Seven Continent Quest Series — 3 Maraton Costa Pacifico, Vina del Mar, Chile 2009

Carl Byington, a professional engineer and owner of PHM Design LLC in Ellijay GA, is one of only about 500 people in the world to run a marathon on all seven continents. In this latest installment, he shares some of his experience of traveling to Chile in December of 2009, his third successful marathon after he nearly died in a rock-climbing fall a few years before.

Well the primary reason for going to Chile, was of course to run my third post-injury marathon. Specifically, the Vina del Mar Marathon, which doesn’t actually reach the town of Vina, but close enough. Prior to that effort, we had a relaxing few days touring the capital city of Santiago and visiting Chilean wine country. I know, I know, the days before a marathon is not the wisest time to be imbibing, but we were, after all, right next to some of the best wine in all of South America. So first we celebrate that!

Just south of Santiago is the largest red wine region of Colchagua Valley. Many wineries are relatively close to the charming town of Santa Cruz, Chile. Vin Manent vineyard is easy enough to find off the main road to Santa Cruz from San Fernando and Route 5, and it possesses several above-average Carménère, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon choices to sample. Our Sommelier Hans was very knowledgeable and explained much of the history of Colchagua Valley and the importance of the Carménère grape to Chilean history. These were all relatively inexpensive at $5–15 US dollars. We bought 4 including my favorite, the Malbec.

Viu Manent winery near Santa Cruz

Montes and Lapostolle wineries are harder to find as they are off the main road to Santa Cruz and the road is not well marked. The Montes wine was relatively inexpensive and quite good. My favorite was the Carménère/Cabernet blend. Overall I found the Carménère wine on its own to be less than full-bodied enough and wilting in the middle but coupled with a nice Cabernet in a blend, it is quite exquisite. We bought 3 more bottles for a celebration after the marathon.

Lapostelle was by far was the most upper end and expensive establishment. It did have a simply magnificent Clos Apalta wine. It was a perfect blend of 4 different grapes, offering a big nose, forward flavor, and a wonderful long finish. Yes, we took one of those with us as well.
Instead of driving all the way back to Santiago, we stayed at Mar Andino hotel in Rancagua. Other than being extremely hard to find, it is quite a gem in a less than enticing town.

We made our way to the Chilean coast near Rincon where we stayed for the marathon. On marathon day, we awoke around 5 AM for a taxi ride out to the start of the marathon in a small town called Puchuncavi. It was a little cold at 50 degrees F and windy to start, but it warmed up enough once we started running. The race runs through rather plain villages and industrial areas for many miles. Some of those miles were very hilly and would test our muscle fatigue after 15 or so miles. But this marathon is really all about the last 6 or so miles running along the Pacific Coast.

At the start in someone’s front yard!

We passed our Radisson Hotel as we wind our way along the jagged coastline, which is somewhat reminiscent of Northern California. The relentless ocean waves beating a cadence in time with our shuffling footsteps. The last miles seem to go on forever as we round one cove after another until FINALLY we arrive into Renaca and the finish line. There were many good cheers at the end for all. Dunkin Donuts was available to provide a sugar energy lift, and beach cervezas were ordered to rehydrate and dull the pain!

We finished up our trip driving around Vina and over to Valparaiso (Valpo for short). We wanted to get at least get a sense of one of the oldest port towns in South America. It was seedy and poor with just a dash of panache in the painting of the houses. We drove up one of the steepest roads I have ever been on without the benefit of four-wheel drive. It was dicey, including when we ran right up on a propane truck that could not turn around at the top of the dead-end road. We would both have to back up down the hill! Yikes, get that dog out of the road and watch out kids!

After swinging back to Vina and picking up another friend, we headed out for sampling a few more wines in the Casablanca wine area before arriving back in Santiago. Along the way on Route 68, we saw many, many people making the walking pilgrimage to visit the church of the Virgin Mary. This is an annual ritual and national holiday in Chile, in which thousands of people walk the 80km (about 50 miles) or so from Santiago to the Virgin Mary church. Some would even do the journey on their knees in an extreme sacrifice and deference to Mary and her Son. It is quite a testament to their faith and beliefs.

For us, we had learned to appreciate much in Chilean culture, had made our own sacrifice, and experienced the joy of finishing our third continent marathon. So Europe, North America, and now South America were complete. The dream to run marathons on all seven continents was starting to present itself.



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Carl Byington ~ Engineer, Adventurer, Traveler

Carl Byington ~ Engineer, Adventurer, Traveler


Adventure, travel, culture, endurance activities, environmental, wellness, and fitness. UPenn Grad, NASA rocket scientist, aeronautical engineer, and CEO.