João Paulo Félix: the marathon runner and sociologist running for social causes

João Paulo Félix, an athlete and sociologist, is a 50-year-old marathon runner who has covered many kilometres throughout his life. He ran many for social causes, such as Autism or Multiple Sclerosis. His proposal this summer: run across all of Portugal for 40 consecutive days, under high temperatures, to raise awareness for children’s rights.

Born in Foros de Salvaterra, in the district of Santarém, Félix became, in 2017, the first athlete to run the National Road 2, the longest in Europe and one of the longest in the world, over 14 consecutive stages, between 1 and August 15 of that year. He than ran for the Portuguese Society of Multiple Sclerosis, to which he donated his shirt, which was later auctioned.


New challenges: Run across Porrugal

The athlete’s new challenge, the Volta a Portugal 2021, Will have him run an average of 55 km in 40 consecutive days. In total, that is 2,203 km covering all of Portugal, as a way to raise awareness for children's rights.

Félix proposes to meet daily averages between 43 km (Viana do Alentejo – Évora or Azibo – Bragança) and 66 km (Azinhal – Mértola). To finish the tour, on August 23, the plan is to travel between Caldas da Rainha and Praia da Areia Branca, a total of 55 kilometers.


Heavyweight alies

This year, the National Commission for the Promotion of the Rights and Protection of Children and Youth (CNPDPCJ) joined the athlete. Félix will be taking a passport with him to be stamped at each daily milestone; at the end,it will be handed to the director of the CNPDPCJ.

Félix recognizes the support the institution has offered for the logistical organization of the race. But this challenge also involves a team of volunteers to deal with bureaucratic issues, the transport of luggage, communication with various entities, social networks, or any last-minute unforeseen event. In addition, volunteers runners will also join him in some stages.


The training

Félix’s earliest memories of running go back to his childhood games in the village. However, today, his daily training regimen is made of 20 kilometres a day on weekdays and 40 to 50 kilometres on the weekends. When the time for demanding challenges approaches, the strategy is simple: to train and rest as much as possible.


An ultrarunner with a lot of experience

The athlete fromRibatejo is an experienced ultrarunner, as shown by the completion of challenges such as Porto-Lisbon, a total of 360 km in just six days; or Volta a Portugal 2020, in which he covered a total of 1,302 km in 25 stages.

The 2020 initiative also had a solidarity component that aimed to draw attention to domestic violence and pay tribute to health professionals at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic.

This sociologist has covered more than seven thousand kilometres for different causes and institutions, whether running or cycling.


Sports to promote causes

"Sports must be a promoter of good things" is a motto that João Paulo Félix puts into practice in every competition he enters.

In the many interviews he has given, he confesses that if he manages, through his challenges, to convey messages that can help other people. He feels that, as an athlete, he is giving more meaning to his work. "Children's rights must be in communities: the more the villages and parishes are knowledgeable, and the more committed to the cause, the less abuse there will be. Children's rights must be on the street; they must be alive", he defends.

Félix believes that running is a good vehicle for all of this: "no one is indifferent to an individual, under 40 degrees, running through a village, over a mountain. There is this connection to the effort, to the wanting. My race is a special race at that level. Nobody is indifferent”.

When referring to the actual impact on people's lives, he talks about how they will reach out to him with different approaches. "Sometimes it serves to vent about the problem; they identify with what I'm doing. They ask for advice – 'how do I do this?, 'who can I go to?’ – and my role, as I have experience in the area, is to refer people to the correct services. On Facebook, I receive messages from people in the most varied situations. For me, it's extraordinary; it means that my work has an echo, it has value”.