She is the only woman in the world to have crossed four continents – running. Now this Rouen native joins many other influential figures in supporting the city’s bid for the title of European Capital of Culture.
The incredible Marie Léautey holds two impressive records: she finished the fastest run around the world for a woman, with 698 marathons in 823 days, and is also the world’s only woman to have crossed four continents running, from ocean to ocean.
She ended that adventure in Sydney, Australia, on 30 August 2022 and, on 17 September, was back in Rouen, on the banks of the Seine, the place where it all began. It was her chance to formalise her support for her hometown’s bid for the title of European Capital of Culture.
“I was honoured to be asked to be an official supporter of Rouen Seine Normande 2028 and I immediately accepted, because my exposure to the cultural breadth and depth of Rouen is what literally opened the doors of the world to me. Beyond Rouen’s own cultural history and heritage, sports and exercise have a major role in the life of the city. Rouen is ceaselessly modernising and has created new ways for residents to enjoy green spaces, take advantage of the outdoors, get around by bike, go running – especially on the banks of the Seine. Many of the city’s sports teams (like the Huskies, which I was once a member of) top the ranks of French and European championships. Culturally, sports provide an avenue for social interaction and integration and create greater openness to the world. Having gained that experience myself, I’ve been able to run roads around the globe. Now I’m returning to my roots, supporting Rouen’s pursuit of this exciting opportunity.”
A marathon every day, six days a week
Around-the-world running is a regulated discipline and records are checked, approved and officialised by the World Runners Association (WRA). Only one woman and five men have achieved this feat to date and Ms. Léautey now becomes the second woman, and seventh person, to join this very exclusive club.
When she left Cabo da Roca, Portugal, on 6 December 2019, Ms. Léautey never imagined that she would have to rearrange her odyssey around an unexpected and unpredictable pandemic. Between shifting national lockdowns and closed borders, her journey across Europe was a veritable obstacle course. But she persisted, against all odds, and finished her Europe crossing in June 2021, a journey that was twice as long as planned (15,450 kilometres or 9,600 miles). Then came the runs across North America, South America and Australia, which would prove more linear and less chaotic.
For Ms. Léautey, traversing Europe meant crossing the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Ardennes, the Apennines and the Dinarides. In North America, she went over the Rockies and the Appalachians. Crossing South America involved climbing the Andes, where she ascended to an altitude of 4,000 metres (over 13,000 feet) to cross the border between Chile and Argentina. In Australia, she ran over the Nullarbor Plain (over 1,200 kilometres or 745 miles), which was her greatest challenge. Whatever the climate and circumstances, her dedication remained unshakable.
Beyond being an astounding physical feat, her adventure is also a modern-day epic, a human adventure across continents, peoples, cultures – at a time in our history when, for many of us, it felt a bit like the world had stopped turning.