Thursday, March 27, 2014

Beach running

This morning, as I went for my morning run on this beautiful Florida island, I thought about a question I get asked a lot when we come here:

Do you run on the beach?

When I'm at the beach, I see people jogging on the sand and it looks so relaxing.

Notice that I used the word "jog". Because it's really hard to get moving fast when you're running on the sand.

I found an article in the New York Times about sand running. They say sand running is a really good workout. Low impact, and your legs have to work harder because you sink into the sand, even packed sand. Actually, one of the marathoners they interviewed likened it to running with weights around your ankles. That's the plus for beach running.

A lot of beach runners are barefoot too. Which could work well in the sand, provided the beach is soft and powdery. If there's lots of debris or shells...I'd advise shoes. Bloody feet and salt water are not a good combination.

I've tried running on the beach, and for a number of reasons, it never has been a pleasant experience for me.

Reason number 1: Increased risk of injury. Running in the sand puts more work on your legs, particularly your achilles tendons and feet (think plantar fasciits). And here on the Gulf coast, the hard sand is closest to the water, and it is graded pretty severely. This requires the leg closest to the water to drop down much further than the opposite leg. If this sounds like a recipe for injury, you are right. The times I've tried running on the beach, I've strained different muscles. The worst was when I (TMI alert) strained my...umm...ok, I'll just put it out there...hemorrhoids.. during a beach run. Let's just say it was bad. Don't tell me you don't have them. By the time I finished my beach run, I was in so much pain. This almost ruined my vacation. I was miserable. And that was the last time I ran on the beach. I'm laughing now but at the time it was not funny at all. I do believe there is a lesson to be learned here.

Moving on, I have other reasons besides injury for avoiding the beach run...reason number 2: you can't run LONG on the beach. Lots of effort on the sand; again the uneven surface really makes it tough and puts you at risk for injury.

Reason number 3: you can't run FAST on the beach. The uneven beach surface messes with an efficient leg turnover.

Reason number 4: lots of walkers on the beach. It is like running at the beginning of a race. Weaving in and out of slower traffic.

Reason number 5: A boatload of distractions and obstacles:
Fishing filament stretched out from their fishing poles. Ever been clotheslined? Or fishing lined?
Deep holes to China dug by young children.
Seaweed clumps.
Jelly fish.
Dead fish. I saw some dead baby sharks once.

I'll admit that I've never seen a beached whale.
Those joggers that make beach running look so inviting? They look relaxed because they simply aren't going far or fast. That's fine. But not for me.

If you live near a beach, and get to run it regularly, it would be beneficial. But on vacation? It's no fun being sore or unable to sit comfortably for the rest of the trip. I'm all about getting my runs in and like to get more miles and more runs on my vacation.

What I do like to do is walk on the beach. The distractions aren't a deterrent when I'm walking. As a matter of fact, I take it all in, and enjoy the beach for all it has to offer. I love the beach. I pick up shells, people watch, listen to the surf.

When I run here in Florida, I take it to the street, the sidewalk, or the path. I leave the beach for shelling, relaxing, and sunning.

When people ask me if I run on the beach, I just tell them no. No explanation. Non-runners wouldn't understand.

And that is ok with me.

Do you run on the beach? Do you train on the beach? 


  1. At low tide I run on the beach during the summer. The sand is hard packed. But I can only do it early in the morning. Any other time and it's too busy to weave in and out of people.

    1. As long as it isn't sloped, I would consider it if I lived here, as a regular workout.

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  3. I ran on the beach a few times when I lived in California and ran Cross Country in Junior High (a long time ago!!) It is really hard!

  4. As long as I keep it to a job :) I just let myself sort of zone out and splash through the water. In Miami we would run on the packed sand in our shoes, but I really didn't care for it. That lost all the calm of being on the beach for me.

  5. I do some beach running when I am visiting my Mom but agree generally I am prefer to stick to the road or trail