Athletics first made its appearance in Madeira in 1913 when the island hosted its very own Madeiran Olympic Games ‘Olímpicos Madeirense.’ It then took another twelve years before the first formal athletic association was created in 1925. Since then athletics have taken off in a big way with the island now becoming the home to excellent sporting activities, competitions and training facilities. Combine this with good all-year-round weather and Madeira becomes an excellent training ground for athletics, cross-fit, cross country running, speed walking and many others, creating an ideal training platform for both amateur and professional athletes.
The Associação de Athletismo do Região Autónoma da Madeira organises a wide variety of track and field competitions throughout the year. With one of the main events, the Athletics Grand Prix, which attracts some 500 local and national competitors.
Away from the running tracks, Madeira’s steep winding paths have become a haven for cross-country runners, giving competitors unique access to some of the most beautiful countryside that the island has to offer as well as challenging each runner to the edge of their endurance and fitness.
If Madeira has one forte, it is its topography, from wistful winding paths, mountainside gravity-defying levada’s, UNESCO forest, trail, sky and eco-running has never been so varied or so demanding! And as such, Madeira has rapidly become one of the significant competition and training spots in Europe. The island is an ideal location with its breathtaking scenery with many competitors praising Madeira, saying that they feel they can almost touch the sky. And as much as they love and hate the gruelling islands ascents in equal parts, the joy of seeing the dawn is a truly momentous occasion.
Trail: The islands trails are second to none, and now that they have been discovered thousands of trail runners are eager to experience an island which is commonly referred to as having five continents all located in the same place and is the ultimate experience. With hundreds of unforgettable routes waiting to be explored requiring runners to tackle everything from mountain peaks, winding mountain paths, open country, woodland and levadas, the challenges are endless. So, whether you are a professional looking for a new training experience or an amateur there is an ideal route for you, and who knows how many like-minded people you will meet along the way! For those interested in competitive trail running events, the island holds several competitions throughout the year including the 25km Boa Ventura Trail, the 22km Santana Madeira Trail, and the 42km Porto Santo Nature Trail.
Skyrunning: Often described as running towards the heavens, Madeira is a hotspot for trail skyrunning enthusiasts with its jagged peaks, rocky ascents and descents and ever-changing terrain. It’s a must for those with a head for heights and a heart for adventure. Madeira hosts several events including the Funchal and Santana Sky races. Vertical Skyrunning may have you running between the clouds, but vertical skyrunning is an extreme sport in itself. Runners negotiate their way through breath-taking scenery, tunnels, along steps, farmland tracks and woodland climbing higher and higher braving everything that the elements throw at them from burning sun, thick mist, pouring rain and wind, pushing competitors to the very limit of their endurance as they race to the top.
Eco Trail: The non-stop nature of these events has competitors racing day and night through a variety of routes from urban, country, mountain and cliff pass as their route winds 167km across the island. Although not quite as mountainous this is still a demanding and challenging race.
Marathon: The Funchal marathon is a truly international event attracting runners from all over the world. The competition is held in January and comprises of three events, the 42km full marathon, 22km half marathon and a 5.9km mini-marathon. Unlike many other Madeiran running activities, the marathon is run on the flat while the course winds its way past some of Madeira’s most iconic and scenic areas.
Road Running: With a multitude of pre-planned running routes to choose from running in Madeira couldn’t be simpler. Funchal city routes range from 0.6km to 11.7km, while those located outside the city, such as Arco da Calheta, Caniço, Porto Moniz and Porto Santo, can be longer, far more demanding, yet accessible and enjoyable. With an ever-changing topography, gradients and weather the island has quickly become a mecca for road runners from all over the world, whether its professional athletes or amateurs. No matter what your running preference, Madeira has something for you. The racing calendar includes the iconic Funchal Road Race, and the Volta à Cidade do Funchal.
Cross-Country: Cross-country running has made Madeira its home, and with a wealth of tracks and competitions throughout the year it is no wonder that the island attracts a truly international crowd as they negotiate rivers, streams, ascents and descents, mountain crags and ridges.
Triatro: Madeira hosts three major triathlon competitions: - the Funchal ETU Sprint Triathlon European Cup. Sprint marathons are slightly shorter and smaller than traditional triathlons but can vary from competition to competition. The Funchal ETU sticks to a 750m swim, 20km bike ride and a 5km run. The Madeira Paratriathlon World Cup Funchal comprises of a 750m swim, 20km bike ride and 5 km swim with competitors showing incredible strength and stamina. Paratriathlon in now a recognised Olympic sport. And the Funchal Age Group Triathlon Cup where competitors compete in age categories ranging from 16 year-olds to veterans over 60. But no matter what the age everyone meets the challenge of a 750m swim, 20km cycle race and run 5kms.
Race Walking: Still, in its infancy in Madeira, race walking is a tough long-distance event. Unlike running competitions, competitors must always have one foot in contact with the ground. For those interested in the sport the sports pavilion in Ribeira Brava is an ideal place to start.
Long Jump: This sport is becoming more and more popular on the island, and the athletics centre in Ribeira Brava is home to one of the best long jump runways and landing areas on the island.
Track and Field: Madeira’s most extensive athletics pavilion is situated in Ribeira Brava, and the sport is going from strength to strength. Located on the west side of the island its location has some of the best weather conditions on the island and with training facilities that are second to none, the sports centre is an ideal destination for anyone wishing to continue training while on holiday, gain experience of a different course/ venue or train under different weather conditions. The facilities include running track, hurdles, long jump pitch, high jump as well as professional coaching. There are also two other facilities located in Machico and Câmara de Lobos.