As the holidays began, we had the opportunity to run the Santa Cruz trail marathon again, starting and finishing in the village/beach of Santa Cruz, near Torres Vedras, about 60 kilometres from Lisbon.
We had previously run the 2021 edition, at an earlier time, as there were nighttime mobility restrictions due to Covid at that time. With the start at 18.30, there are also races of 12 and 22k.
Despite only two years having passed, I didn’t remember much of the course, except that I thought certain sections of the trail would be challenging to navigate at night due to their rugged terrain.
With heat, although not too intense at that hour, we set off. The first section is a 22k stretch that will bring us back to Santa Cruz, featuring beautiful landscapes mostly following the coastline. Among the highlights, the views and crossing of the long Azul Beach.
We then embark on the second part of the race with only the marathon participants. This segment covers another 20k. Shortly after leaving Santa Cruz, it is time to use the headlamp to see where I step. Some of the most challenging areas are here, due to the rugged terrain and dense vegetation, as well as the attention needed not to lose sight of the reflective ribbons, which, at certain intervals, indicate the path to follow.
Despite the challenges, I don’t lose my way, and upon reaching the aid station at the abandoned monastery, I know that an ascent awaits me. I take it easy to maintain balance, knowing that what follows will be much easier. Moments of complete solitude allow me to enjoy the nighttime silence in the wilderness as I make my way back toward the coastal area of Porto Novo, with the final aid station.
From there, it is simply a matter of continuing, mostly in a straight line with the sea to the right, towards the finish line. In the vicinity of Santa Cruz, the section with planks over the beach arrives. There is only a small ascent left, and there is the finish line.
I cross it in 4.32.18, 16 minutes faster than in 2021, securing the 25th position out of 41 finishers. Pleased with the result and the opportunity to add a marathon to my list in the always challenging month of July. Now, all that is left is to catch an Uber back to Lisbon since there is no public transportation options until the following morning.
We will return (or at least try) on a future occasion to a marathon that we would highly recommend to fellow marathon runners, both for its beauty and good organisation.