ON THE RUN See the sights in new ways on a jog­ging tour.

What’s bet­ter than a pri­vate guided tour of some of the world’s most beau­ti­ful spots? asks Sarah Baxter

In the Moment - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy: Sarah Baxter

This is the per­fect mo­ment to be jog­ging along Madeira’s Le­vada dos Pior­nais.

As we skirt the edge of the city, via this wind­ing ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nel, the af­ter­noon rain clouds have dis­persed and the sun is low­er­ing, cast­ing a golden glow upon the rooftops of hill­side Fun­chal, the cap­i­tal city of Por­tu­gal’s Madeira ar­chi­pel­ago. The light glit­ters on the sea too, em­pha­sis­ing the deep-green hills be­hind. I’m about to tell Daniel, my run­ning part­ner and guide, that I want to stop for a photo when, as if the sky is pea­cock­ing for the cam­era, a rain­bow ap­pears.

I only landed in Madeira two hours ago, tired af­ter a 36-hour de­lay. I’d al­most can­celled my planned run­ning tour with Go Trail Madeira; a shower and cock­tails had seemed far more ap­peal­ing. But now, as the rain­bow bursts and the At­lantic shim­mers, I can feel the stresses of travel slip­ping away with ev­ery spring­ing step and I’m so glad I didn’t. Run­ning has never been more pop­u­lar. Ac­cord­ing to 2016 gures from Eng­land Ath­let­ics, over one mil­lion more peo­ple are tak­ing part in ath­let­ics (in­clud­ing run­ning) on a weekly ba­sis com­pared to 10 years ago. Part of the ap­peal is the sim­plic­ity and low cost – all you need is a pair of train­ers and the mo­ti­va­tion to get out of the door. And that mo­ti­va­tion is even eas­ier to nd in new and beau­ti­ful places.

Con­se­quently, there has been a rise in sightjog­ging tours. All over the world, com­pa­nies are o er­ing guided runs around high­lights and back­streets. Pri­vate tours mean you go at your speed, with fre­quent stops for pho­tos and his­tory. Whether you’re a hare or a tor­toise, they’re a great way to sight-see if you’re short on time, or if you want to soak up lo­cal cul­ture while get­ting some ex­er­cise. They are also great for solo trav­ellers who might feel ner­vous about run­ning some­where un­known, end­ing up in the wrong neigh­bour­hood or just get­ting lost.

On my trip, the area is in­cred­i­bly safe, but it would have been di cult to nd or fol­low

Le­vada dos Pior­nais on my own.

I signed up for my rst sight-jog­ging tour in Bos­ton – home to the world’s old­est, most pres­ti­gious road marathon. There, Wayne Levy, owner of Run Bos­ton, showed me the sights and gave me plenty of tips, from run­ning ad­vice to restau­rant rec­om­men­da­tions. “It’s best to do a run­ning tour at the start of your stay,” he told me. “It gives you a good sense of a place so you can go back and spend more time in ar­eas you liked the look of. And you can grill me for use­ful in­for­ma­tion!” So, with Wayne’s words in mind, I’d de­cided to start my Madeira trip with a run.

Daniel and I quickly pick up Le­vada dos Pior­nais, one of the many ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nels that run like veins across the is­land. “Madeira has more than 2,000km of lev­adas,” Daniel tells me as I try to nei­ther fall into the wa­ter nor o the drop on the other side. We run gen­tly, at chat­ting pace, and he lls me in on a lit­tle more is­land his­tory: how these chan­nels, which carry wa­ter from the moist high­lands to the crop elds, date back al­most to the dis­cov­ery of Madeira, 599 years ago. The elds are in­cred­i­bly lush with ba­nana palms; how­ever, it was su­gar that rst made the is­land’s for­tune. “We do still grow cane,” Daniel says, “but we no longer ex­port it – we keep it for our rum.” Ah yes, the Madeiran rum, Aguardente de Cana, which I was keen to try later.

As we fol­low the le­vada, we come to a sec­tion tee­ter­ing high above the So­cor­ri­dos Val­ley, where we crouch through tun­nels, dip un­der over­hangs and, at points, seem to be dan­gling in mid-air (with a rail­ing to keep us safe). Then we wind down

“The waves fizz on one side and an­other run­ner passes by on the other.

I feel like I’m in on a lit­tle se­cret.”

to­wards the ocean, fol­low­ing a springy board­walk be­neath crum­bling cli s. The waves zz on one side, an­other run­ner passes by on the other – but there are no tourists. I feel like I’m in on a lit­tle se­cret. Fi­nally, we reach down­town Fun­chal just as the fairy-lights are ick­ing on along the Av­enue do Mar as if in cel­e­bra­tion of our e orts.

That even­ing, I have a pon­cha cock­tail – the lo­cal mix of Aguardente de Cana, honey, su­gar and le­mon. Hav­ing seen the slopes that nur­ture these in­gre­di­ents helps me to fully ap­pre­ci­ate the avours, and all that ex­er­cise makes me en­joy my re­ward even more.

I sign up for an­other run with Daniel. This time, we head to Madeira’s north-west, the side of the is­land that gets the brunt of the weather. Mirac­u­lously, be­tween the towns of Porto da

Cruz and Machico, a pre­cip­i­tous path known as the Vereda do Larano ex­ists. Maps show the old trail, which has long been used by is­lan­ders, but trac­ing it with some­one who knows the way leaves you far freer to en­joy the view.

Start­ing in Porto da Cruz, we climb up into the ru­ral hin­ter­land be­fore we hit the Larano’s pre­cip­i­tous ledge. White swell slaps the rocks below. At that mo­ment, I wasn’t think­ing about the ight I had to catch or the dead­lines that would be wait­ing. Just the sea salt and sweat salt on my face, and the breeze clear­ing my head.

Run­ning isn’t for ev­ery­one. But peo­ple of all shapes, speeds and sizes can feel the bene ts, both men­tal and phys­i­cal. Per­haps run­ning lifts your mood, di­min­ishes your stresses, satis es your com­pet­i­tive side, loosens your joints, keeps you sane. Maybe it does all those things; or maybe it does none. But whether nat­u­ral born run­ner or not, sight-jog­ging is worth try­ing, at least once. For me, it’s now the key to mak­ing the most of my trav­el­ling ad­ven­tures, get­ting o the beaten path and dis­cov­er­ing things I would never have seen. Just re­mem­ber to pack your train­ers.

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