Sea, Sand and Surf: A Runner’s Dream Come True

Although I have been running for over three years, the first time I ran on a beach was this time last month.  I kid you not!  Granted, that probably isn’t terribly shocking given I live in a land-locked state surrounded by vast plains and towering mountains, but still.  It’s always been a dream of mine to run like a majestic horse across the coastline, the sea breeze a refreshing reminder of my seashore surroundings.  Or I imagine it’s like the final scene from “Chariots of Fire” and that epic run along the beach towards certain victory.

chariots-of-fire-beach-run-o
How magnificent! Source

But in reality I imagine my shoreline stroll looks something more like this…

anigif_enhanced-buzz-12910-1343442850-0
I am as graceful as bird, I’m sure… Source

Just maybe I would look like the babes of “Baywatch,” albeit minus the flowing hair, sense of urgency, and incredibly tanned and toned body.

Jill-3
A girl can dream. Source

I am pretty certain everything looks better in slow motion.  And the perfect camera angle. But I digress.

Here’s what I do know, running on sand is challenging given the friction and lack of stability when you push-off.  It’s also supposed to be a really good work out. The looser the sand, the harder the workout.  According to a study conducted in 1998 by three Belgian scientists, “running on sand requires only 1.15 times more mechanical work than does running on a hard surface at the same speed,” and “running on sand requires 1.6 times more energy expenditure than does running on a hard surface” (Source).  My takeaway? Running on sand is super good for you!

During my trip to Maui this past September, I had grand ideas of spending my

The amazing view from the coastal trail, the Wailea Beach path, that stretched from Wailea's Andaz Resort to the Polo Beach Club. I would run between a 5K and 4 miles each morning.
The amazing view from the coastal trail, the Wailea Beach path, that stretched from Wailea’s Andaz Resort to the Polo Beach Club. I would run between a 5K and 4 miles each morning.

mornings running along the sand, basking in a gorgeous Maui sunrise over Haleakala, enjoying the feel of the whispering wind blowing through the palm trees, and gazing at early morning paddle boarders and surfers as I wander happily past.  The hubs and I have been really great about enjoying opportunities to workout on vacations, and love taking advantage of running in new places.  It was one of my favorite parts about our “routine” we built during our trips to London and Napa Valley, and it’s a great way to see a place as a local might.  The problem with the beaches in Maui, however, is that they aren’t consecutive.  Although incredibly beautiful, you can’t run for very long.  So that dream was somewhat dashed.  Instead, our resort offered sunrise beach yoga and boasted the perfect paved coastal path, the Wailea Beach path, which was supremely stunning and perfect for our morning run.

Sunrise yoga at its finest... it doesn't get much better than this.
Sunrise yoga at its finest… it doesn’t get much better than this. This, however, is the expanse of Wailea beach.
Feeling great after a 13.1 PR! Yay, oxygen and sea level!
Feeling great after a 13.1 PR! Yay, oxygen and sea level!

Thankfully last month I was finally able to make my dream a reality.  The hubs and I, and Rocco the Puppy (Rocco’s first flight!!), boarded a plane for Fort Myers, Florida.  We spent the week with his parents, who live just south in Naples, Florida.  To say I was excited for mid-winter sun and sand would be an understatement.  I am fairly certain that I may be better suited to sand and sun than I am to mountains, but I love Colorado just the same. And better still, a chance to run on the beach!  Florida was the second month of our 18 week training plan for the Colfax Marathon, and we had initially scheduled in a half marathon while we were there.  On Valentine’s Day we were planning to run the Paradise Coast Half Marathon, but due to heavy rains in January and early February, the race was delayed due to flooding along the planned course.  So while we couldn’t

Key lime coladas, besties, and a beach. Too good to be true!
Key lime coladas, besties, and a beach. Too good to be true!

run our intended race, we planned to fit in our own half marathon instead.  On the Tuesday morning during our trip, we ventured out along Vanderbilt Drive, and logged a wonderful (and PR-worthy) 13.1. Running at sea level after serious training has definitely paid off – we ran it in 2:07 and felt wonderful the whole way!  Later that day, one of my besties and fellow blogger, Ms. BakeNBurn and her hubby came to visit for a few days. They happened to be vacationing just a few hours away in Delray, so it was too good an opportunity to pass up!

Beautiful Vanderbilt Beach!
Beautiful Vanderbilt Beach!

With our half out of the way, the rest of the week had me excited for true beach

I could get SO used to this.
I could get SO used to this.

running. Vanderbilt beach is located in north Naples, and is a gorgeous expanse of sand and sea (well, technically it’s the Gulf of Mexico).  We were able to run about 4 miles: 1 mile to the beach, 2 miles along the beach, and one mile back.  After we returned, I was hooked.  Needless to say we repeated this run on Friday and Saturday morning. Running on the sand was great on the joints, but gives you a slightly better workout at the same time.  And better still, no music needed – the waves were our soundtrack.

Do I recommend beach running? YES! Whenever you have the chance, give it a try. It’s both relaxing and invigorating, challenging and easy.  Here are some amazing tips from Competitor.com to help you plan a great beach run during your next seaside escape, or for those of you lucky enough to live next to expansive stretches of beach:

  1. Find the right beach: As I mentioned, not all beaches are created equal.
    Wailea was nearly perfect, just not for beach running.
    Wailea was nearly perfect, just not for beach running.

    The more space you have to work with, the better. Also, take into consideration whether its likely to be a more crowded beach (public access) or not, and the time of day you want to run matters. Earlier is usually better.

  2. The type of sand is also important: Softer sand is harder to run in as there is less friction and resistance. Firmer sand can be easier but less of a challenge.  Find your happy medium, or maybe start on the firmer stuff and see how far from the surf you can handle.
  3. Check tide charts: If you’re seeking more firm sand, make sure you go at
    Take me back...
    Take me back…

    low tide so you have more of the firm sand to work with.

  4. To shoe or not to shoe? I am definitely someone who likes a little more support when I run, but keep in mind beach running can lend itself to either, especially if the sand is softer.  The choice is yours!
  5. Be careful and conscientious
    Sun, water and sand - heaven for the soul, tough on the skin.
    Sun, water and sand – heaven for the soul, tough on the skin.

    of your body: It can be quite a shock to the body to go from pavement to sand.  If you trail run, or run on groomed trails, it may not be too hugely different, but ease into it and try not to push too hard the first time out.

  6. Sun protection is vital: the ocean reflects the sun rays and beaches are usually light on trees, so make sure you wear sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, etc. to protect your skin and eyes!
  7. The last recommendation is my favorite: skip the music. As I mentioned, the ocean or tide makes for a sensational natural soundtrack. Give yourself a chance to listen and enjoy!

As an aside, here’s how last week stacked up for training – we made it to 17 miles!!

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
Monday, 3/14/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Tuesday, 3/15/16 Yoga Sculpt 3.08 mile run
Wednesday, 3/16/16 N/A 4.02 mile run
Thursday, 3/17/16 Zumba N/A
Friday, 3/18/16 N/A 3.61 mile run
Saturday, 3/19/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Sunday, 3/20/16 N/A 17 mile run

Have you ever run along a beach? What are your beach run recommendations? What is your favorite running surface? Anyone else always wanted a Baywatch moment?

2 thoughts on “Sea, Sand and Surf: A Runner’s Dream Come True

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