Written by : Kristin Meekhof 

7 Marathons, 7 Continents, 7 Life Lessons

For Michael Silvio, a 51-year-old husband and father of two, Lao Tzu’s words, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” are more meaningful than most. Between 2012 and 2016, Michael ran 7,000 training miles and completed a marathon on each continent.

In 2008, he began running in his hometown of Detroit in order to manage his Type 2 diabetes and work-related stress. He joined a running group coached by renowned runner Doug Goodhue. Michael recalls, “When I started, I didn’t have a huge running goal.”

7 Continents Club

7 medals from 7 continents.Three years later, Michael “stumbled upon the idea to run a marathon on all seven continents” and shared it with his dad and brother. “They thought it was one of the most ridiculous ideas I’ve ever had, and doubted I could get into condition” to accomplish such a grueling goal, he says. “After each race, long or short, everyone received a text with my results. Their responses carried me to the next race.”

Michael worked in concert with Marathon Tours & Travel to meet his goal, which would include running a marathon in Antarctica. However, he quickly realized the Antarctica Marathon had a four-year waitlist. He would save that feat for last.

A close call

In the meantime, he completed the other six marathons and experienced the highs and lows that go along with long-distance racing, until things took a surprising turn. Although he felt he was in great condition as an endurance runner, in 2016, Michael began experiencing fatigue and a tightening in his chest. Before being cleared for Antarctica, he sought medical advice and underwent several tests, including an electrocardiogram. Exactly 90 days after crossing the Antarctica marathon finish line on March 13, 2016, Michael underwent outpatient surgery for a 95 percent blockage in the “widow-maker” artery of his heart.

Michael shares seven of the life lessons he learned running marathons on every continent. The lessons are listed in the order the marathons were completed.

1. No one supports you like your family.Mike Silvio with his daughter in Australia.

During the Detroit international marathon, Michael’s mother, wife and children stood for hours to see him. His young son, Steven, helped him cross the finish line.

2. You can accomplish more than you think.

A logistical glitch in South America meant Michael ran 28.2 miles, the farthest he’s ever run.

3. There is gratitude inside everyone.

In Kenya, Michael met children who lived in extreme poverty, yet were grateful for the school supplies he and others brought them.

4. Ask for help.

For the Tokyo race, Michael leaned on the doctors, coaches, massage therapists and rehab experts who helped him train properly. Their support strengthened his body and mind so he could complete his goal.

5. If you go too fast, you miss the journey.

In London, he made a conscious effort to slow down. By doing so, he noticed the vast number of volunteers. He now gives back by helping at races.

6. Create memories that transcend the experience.

The backdrop of stunning Australia enhance Michael’s memory of that marathon, but what is far more important is what he taught his daughter, Mary, who accompanied him—that dreams create freedom.

7. Listen to your body.

Upon his return from Antarctica, Michael knew something was very wrong and advocated for his health.

“My heart condition allowed me to re-center my internal compass,” Michael says. “It not only helped me focus on my own [health] journey, but I now know the lessons I learned, including perseverance and resilience, can positively influence others. It wasn’t really a setback in my running, it was a step forward in my life.”

Read more: Dean Karnazes Goes the Extra Mile

Kristin Meekhof is an author, freelance journalist and contributor to Live Happy magazine. Listen to our podcast With Kristin: Finding Joy After Loss.

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