So this happened this week:
That’s right! I got to experience running on the beach for the very first time. Another friend got married, but this time the wedding was on the beach in Florida. A group of us from Tulsa made the trip to Florida to celebrate our buddy and decided to make a vacation of it. Might as well, right?
I’ve visited the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico before, but this was my first visit to the beach as a runner. I packed my running shoes, knowing that running on the beach would be on my agenda.
Day 1 of vacation, I was up bright and early to hit the sand. Getting up for a view like this was not hard!
- Run on packed sand. Running in loose sand works leg muscles much differently that running on pavement. My feet wanted to sink into the sand, so it took much more effort to run. I quickly discovered that if I ran closer to the water where the sand was packed hard, running was much easier. It helped that it was low tide when I went out in the morning, so there was plenty of packed sand to run on.
- Watch for obstacles on the beach. Among the fisherman with their poles set up, and the people walking along the beach, I had to watch for clumps of seaweed, trenches that used to be the moats of collapsed sand castles, and the mounds of sand that used to be said sand castles.
- Wear running shoes. I’d heard of many runners running barefoot on the beach. That was not an option for me. This beach had a lot of small shells covering it, so while I could walk on the beach carefully, running on the shells would have been painful. I also discovered that just walking in the sand made my feet hurt. My feet, I think, are used to the support of my running shoes and fatigued easily with trying to keep my balance on a softer surface.
- Be aware of the camber of the beach. Since my bout of iliotibial band syndrome last year, I learned about the camber, or the slope, of running surfaces. Running on a slope can be bad for your knees and cause a lot of pain. I like to run in the middle of the road if I’m in a quiet neighborhood or even on the right side of the road if there’s no traffic just to give my legs a break from always running the same slope. That can help to prevent injury (trust me, I learned the hard way!). Beaches, I discovered also have a slope, but since I ran out and back, both of my legs got an equal workout on the slope. I tried, though, to find the flatest part of the beach to run on to avoid running on a slope.
- Run slower; run shorter. Running on unfamiliar surfaces can increase a runner’s risk for injury. One way to minimize the risk of injury is to run slower and to run for shorter distances. My pace was about 30-60 seconds slower per mile than usual, and I only ran 3-4 miles a day. Because running in sand took more effort, it wasn’t difficult to slow the pace or cut the mileage!
- Don’t forget sunscreen! The sun is not kind to my super pale skin, but the beach sun is even less forgiving. The reflection off the water just makes it easier to get a burn. Even early in the morning, I put sunscreen on before I went out.
- Leave the music home. I always run with music when I run alone. It’s a good distraction, and the beat of the music propels me on, but at the beach…yeah, I didn’t need music. I had the waves to listen to. I could listen to that every day and never tire of it. Plus, one of my friends who also made the trip is a runner, so on most days I had someone to run with and talk to. Oh, and did I mention dolphins to look at? When do I ever get to see dolphins on a run? But I did this week!
Hopefully, this is the first of many runs on the beach! But because this beach is an 18 hour drive from where I live, it has got me thinking about trying trail running. Even a short run on the beach gave me the feeling of a much harder workout. Trail running might be my urban beach run!
What’s your favorite vacation destination?