Running in Madrid’s Retiro Park

Posted: July 13, 2008 in my trips 2008, running
Tags: , , ,

One of the 18 gates of gardens of el Buen Retiro is but a few blocks away from my aunt’s flat in Madrid. I had resolved to run there during my visit. My parents were raving about the park as soon as I arrived from Frankfurt with my 2 siblings who had also just come in that day from Berlin. My mom always said that we were all born with a propensity to roam. We have invisible wings on our feet and a wandering spirit. It does seem to be a genetic condition. Hence planning family get together’s takes months of advance planning. It’s much like organizing a world summit. My parents had come in a few days earlier and had already walked around the park with my aunt and uncle. Madrid is our take-off point for our family’s planned summer vacation. I had been drafted as their driver for the Spain to France portion of the trip.

Madrid is a city with lots of runners. You see them everywhere and at all hours of the day. On my first night here we cut across the Retiro Park from the area around Museo del Prado. We had dinner in that neighborhood. It was already 1130 at night and we still chanced upon a few runners!

Retiro is a stunning park in the middle of the city. Inside you will find a mix of gentle sloping tree lined paths, lots of greens, formal gardens and large monuments. You will also find galleries and exhibitions in the area. Originally the area was set aside for Spain’s royalty. Today it is a place enjoyed by everyone in Madrid. The place is packed by both locals and tourists especially on weekends.

It was a lot warmer in Madrid than in Frankfurt. Our first 2 days here it was averaging 35 degrees outside. For my first run I decided to wait until around 730 in the evening. By this time the temperature outside had dropped to a more manageable 28 degrees. Before heading out the door I had a short talk with my mum. I finally informed her that her mobile number being on my road ID. I told her 3 things
1. Should you get a call, you shouldn’t panic nor get angry…yet!
2. You should just tell them in a very calm voice to give me a banana! Of course, you need to do this in Spanish so please practice. Plantana…plantano? whatever…
2. In the event that they would need to resuscitate me, please insist that it be done by the most gorgeous man in the vicinity!
Once sure that she had understood me and my wishes I put on my road ID, folded 10 euros in my shoe wallet and then armed with nothing else but my need to run and my topnotch (yeah right) sense of direction, I was off! It was a conscious decision not to run with my ipod as i normally do not take it along with me when I am running in unfamiliar territory and I need to be more in tune with my surroundings.

I walked the 2 1/2 blocks from my tita’s flat to the park as my warm-up. As soon as I entered the park gate, I was just raring to go. I was still unfamiliar with the layout of the area so I decided to first run in the path that follows the walls surrounding the park. I spied a few runners ahead of me and decided I would just follow them until I got a bit more familiar with the surroundings. A few seconds into the run a man in bold orange shirt whizzed by me really fast. I had told myself before starting the run that this time I would run easy. But the urge to run fast was just too strong. It was a joy to finally be out in the sun and I simply gave in to the thrill of finally being able to run after weeks of being cooped up in one hotel room or another. So for the first 20 minutes or so I simply let go and went at a pretty fast pace.

The first 21/2 kilometers went by fast. However, after about another kilometer I realized I was parched. I had not sweat much but I was feeling quite dehydrated. It really is one of the things you need to attend to when you are running in high but dry temperatures. I am use to sweating a lot during my runs in humid manila. Eventually the sweat would cool me down. Somehow I am also reminded to drink more when I am at home. But I need to make a conscious effort to do this when I am traveling. I forget until I find myself already dehydrated. What’s worse is that this trip I had forgotten to pack my fuelbelt in so I was running without my trusty Nathan water bottles. Mindful that I was running alone and knowing the dangers of running dehydrated, i decided that it was time to start running towards the inside of the park to look for someplace to buy some water. Thankfully, I found one near one of the huge fountains. After I have had a sip, I walked over to have a closer look at the fountain. I had a laugh at myself when I realized that I seemed to have picked the perfect public art on display at the park to define how I felt at that moment. It was that of the ANGEL CAIDO. A fountain inspired by a passage from Milton’s Paradise Lost. It is said to be the only monument in a public space dedicated to THE FALLEN ANGEL… I guess no matter how far I run, the universe is quick to remind me that I am but a few steps away from hell! 😉

what i saw at the park

what i saw at the park

Numerous sculptures and monuments can be found in the park. one of my favorites is this TAU (the sitting green man made of ceramic by Victor OCHOA) Astride the horse is King Alfonso XII. It is actually a monument you will find in the semicircular mausoleum of large white columns. It fronts Estanque del Retiro a large man made lake. The area is the focal point of this park with the huge green lions guarding the area.

After that short break, I finally gave myself permission to enjoy my surroundings. I had no other agenda except to savor this few hours I could spend running in such a perfect place. It is not often I get to run in tree lined pathways with gentle slopes. It is not often that I find myself running in a place enhance by baroque allegorical and mythological sculptures and huge historical monuments. This was my chance to finally enjoy a part of Madrid while at the same time doing something I loved…running!

From the sculpture of the angel caido, I veered to my right and started towards a wide circular road. I found the wide open road a bit too overwhelming so i decided to edge to the side. I noticed that on my left was a beautiful rose garden (LA ROSALEDA). Unfortunately it was already late and they had closed off the section. It seemed really nice inside so I made myself a quick promise to just come back at a later date and kept moving. It was at this point that I started hearing a rhythmic drumming sound coming from somewhere behind the trees. Without thinking I decided to just run towards the beat but just when I thought I had come close, the sound just stopped. It was then that I realized that I had not been paying attention to my route. I was now deep in the middle of the park that was 142 hectares (350 acres)in size. From where I was standing I was surrounded by pathways radiating out. Where they led I had no idea! I resolved to pay a bit more attention to what I was doing then.

I really wasn’t all that worried. I knew I still had about two hours of sunlight left. Sunset comes much later in this part of the world which is a real boon to runners. However, this is the first time I am staying at my tita’s place. All I had was her flat number and a street address I could barely pronounce, much less spell! Remember that there are 18 gates to this park! I didn’t want to be lost out there in the middle of the park when it got dark. That would be the height of stupidity! A height I would not deny I had once or twice already managed to ascend to in this lifetime! I was determined that today wouldn’t be one of those days…

While walking around lost and trying to get my bearings, I chanced upon this peacock in one of the gated areas of the park. He didn’t look all that impressed with me even when I took out my camera phone. Hence the tail simply stayed down. I also saw ducks and koi fishes in the pond!

Well, eventually, I did find my way out of that park. At no point did I feel unsafe while I was running inside. Even when I realized I had no idea where I was. I just stuck to the wider, more frequently used routes..
There were actually police cars roaming the park and maintaining a very visible presence. And besides that I had 8.50 euro left in my shoe wallet. It was certainly good enough for a bottle of beer or two in one of the many terrazas (outdoor bars) inside the park. So I just kept running/walking/taking pictures and just basically enjoying the space.

All in all, The RETIRO is a great place to run in and I made it home feeling refreshed and ready to enjoy the rest of the evening…

And one of my favorite finds at the Park…
A beautiful fountain with clean, drinkable water…

  1. bards says:

    great pix. but 1.50 euros for water?!? har har har

  2. runtintin says:

    how pretty the pics of the place! i know what you mean, by getting “lost” in your surroundings…ang saya maging turista!

  3. Madrid Spain says:

    Walking and even running in Madrid? Isnt’t it too hot for that? But of course I understand that some sport is very important for our health. Enjoy! 🙂

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