Lisbon marathon

Beautiful buildings, lovely people, cobblestones like sheet ice and running on a motorway. Our Lisbon marathon had it all – read on for the full story!

Lisbon greeted us with a spectacular light show as our plane swopped down over the city on a beautiful clear January evening. But we had read the weather forecast – would it hold until tomorrow and our date with destiny – yet another marathon in our 12 country challenge.

Rain & cobblestones
As we left the hotel we got our answer – the cobbled streets glistened in the rain which was coming down in a fine mist. Our waitress at breakfast had warned us that the streets were treacherous on the rare occasions it was wet and that the Portuguese couldn’t drive in the rain so we would definitely have a very interesting run! Well she was certainly right about the streets and the interesting run!

Using the trusty hotel tourist map we headed down towards the River Tagus at the far south of the town – we had been told that there was a really good path to run on that would take us past the docks and marina towards the far west of the town and the Atlantic. With my outstanding map reading skills it took us all of ten minutes before we were lost and asking directions – “you can’t miss it just keep going down the hill”, a couple of bemused soldiers told us and we were soon on our way again.

The cobblestones, whilst they looked spectacular, were really slippery in the rain so we took to running on the main road as much as we could before we reached the relative sanctuary of the footpath running along the side of the Tagus. (By the way the Portuguese can drive in the wet – well they certainly managed to avoid us leaping from pavement to road and vice versa!)

Runners, runners everywhere!
The path was great to run on and we had a chance to shoot a bit of video and take some pictures. Despite both of us not being able to run much in the 3 weeks since our trip up Mont Ventoux in December because of a virus we were both moving easily and it was great to see so many local runners too – Viva Lisboa, you guys are fit!

We headed on taking in the spectacular site across the water of the statue of Jesus (based on Christ the redeemer in Rio) before heading through the marina. Our next landmark was a spectacular square (with the trademark Lisbon mosaic cobbles) and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos – a concrete monument to maritime explorers and then the Belém Tower where we had a well earned pit stop and some hot coffee and the last of our “Ripe Brownies”.

Green spaces
Because the surface was so good we decided to run as far as we could before turning back and heading up a steep climb towards the university and the park area beyond. Some more stunning map reading got us (eventually) into a large park with spectacular views over Lisbon below. Up and up we climbed before the ground flattened out and we could take a well earned pit stop, emptying our pack of what little food we had left and drinking the last of the water.

Motorway madness!
We decided to head down again towards the river where we knew we would find somewhere to stock up with water (we had learnt our lesson after our marathon in Champagne!). And so this is where things got interesting – rather than re-trace our steps, Marlena decided to entrust herself to my excellent map reading skills as we took a sharp left turn towards the zoo, civilisation and water! After the steep climb we were flying down the hill, all the tiredness in our legs gone as the trees and scenery flashed by. So you can imagine my surprise (not to say Marlena’s horror) as we found ourselves running on the hard shoulder of Lisbon’s busiest motorway, the A5. “No worries”, I said to Marlena, “if we cross the motorway and slide down the embankment we will be back in the town”! We did and we weren’t!

I sensed that Marlena was about to have a sense of humour failure and my comments about “think of the number of YouTube hits we’ll get” probably didn’t help. So somewhat crestfallen we somehow managed to cross the motorway again, hop over a fence and trace our way all the way back up to the top along a logging track with Marlena leading the way and me following a respectful 5 paces behind! Anyway we were friends again by the time we reached the top and with Marlena taking over navigational duties we headed towards the built up area, food and water, as by now we were seriously dehydrated!

Suitably refreshed, we headed up through the main part of the city towards our hotel – now I may be the world’s worst map reader but I am the ‘dogs’ when it comes to judging distances and so honour was restored as we synced our watches outside the hotel and the display showed 44.1km.

Lisbon – we love you & we will be back (when it’s dry!)
So in the land of exploration (Vasco De Gama, Christopher Columbus, Magellan) we had had a real adventure and one that we wouldn’t forget in a hurry! A beautiful city, lovely, friendly people, excellent food – Viva Lisboa! We’ll be back!

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