Now here’s a unique way to see a city – jog around it on a guided running tour. If you’re in Lisbon and time is tight, Pedro Viera from Lisbon City Runners will show you the sights. You just need to be prepared for a 6am start!
I caught up with him for a coffee in the beautiful setting of Lisbon’s Rossio Railway Station. Pedro devised the idea after travelling to France on business and staying at a bland business hotel. He wanted to go for a run but when he left the building he discovered that the accommodation appeared accessible only by car. It was surrounded by a motorway and railway. Luckily a passer-by explained that there was a path that he could follow to the outside world.
Now Lisbon obviously isn’t hemmed in by busy roads, but if you turn up in a town and you’re unfamiliar with the surroundings, planning your own running route could be tricky. That’s where Pedro can help.
Pedro advises people to take his tour on their first day in Lisbon because they’ll gain valuable information about the city, its attractions and restaurants. “People can explore what they have seen later,” he told me. “They’ll get so much information in sixty minutes, which they can use over the rest of their stay.”
As we chatted, the sun started setting on the impressive St George’s Castle high on the hill opposite. That prompted me to ask about inclines and whether some runners have misjudged their fitness level.
Lisbon is built on seven rather steep hills but don’t worry if you’re not so good at hill running. Pedro has plotted routes that are completely flat. Luckily, most of his clients are realistic about their abilities, but if they are halfway through the run and say it’s too much for them, they can change the planned route. If clients are truthful about their fitness level when answering the questions in the online booking form, there shouldn’t be a problem, he says. But he told me there was one client he had to put into a cab to their hotel after just a few minutes jogging!
Pedro has six running courses that cover the most interesting areas of the city. “The one hour and 10km running tour allows people to run, jog or train and gain insight into the city,” he says. Although Pedro is keen to point out his limitations. “The run starts with a briefing, which explains that the runners are not tourist guides and they offer a local point of view.” They’ll explain the stories behind the main statues, monuments and squares. Pedro says he really enjoys sharing the tales that don’t appear in the travel guides. And he likes passing on anecdotes from his family members about life in the city fifty or more years ago.
I asked Pedro which aspect of Lisbon he was most proud of. “It’s the views,” he said. “As we run up a hill and I start to hear the client is breathing hard I always turn around and say ‘don’t worry you’ll have a great view at the end of this’”. He also details why the neighbourhoods are so different from each other. Pedro thinks that the city’s light is incredible too. The pavements are made with tiny white stone squares, which reflect the sun and give a bright glow to the walkways.
The sessions are offered as either a one-to-one, for couples or small groups. “I’ve taken out up to thirty people at once who have been here for a conference or on business,” says Pedro. I’m not sure whether running around this beautiful city is for me, but as I we shake hands and go our separate ways, I agree with Pedro. Whichever way you tour this city, Lisbon takes your breath away.
You can find out more at Lisboncityrunners.com.