunately, I remembered this from a prior trip so I had my pen ready to go!
My time in Cairo was from about midnight to 7am so it did not provide much time to really see and experience much of the city. My short run outside did let me see how quiet it gets right away as you leave the airport! The weather was also quite humid (even more humid inside on the treadmill so that was not a good start – blisters started swiftly!).
Running in the middle of the night near the airport was definitely not something that people normally do as those that were out in the streets just stared at me and a couple asked what I was doing. 🙂
Overall, even though I spent the least amount of time outside here than any other location of my trip, I was still able to get a bit of local color and flair (I also bought some of my fluids from a nearby stand so at least got to make a purchase!).
Abu Dhabi, UAE (Asia)
Read about the Abu Dhabi run here.
Takeaways: Very HOT! Humid after the sun went down and I was the only one really moving around! 🙂
I have been to Abu Dhabi several times, including for a mid-summer training run. I had hoped to meet up with a local running club for some running partners but they told me that they could not participate or even encourage their runners to go out with me due to insurance concerns (this is early September and in the afternoon in the UAE – it was hot!).
It turned out that my “base hotel”, the Hyatt Capital Gate (now an Andaz), had some runners on staff that accompanied me for the first 5k of the run (Hyatt was amazingly supporting during my run!). That was really nice and gave me an opportunity to talk with some of the locals during my first of several loops around the area.
Being that this was during the afternoon at the tail end of summer in the desert, there was not a lot of local foot traffic going on during my run! In fact, many of the outdoor workers were resting in shady areas and just staring at me like I was absolutely crazy!
My route took me for several miles around the area of the hotel which included the Embassy Row of many nations, the Zayed Sports City complex (a very massive area!) and many stores. There was a McDonalds on my route that I would pop in so I could grab an ice cream cone. Yeah, not exactly running food but with the temperature over 110 degrees, it worked!
I also stopped at various mini markets along the route to buy water during the run. As the sun went down, the air moisture was rapidly getting thicker. I ended up drinking around 2 gallons of water for this run!
I ended up interacting with many locals during this stop as well as seeing some of the places I had not previously seen on foot during previous visits. I didn’t really eat anything much during this leg of the trip because my next flight was in the First Apartment with Etihad so I was looking forward to really eating a great post-run meal there!
Takeaways: Beautifully cool weather! Lovely sites, especially for night-time viewing. One of my favorite cities so very enjoyable to run around.
This was an exciting stop. Not only did it mean I was over half done with this adventure but it was also a welcome weather relief from Abu Dhabi! When I arriving in downtown Sydney, it was around 7PM and they were just saying goodbye to their winter. This translated to temperatures in the 40-50 range so I was pretty happy with that (it was a drop of 75 degrees in the two extremes over 18 hours!).
I had been to Sydney before for a similar run so I knew a bit of what to expect. This time, I covered even more area for my running route and since I was starting in the evening, it meant that there were not that many crowds to deal with.
“Are you that Charlie runner??” 🙂
I used the Sydney Intercontinental hotel as my base (and the only hotel I actually stayed in during my trip) and started from there. An interesting start came when someone on the street stopped me to ask if I was the runner Charlie that was running 6 marathons on 6 continents. That was a surprise! It turned out that news of my adventure had reached some people in Sydney and this guy was a runner as well. He was really torn because he really wanted to join me but he and his wife were on a date outing so he made the smart decision of continuing with that instead of going to run with me. 🙂
My running course included many great highlights of Sydney – the Opera House (I ran all around that beautiful structure!), the Darling Harbour Bridge (I ran over it so many times that I got to know the security guards!), the Circular Quay area, Hyde Park, and the Luna Park. I definitely got to be in many great vantage points of Sydney and really enjoyed my 26 miles around Sydney!
I didn’t actually sleep in the hotel (since I had slept a few hours from Abu Dhabi and wanted to sleep on the flight to Chile) but used the time instead to work on icing my shin as I was getting some pretty bad pain there at this point.
Too Much Travel in Too Little Time!
