Faial Experience

Sports events have always been a good way for promoting destinations and good success stories happen when spectacular nature sports meet sustainable destinations. This was the case of the 1st edition of the Azores Trail Run, an athletic nature race on the trails of the Eden awarded Destination Faial Nature Park in the island of Faial, Azores, a Portuguese archipelago in the heart of the Atlantic Ocean

Imagine a race in a volcanic island located in the mid-Atlantic ridge, starting at seashore to climb to the crater of a volcano at 1000m of altitude to finish again at seashore in the ashes of a 58 year old volcanic eruption. The landscape around you is immense, the breathless views can only be surpassed by the well-kept trails and untouched environment. These were the ingredients that led the local athletic club CIAIA and the Natural Park of Faial to co-organize an event that brought to Faial more than 200 athletes from all over the world to experience 48 Km of pure nature. And with them, international media coverage, high local social impact, increased organization capacity, local recognition and what Eden is all about: putting a small, high quality, sustainable destination on the map.

Besides the sportive quality of the event, which was highlighted by several world class athletes, the starting signal of the Azores Trail Run on the 24th of May this year was only the climax of a long roll of side events related with sustainability and social responsibility. The organizers wanted to give this event a different input and decided to involve not only the athletes but all the local society. A large voluntary base was launched to support the event where all sectors were involved from youth groups to medical staff. Also, the plantation of 2000 trees of natural species by the athletes and children from local schools, recovering an old dump place, made the event carbon free and raised awareness for natural forest protection.

The event also sponsored a new permanent exhibition on the natural history of the Azorean vegetation in the Botanic Garden of Faial thus contributing to environmental education and nature conservation. A campaign for bone marrow donation was released. A solidarity walk organized by a local environment association gathered people of all ages. The zero waste project trusted the athletes for being responsible for their own waste while crossing natural areas. The profitable linkage between sustainability, important sportive events and nature tourism can easily be understood, in particular when enhanced by environmental quality, scenic beauty, bio and geodiversity and cultural heritage, constituting an important complement of tourist activities leading to the creation of local employment and wealth.

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