São Silvestre – The Running Xmas Party of Portugal

The Saint Silvester Road Race (Corrida de São Silvestre in Portuguese) is one of the most emblematic and oldest running events in Portugal.

The Portuguese version of this Running Party is inspired by the one from Brazil, regarded as the major international athletics events in Latin America. The Brazilian competition of São Silvestre is held yearly in the city of São Paulo on December 31.

The history behind the São Silvestre Run is religious, as it’s held on the last day of the year, Saint Silvester’s Day – the day in which the Catholic saint, who was a Pope, died in the 4th century of the Christian Era.

The Brazilian Cásper Líbero, a “media millionaire” of the early 20th century, originally came up with the idea for the São Silvestre race, as a means of promoting his sports newspaper. The race was held for the first time on December 31st in 1925.

As most sport events, originally, it was intended for men only, and participation was restricted to citizens of the city of São Paulo. In the following years, runners from other parts of Brazil joined the Saint Silvester Race. In 1945 the game was opened to foreigners, but only from South America. Only two years later, the event welcomed runners from the rest of the world.

The biggest change to this São Silvestre Running Race was only in 1975, the International Year of Women, declared by the United Nations, when the race organizers held the women’s race for the first time.

The success of São Paulo’s São Silvestre Race was replicated to several other countries like Portugal, Italy and Spain every late December. Focussing on Portugal, I’d say the São Silvestres of Lisbon, Amadora (suburb of Lisbon) and Porto are the most popular ones.

Personally, I really love the São Silvestre of Lisbon and have participated in it a few times before. This year I won’t make it as I will be in the South of Portugal, Lagos, to visit my parents for Christmas. The São Silvestre Race of Lisbon usually takes place on the Saturday after Christmas, at 17h30. The race starts at Avenida da Liberdade, one of the main avenues of the Portuguese Capital and finishes almost on the same place, at Praça dos Restauradores. During the race through Lisbon’s city center, you’ll enjoy the river beauty and some of the streets that are still lighted up by Christmas spirit.

On its 8th edition, this São Silvestre race has been awarded with a Five-Star Certification from the European Athletics. Sponsored by El Corte Inglés, the São Silvestre from Lisbon takes running one step further, having the goal to promote healthier lifestyle routines in society. One of the initiatives, besides the event itself, are training runs. In the beginning of December, all runners were invited to participate in several training sessions in Parque Florestal de Monsanto.

the year of 2015 promises 12.000 runners in the El Corte Inglés São Silvestre de Lisboa, 2.000 more than last year, and it has already been sold out.

Competition wise, the race is quite challenging as it has some hills. Regarding  the prizes, there will be a healthy and one of a kind competition between top athletes – it’s guaranteed fun for them and for the audience. Something disrupting about this event is the race between genders. This will be the 7th edition of the gender race and so far women are on the lead with 4 victories (Ana Dulce Félix in 2009, 2013 and 2014 | Jéssica Augusto in 2010) while men are behind with 2 triumphs (Hermano Ferreira in 2011 and Rui Silva in 2013). Women start a bit before men, this year,  top women athletes will start 2’23” before the top men athletes men (time difference between the first man and the first woman who crossed the finish line in 2014).

As we said, this year we wont make it. Let’s go in 2016. Wanna join? :)


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