Trail Running in Sierra de Guadarrama National Park

4 June 2015 0 Comments Category: Active Lifestyle, Robert Nieuwland

A Goaty Day (“Un día cabrón”)

Perhaps, what amazes me the most about the Sierra de Guadarrama is that it never seizes to fascinate and astonish me. Its landscapes possesses something unique which captivates me again and again. I just recently rediscovered this, when wondering along a new route for a training session…


It’s 13.30pm. I have made ​​good use of the morning to work and now it’s time to train. I’m on my way to La Pedriza and the truth is that the day does not look too well. In Madrid it was cloudy, but close to the mountains raindrops start falling and I start to prepare (mentally) for a wet workout.



As I pass by Colmenar Viejo I’m still in doubt about today’s route. I have orders of Nerea (Martínez Urruzola), my coach, for three hours of mountain running, with 1,200 meters. d+. “Comfortable, without forcing”, she instructs me. “Especially controlling the descents.” I am comforted with the “comfortable” and “controlling” part because – honestly – today I don’t feel like it…


In the meantime, I’ve decided the route, so half an hour later, I find myself trotting uphill, along the river, wearing a hooded raincoat. Five minutes I stuff my raincoat into my backpack, because it’s getting less useful and it’s not cold.


The puffs of fog rising out above the trees turn the landscape into something even more magical than it already is. The scenario is gives me back my enthusiasm to train. It reminds me (yet again) why I think trail running is one of the most beautiful sports in the world.


The air I breathe with great gulps while I struggle with body and soul against the slope (which seems endless) is refreshing and humid. This is the environment in which I feel most comfortable. I guess for some things I’ll never seize to be Dutch…


I’m  familiar with the first stretch of today’s route: it takes you up to “Las Torres”. I have done it several times, but I’ve always been forced down from there because of a lack of time, poor visibility due to fog or too much snow. But today, despite a somewhat rainy and foggy day, I clearly see the white-yellow painted rocks going up towards my right. It is quite clear that they indicate the route to “Las Torres”.


La Pedriza’s landscape always has something magical about it, but on a day like this, with the fog passing between the rocks and the sense of adventure that you get by running along unknown paths intensifies that magical atmosphere. Especially now that I feel so comfortable with the chilly, damp air and the endorphins I’ve been given by the more than a thousand meters high climb I’ve just done.

La Pedriza Madrid


Cuerda Larga

Without losing sight of the painted rocks I make sure that every step is in place, because the road is invariably technical until the top. In the last section there are even some parts where rock-climbing experience comes in very handy. It’s those parts that give this route a very authentic touch to this route “a la Pedriza”.


At this point I’m given an amazing view; the Lozoya valley on one side and, on the other, La Najarra, Soto el Real, El Yelmo and Madrid. It makes me realize how fortunate I am to be able to train here, in this moment, all by myself in the mountains, living a beautiful adventure at 45 minutes from my house … ¡Pura vida!


After this moment of enjoyment, I start to follow the path again. I know I’m on the Cuerda Larga, but I’ve never done this stretch. So I keep paying attention to everything. When I get a turn I get curious to see exactly where the new path goes that leads downhill. But after about a kilometer, having better views, it turns out to be the path that descends to Rascafría. It is very convenient to know, but I’ll save it for another day. So I turn around.


When arrive back up the hill I find the largest herd of mountain goats that I have ever seen, so I decide to take a moment to record them with my mobile phone:

As I run the hills of Cuerda Larga I stumble upon more herds, almost as big as the first. They’re not scared at all, but still, seeing how I approach them running, to flee away seems the sensible thing to do: “You never know what intentions these humans may have…”


Back Down

You’re always bound to be surprised when running a new route: it turns out that the distance to the Bola del Mundo peak, where I plan to take the descent back to La Pedriza, is more than I thought. And the fog is slowing me down quite a bit.


With over two and a half hours on the clock and 400m. d+ more than I was instructed to do, I reach Bola del Mundo. I see an option to descend directly to the left, into what I think is the valley where the Cross Tres Refugios race ascends.


The descent is amazing, following the river and taking advantage of the ‘paths’ that the cows grazing there have left me. It doesn’t take me long to realize that I’m in another valley than I thought, but it doesn’t matter; as I follow the valley down with my eyes I can see the descent to Charca Verde I was looking for. In fact, I’m glad I went down in this valley, completely new to me!


During the descent to Charca Verde I have a great time (not controlling as much as I should). I think it’s one of the best descents we have in Madrid. Diverse in terms of landscape and views, as well as the technicality of its trails. It’s fast and especially beautiful and a lot of fun. I have been running for three and a half hours now and started reluctantly, but now I feel sorry that I am only 20 minutes away from my car …


And that’s the best thing about trail running: you want more before having finished!




29.73 kms

1.589m. d +

3h 57 min.

Photo by Alejandro Valero

Photo by Jonay Galván