Valencia is one of our favourite places to run. We discovered it when we came here in November 2017 to run the marathon and have since been back a few times for warm weather training. Valencia advertises itself as “the running capital” of Spain and has a mission to make itself the healthiest city in the country.
What makes Valencia special and so conducive to running is the El Jardin del Turia – a sunken, green park winding its way through the middle of the city created when the Rio Turia was diverted away from the city centre because of flooding. I love the fact that the citizens of Valencia were asked to vote whether to have a motorway or a park in its place – what a good decision!
Alongside a rich biodiversity of trees and plants the gardens contain an amazing array of architectural sites, cooling fountains, cafes, sculptures and at one end the magnificent futuristic buildings of the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias – home to a science museum, aquarium, an opera house and exhibition centre.
In addition the whole area is crisscrossed with dedicated running paths, cycle tracks, fitness equipment and other sports facilities including a full size athletics track.
In the summer there is shade in tree lined avenues. The autumn sees the trees laden with oranges and in the spring – ie. now – the intoxicating smell of orange blossom permeates the air. The gardens are 9k in length but with the Parc de Capçalera at one end and the port and beach at the other, running routes can be as long or short as you want them to be.
As we were registered to run the Manchester marathon the following weekend, our aim on this trip was simply to go out each day and run some leisurely miles for the sheer joy of running in the warmth and sunshine (with maybe a short tempo run thrown in for good measure). Cam, who had recently had some time out due to a pulled muscle in her back, and I – always mindful of my damaged knee – were hoping that a few warm relaxing runs would be beneficial for our recovery.
We arrived in Valencia on the Tuesday after Easter – our hotel in the old quarter was a short journey from the airport on the metro system. An early flight meant we could drop our bags and make the most of the day by getting out immediately for our first run. As always there were plenty of other runners out on the trails.
This first run was gentle 12k through the gardens and finishing in the Parque de Cabecera. Knowing our way about felt good but it was also interesting to note the changes since our last visit in February. It was obviously much warmer (even locals had left long sleeves and leggings at home – well, most of them), the park was greener and more flowers were out. Cafes had appeared from nowhere and we ate lunch outside in the sun. It was so good just to be out in the warm air that after our run we strolled about until it was time to return to our hotel. The evening was spent meeting friends who were also visiting. The Café do la Horas Bar had been suggested to sample a local drink, Agua de Valencia – a mixture of fresh orange juice, cava, gin and other ingredients sold in jugs. Both the bar and the drink are highly recommended!
Wednesday we woke up to another glorious day – 10k before breakfast, out in the gardens, and consisting of a tortilla sandwich with the mandatory fresh orange juice. Again we had some other friends to meet so another 5k run took us out to the Malvarossa Rosa beach where we ate Paella – Valencia being the home the traditional Spanish dish. The 5k run back to the hotel was taken at a rather easier pace!
That evening, having had such a filling lunch, we decided to meet our friends at a tapas bar, with the intention of enjoying a few delicate nibbles. We ordered enthusiastically what we assumed would be bite-size portions, only to be presented with huge quantities of delicious food! We stood no chance of conquering it but vowed to return with more appetite.
Before running on Thursday morning we visited the nearby Mercado Central for a glass of Horchetta – another delicious and nutritious local drink made from Tiger Nuts and perhaps more suitable for runners. (The Mercado Colon serves a much less sweet version which is more refreshing.) A 12k run followed again at a fairly leisurely pace.
In the evening, we strolled back to the El Jardin del Turia. The buildings of the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias look spectacular at night and, although we did not do it this trip, the Turia gardens are well lit so it is possible to run in them in the evening.
On Friday we decided that a tempo run was due so after a short warm-up run to the park, we set off at our own tempo pace and met up again for a cool down. Having been the fastest runner in the house for so many years it still surprises (and delights) me, at these times, watching Cam disappear off into the distance. For brunch we returned to our local tapas bar, where we managed to order a more reasonable quantity of food.
All too soon we headed for the airport leaving the blue skies and sunshine of Spain to fly direct to Manchester to take part in what is claimed to be “the flattest marathon” in the UK.
All our runs can be seen on Strava.
We stayed at the MYR Hotel Plaza Mercado & Spa.
We ate in Bar Almundin