A Walk in the Park with Parkrun

Parkrun organisers David and Raquel meet new walker members after the June walk in the park

I saw an article about parkrun coming to see the first potential Portuguese parkrun and thought that joining a walk in the park  would be a great idea.

The benefits of joining a parkrun group are enormous.  You get out into fresh air and nature as it is always in a park.  You meet different people and can enjoy the après-walk socialising. You do the walk and they record your time, an incentive to take notice of your improvements. Maybe I could eventually help out as a volunteer.

Years ago, I’d done a lot of running. Well, not by ultrarunning standards but by the standards of workaholic City of London lawyers. And joining  a running group turned out to be a great way of making new friends when I moved countries. Now I walk. And parkrun caters for that as well – in 22 countries!  

It was time for us to try a walk in the park with Parkrun.

Three of us took an Uber over the river Tejo (Tagus) to the Monsanto Forest Park in Lisbon, Portugal. At 1000 hectares (about 10 sq kms), it’s a huge area of green. They sometimes call it the lungs of Lisbon because of its fresh air. (It’s nothing to do with the former Roundup producing company called Monsanto.) 

Somebody showed us the path down to the grassy area of the old amphitheatre with its pond from where the course begins. The name of the amphitheatre is Keil do Amaral, after the architect who, back in the 30s, masterminded the reafforestation of the limestone quarries and kilns that used to adorn the naked, rocky and desolate site. 

Covering some good hilly bits for people to stretch out their legs walking up hill and down, it’s a great mixture of open grassland and forested areas with long trails running through. And it’s very safe for dogs and children.

Ready, Steady, Go Walking

We were early. But soon, organisers David and Raquel appeared out of the bushes along with their dog and volunteers who had set out the flags that marked the course. More and more people appeared, most in running gear and a few, like us, wearing warmer stuff for walking.

We gathered round while Raquel and David welcomed everyone, thanked the volunteers and described the course in English and in Portuguese. Then we were all off. The runners raced away, fixing their watches as they went. 

The Beauty and Peace of a Walk in the Park

As walkers, the three of us were not at the front of the pack. But there are lovely views to sustain you wherever you are in the pack.   

View of the Crista Dei and25th April Bridge across the River Tagus from Monsanto Forest Park photo taken on our walk in the park

Here’s one out to the April 25th bridge across the River Tagus (the Rio Tejo in Portuguese) with the Cristo Rei statue beyond.

It’s a lovely walk through the park. A little bit downhill and then a bit of a climb back up again.  But then we took the time to admire the trees and the flowers and breathe in lovely fresh air. 

We were lucky to have come with our Australian friend who easily distinguished the different species of eucalyptus. (E.g.Eucalyptus Tasmania, ribbon eucalyptus.)  And such beautiful trees, many of which have helpful labels. 

I was delighted by a different set of colourful wildflowers from those on our side of the river. The flower called Bear’s Breeches enchanted me. I just had to tell a friend of mine who has a dog called Bear.  Then, there was chicory that I had not seen in Portugal before.  It has such a pretty blue flower, sort of like a cornflower.  

The course consists of two laps and about two thirds of the way round, the runners on their second lap passed us.  We couldn’t help but quicken our own pace just a fraction.  Only to slow up on the climb back up to the start. Where we unanimously decided that we definitely would complete the second lap.  And we did!  Here we are striding to the finish line of our first parkrun walk in the park. 

Informal parkrun in Monsanto 3 walkers striding to the finish line of their walk in the park

It took us an hour and a couple of minutes which worked out just about at a speed of 5km an hour  (3.1 mph).  Not the fastest, but then I did stop to take photos and look at the flowers and trees, not to mention the endless stone walls that must have taken for ever to build.  Next time, we’ll be faster.

The kiosk had opened by the time we returned so we slurped lots of water. A cup of coffee enticed us on such a cool, foggy day along with the famous Portuguese pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) that you can see in the photo at the top. Just the thing after a walk in the park. We also finished up indulging in a few good chats with fellow participants. 

The walk was brilliant fun, even though it was a foggy morning with a sprinkling of rain.   You too could reap all the benefits of a walk in the park: fresh air, a brisk walk, enjoying the beauty of the trees and flowers as well as having the fun of identifying them, meeting new people and having some good chats.  Plus, you will  get in a good dose of daily steps and explore a new area. 

We are looking forward to our next informal parkrun. So why not get yourself into walking mode? It’s a good way for you to get into the habit of walking and as simple as a walk in the park!

Find a parkrun near you: https://www.parkrun.com/countries/

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4 thoughts on “A Walk in the Park with Parkrun”

    1. Avatar for Rosemary Bointon

      Ooh Raquel, I missed this comment but thanks so much. We had a lot of fun and will definitely be coming again. Thanks for all your hard work in organising it. I am definitely volunteering to help but can’t do the August run. Hopefully see you in September.

  1. Avatar for Carrelyn Banner

    Wow! That looks like lots of fun and a great way to engage in your community and meet new friends. I’m going to check out Parkrun groups in my area‼️ A beautiful shot of the April 25th bridge and surrounding area. My last view of the bridge was from a cruise ship passing under it, which is quite different. Thanks for sharing.✅💖😎

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