Well, for the first time in my life on Friday, I ran on the beach. I’m not talking about the little hop and skip thing you do when playing with your dog. No, I’m talking about an honest to goodness run… around 5.5 miles. Let me be the first to confirm for you that this was NOT the romantic image you may have built up in your mind... There was no Chariots of Fire music going in the background, no slow-motion shots of my hair bouncing in golden waves trailing behind me… anyway, you get the idea… running on the beach is tough!
My DH and I took advantage of a long weekend he had coming along with him taking a little extra time off, to set out for the beach for a few days. Normally, this would be an opportunity for me to indulge in a state of complete slothfulness… Often when we’re there, I pull my head out of a book or crochet project only long enough to go eat or do a little touristy shopping in town (even though I’m not sure we’re what could be officially designated as tourists). But now, with this half marathon looming out there less than two months away, I knew I had to get in at least a little mileage while there… and I also knew that relaxing, moonlit strolls on the beach weren’t going to cut it – even though sometimes we can end up covering quite a bit of distance during our walks, that still doesn’t count!
So, Friday I set out to prove to myself (and all of you) that yes, yours truly, could actually overcome my own inertia and work out while on vacation. Since we stay in a pretty small town and it’s only about 1 mile from the beach house to the end of town via the main, somewhat heavily traveled road, I knew that I needed to go to the beach to take advantage of large expanses of relatively quiet and definitely car-free environs.
Let me tell you, although I knew on some level that running in sand is harder than running on pavement, the actuality of it still caught me a little off-guard. My husband’s advice before I set out? He thought I should run in the wet sand… thinking it would be more compacted and thus easier to run on… well, I’m happy to report that that is not entirely true. There is such a thing as too wet of sand. Sand that still has too much water residing in it from high tide ends up being extremely soft and squishy… nearly as hard to run on as too dry of sand. So, what you have to do is strike a happy medium and try to find the high-tide mark from approximately 1-2 hours previous, where the sand is neither too dry nor too wet. This is the perfect running surface because it’s soft enough for your joints to not feel much impact, but its firm enough that you can actually get some traction on it. The tricky part is that beaches are not straight, regular lines, so navigating this ‘zone of perfect sand’ requires a somewhat jagged, veering pattern that may have some onlookers thinking you’re a crazy, drunk runner.
Let’s go back and examine that statement about the irregularity of beaches in a little more detail. Yes, they are under Mother Nature’s domain and as such, they are not subject to the laws of plane geometry. In other words, NO flat surfaces, NO regular patterns and NO predictability. As such, I spent a lot of time running up and down small inclines, jumping across many rivulets that exit into the ocean, and navigating around tons (literally) of driftwood… anything from small pieces all the way up to entire tree-sized logs, not to mention avoiding waves whenever one would come up a little higher than normal. While all of this weaving in and out isn’t maybe the most fun you’ve ever had when going to the beach, it is really good for your workout as it requires an extra bit of balance and muscle brought to bear in order to stay upright (because if you fall at this point, the onlookers really WILL think you’re a crazy drunk runner).
Finally I have to say the wind was NOT my friend Friday. If you run on the beach, you expect it, but that doesn’t mean you have to enjoy it. In fact, I bucked a pretty heavy head-wind for a little over 50% of my run. The wind was strong enough that it impacted my speed a bit and it felt like impacted my ability to breath freely… something I hadn’t ever really given much thought to. Yeah, I’ve run in wind before, but a brisk, steady head-wind as I encountered on the beach is entirely different. It was strong enough that at a couple points it felt like the air was kind of being sucked out of my lungs and I couldn’t inhale deeply enough (although suspect that this is just my imagination).
Still, I have to say that all these seeming marks against the beach run are maybe those things that make it such a great way to work out… pushing yourself against the wind to build up your aerobic capacity a little more, dodging obstacles to build your balance up and running in soft sand to build up your running and supporting muscles. Even though I didn’t run as far as maybe I would have liked to, the fact that I still felt this run many hours later (actually into Saturday) in my glutes and my hammies is probably an indication that this was a workout that was a good one (and a necessary one) nonetheless. I kind of wish it was something I had access to a little more often… although I guess the temptation to exercise my slothful side would probably be something that would show up a little more often as well… hmm… a little food for thought…
Pace: 5.0 mph