Running and Travelling: Lisbon, Portugal

IMG_1215After a week in Portugal, I have never been so happy to see pavement to run on! Lisbon was an incredible city with tons to do and see but I hardly ever saw anyone running and I quickly discovered that there was a reason why. All the street and sidewalks are cobblestone. Bike lanes abruptly end and then start again a few hundred metres later completely inexplicably. And along the water, the only place that doesn’t have enormous hills, has no shade. Now that my running rants are over, let me tell you more about my trip.

I knew very little about Lisbon before I arrived besides that it was on the ocean. It turns out that Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in Europe, older than Rome even and you can see evidence of this everywhere. It is called the city of seven hills and it definitely is hilly. The part that I stayed in is called Alfama, it is full of winding cobblestone streets. Because of how old it is, there is no grid at all and it is super easy to get lost. I have never been so happy for the GPS on my phone because I would probably still be wandering around Lisbon, lost forever, without it.

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After a few days of sightseeing and running basically on the same path along the water, because part of it is a bike lane and it was flatish, I decided it was time for an adventure. Around Lisbon, there are a bunch of towns to go see and one is the beach town of Cascais. My long run was scheduled to be 26km on Sunday so I decided that instead of running around Lisbon, I would run the 29km to Cascais and just walk the last bit of it.

Google maps on my phone seemed to think it was walkable so I decided to follow the walking instructions to get there. I left around 7:30am on Sunday morning, hoping to get there before it got too hot out. Thankfully, it ended up being a relatively cool day (~23C) and there was a nice wind. What I didn’t account for is where my maps would take me, around 8am I ran past a club that still had a line outside and the people looked as confused to see me as I was to see them! After that, I ran along the water and saw some other runners so I felt better that I was going in the right direction.

IMG_1220This run would have never been possible in North America. The majority of where I ran was a very small sidewalk that ran along a small highway. I’ve never seen anywhere in North America that has anything that practical beside the highways. A couple times, I was running on (cobblestone, of course) sidewalk that was about a foot wide with cars speeding by and I seriously questioned what I was doing. Surprisingly, everyone going by seemed to think it was very normal. I managed not to get lost and make it in one piece though!

For the first hour or so, I managed to run in the shade but after that the sun was on my back the whole time. I had to stop twice to buy more water. I know one Portuguese word, thank you, so trying to buy stuff especially in little towns along the way was interesting but I did manage.

When I arrived in Cascais, I decided to go into the ocean so I would be a little bit less smelly but I wrongly assumed that because of Lisbon’s warm climate that the ocean would be warm. As soon as I put my foot in the water was cold enough that my foot cramped. It was definitely an effective way to cool off quickly and give my legs a little ice bath! I spent the rest the day looking around Cascais and enjoying the beach but not swimming!

IMG_1227The rest of my time in Lisbon, my runs were the same as before my trip to Cascais, along the waterfront in the blazing sun with no shade and a lot of hills to get back to where I was staying! Lisbon was a great place to visit with friendly people, tons of history but not the best destination for a running trip.

Now I’m home for a few weeks before I’m going back to Europe for a little vacation. Next I will be running and travelling in Switzerland.

Happy running!

 

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