One of the funniest parts of the trip (to me, at the time) had been when I was filling out the immigration form when entering Australia. This was my 4th country in 2-3 days and I had already forgotten where I had been! I had to fix my error on the form when I had forgotten to say that I had been in Africa in the previous 6 months (and that was just 1 day ago!).
Leaving Australia, I was actually hit with a delay as my LAN flight had some mechanical issues. I was about to switch to fly economy for the 12 hour flight to Santiago instead my business class seat that would fly via Auckland – I had to get to Santiago that bad! Fortunately, I was only delayed a bit more than an hour so I was still going to be just ok.
Chile (South America)
Takeaways: The busiest area I had run in. Great and kind people and a very scenic city.
I arrived in Santiago, Chile a little later than I was supposed to have. The cool thing about this was that I had just flown one of the least flown flight paths in the world. If you look at a flight map, you will find very few flights that go between Australia and South America so that was something!
The Grand Hyatt Santiago (no longer a Grand Hyatt) was fantastic. I had booked a room there with the mistake $5 rate (through Amex) just so I would have a place to ditch my gear and the manager, also a runner, went all out. He had sent a car to pick me up and had a bunch of staff at the ready to help me when I arrive. Not only that, but they had set me up in the Presidential Suite for my few short hours there! It was a great re-introduction to Chile!
My route here was a few mile loop that took me around the downtown area of Santiago. As a result, and for the fact that the run last me 4.5 hours, I was able to see a lot of people and areas of business throughout the day. Not only that, but there were many tourists making their way on foot through the city as well. I had to stop a couple of times for some water and a toilet break or two so even got to try out some of those spots. 🙂
The weather was similar to Sydney but this was daytime and, unfortunately, it did begin raining a bit. Still, it was a welcome relief over the temperatures I had experienced just days before in Abu Dhabi, Cairo, and Greece!
While I had time for the lounges in Greece, Cairo, Abu Dhabi, and Sydney after my runs there, the late arrival of my flight left me no time at all. In fact, if I had not run this run (my 5th 26.2 miler in 4 days) faster than all the others, I would never have made my flight. I took a car from the hotel back to the airport, cleared security with some help from an airline agent who saw my time and got on the plane for the flight to my 6th continent.
Washington, DC (North America)
Takeaways: What can I say – DC is one of my favorite places to visit and run in! Very humid but a thrill to run in as my final stop.
I landed in Miami on my way from Chile to DC and this is where traveling so much in such a short time hit me again. I remember seeing the signs for the American Express Centurion lounge and thought “I didn’t know DC had gotten a Centurion lounge!” In fact, it wasn’t until I was in the lounge and checking my phone that I realized I was actually in Miami. 🙂
When I arrived in DC, I was on very familiar ground. I took the metro from Reagan to the Grand Hyatt downtown and met up with some wonderful Hyatt folks there as well. I also met up with fellow BoardingArea blogger, Glenn (from the Military Frequent Flyer) who would run his very first 26.2 mile distance as he accompanied me on this last one around DC.
I have to say, landing back in your own country after circling the globe and visiting 5 other continents in just 4 days was really just like hitting the beach on vacation. Even though I had to run 26 miles, it was still an incredibly relaxing feeling and one that I was just really in a place of comfort with. It was so cool to see all the sites on foot again (even though the heat and humidity were really up there!) and make my way around the city before finally ending at the Marine Corps Marathon finish line in Arlington Cemetery (our route had largely followed the Marine Corps route).
Final tally? 6 continents, 9 cities, 157 miles run – in 4 days and 21 hours. (to read about the whole event in summary, check this post)
To say it would be exhausting under normal conditions to visit 6 continents in that timeframe would be an understatement. To also run 26 miles in each of those continents was not only exhausting but it was also a great chance to experience and see quite a bit of these cities from the ground. It also allowed me to interact with people on each continent.
I made purchases, ate food, talked with people, and saw these continents from the road – all in about an average of 9 hours per continent. 🙂 Again, I would never recommend anyone else do this but for those that wonder what it is like to visit so many places in such a short time, now you have an idea! 🙂
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock