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Updated: Apr 18, 2022

In the spirit of our newfound love for trail running, it was only fitting that London City Runners paired up with Matt Buck from Running Adventures for an epic trip to Portugal. Matt promised us November sunshine, fantastic trails, and beautiful beaches – and boy, did he deliver!

Alex and I flew out a day early to explore Faro, a cute but sleepy little city in the Algarve. Although the city felt almost empty, we had a nice time wandering about the Old Town and enjoying several pastéis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) – many of which were consumed over this trip!

The next day, we headed back to the airport to meet the rest of the group and get the transfer to Carrapateira. We arrived at our cute little guesthouse in the glorious sunshine and were quickly settled into our rooms, some in the main house and others in a villa up the road with Matt and his friend Ash.

Our home for the weekend

Our first run followed shortly thereafter, a gorgeous 10K loop which took in the stunning coastline and the famous Bordeira Beach. It would have been a crime to run past without taking any photos, so luckily Matt and Ash were very generous in their photo stops (and were the entire weekend!). One thing you come to learn about trail running (at least the social kind) is that it takes twice as long as you think it will – a 10K that takes you an hour on the road can easily take you more than two on the trail. But I doubt anyone minded! There was so much to take in, and with 20 of us, plenty of opportunity to get to know new City Runners.

The group – and new furry friend – alongside Bordeira Beach (photo: Running Adventures)

That night we were treated to a welcome dinner by the family that runs the guest house. It. Was. Amazing. Pumpkin or fish soup, lamb or veggie tagine, flan or chocolate cake. Pretty much everyone had to be rolled into bed afterwards!

Luckily, we had an 8 mile run the next morning to sort us out, although it was hard to resist all of the freshly baked bread at breakfast. We were off through the valley this time, tackling some serious hills (well, serious to a Londoner, maybe). We were treated to sneak peeks of Carrapateira’s lovely beaches, views across the valley dotted with cork trees, and cute little whitewashed Portuguese villages.

It’s impossible not to be happy when running through a place like this!

That afternoon, even though it was November, no one could resist a trip to the beach! Matt sent the most energetic off on a beach intervals session, while the rest of us were perfectly happy to cheer them on. Some particularly brave souls like Ivana, who admitted that she must go into every sea she visits, even took the opportunity for a swim before we headed to a local seafood restaurant for dinner that evening.

Alex and Soumya all smiles during beach intervals (photo: Running Adventures)

Monday’s challenge would be by far our hardest – 15 miles up hills and through sand dunes, further than some in the group had ever run before! Thankfully, everyone was in good hands with Matt and Ash, who took it slow and kept the group together. The best part of the run was definitely getting to run on the clifftop alongside Bordeira Beach…but also the hardest, as we had to slog through deep sand for what felt like forever! Once we finally came off the sand about half-way through the run, we all felt like we’d gotten a serious workout already – the view from the very top of the cliff was certainly well-earned. A few minutes to catch our breath, and then we were off through the valley, only to be caught in a freak rainstorm a while later. The weather gods were obviously having a laugh, as the sun then came out brighter than before for the last few miles back home.

Sadly, that meant our last evening was already upon us, and we celebrated in style with some very intense pre-dinner jenga, hard-earned beers, and yet another fantastic home cooked meal at the guest house, this time a very traditional Portuguese octopus and sweet potato stew. Clearly no one wanted to the trip to be over as people spent five hours at the dinner table that evening!

Views during the time trial

The final morning consisted of an optional ‘time trial.’ The route was the same as the first day’s 10K and people were meant to head out staggered based on their 10K PB, so quickest people last. Most people took the time trial aspect quite seriously, but Helen, Lizzie, Steph and I decided to take it much easier – it was the most beautiful morning of the entire weekend and in the ‘golden hour’ we managed to get some incredible photos of Carrapateira. Poor Ash, who was driving the route in his car to make sure no one got lost, had to keep waiting for us and we felt bad that we were keeping him from his breakfast. Sorry, Ash!

At last, we all made it back in time to fully enjoy the entire breakfast spread and have a well-earned cup of coffee in the sunshine. Nobody was ready to go back to London! We tried to get every last drop of sun possible before heading back to grey and gloom. At least we now have the memory of an unforgettable weekend in Portugal to buoy us through the chilly months ahead!

Thanks to Matt and Ash from Running Adventures for a weekend of laughs, fun, and new challenges! Missed out this time around? Stay tuned for upcoming trail adventures in 2019…

-Natascha Starr


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