Training for the Columbus Marathon on the beaches of Emerald Isle was quite enjoyable this year. Maybe it felt so good because I’ve gotten used to beach vacation running. Or maybe it’s because I went in with a good attitude. Or maybe it’s a fluke. But these are the things I thought to share with you while running on the beach this summer—just in case you’re heading to the beach during training season too.
1. Run early. Really, really early. For my second run, I walked down the steps just before sunrise (5:59 AM). Best choice ever. I ran toward the rising sun, and away from it as it started to top the beach houses, trees, and low clouds. Sun at your back is always more forgiving than sun in your face. The earlier you can get out there, the more time you’ll have without fighting the sun which only creates more heat and more humidity.
2. Run slower. Despite the fact that sea level, flat running seems like it should make for great paces (and that it holds my record for fastest mile ever), the whole heat and humidity thing may catch you off guard. The smart running people tell us to take two weeks to acclimate to new weather changes. My vacation only spanned one week, so I definitely wasn’t acclimated by the time we left the beach. My friend Rita reminded me about the Temperature Calculator right before I left for the beach. I knew my six mile run, in 90 degree heat, was going to be slower than my six mile run at home—even with hills. Slow down. Breathe. Find shade when and where you can. Don’t be afraid to throw in some walk breaks. This is not a race. This is vacation. Slow it down.
3. Hydrate. I mean, obviously, right? But you’re on vacation. And maybe you don’t really like bottle water. And maybe you consume a little (or a lot) more alcohol on vacation than you do at home. And maybe you just simply forget to drink water that isn’t salty and in the ocean and only accidentally consumed when you get crushed by a giant wave while showing off for your kids. Maybe. Drink early and drink often. This includes while traveling (which I forgot to do this year) and from day one. That beer you plan on drinking down at the beach? Take along a bottle of water. Additionally, carrying water on your run is also a smart idea. Or take some money to hydrate mid-run at the little shop on the corner. Whatever the case: HYDRATE.
4. Sleep. Yeah, I know. It’s vacation. But between the early runs and the ocean and the mini-golf and the Go-Karts and the lobster and the fried foods and everything else, get some sleep. If only the night before your next run. If only an extra half hour. Or maybe you’ll be like me and fall into bed, simply exhausted, way earlier than you do at home. But sleep.
5. Don’t forget the Body Glide. Or, if you do—or if you just can’t find it at 5:45 AM because you haven’t unpacked it yet—use some stick deodorant. But trust me.
6. Be smart. Sure, you’ve vacationed there for the past 20 years. You see some of the same people every single year. You feel safe. It’s fine. Whatever. Be smart. Always run with your phone and be sure that someone knows you’re running and in which direction. Consider carrying your pepper spray even if you don’t at home. If anyone in your vacation party runs, drag them along with you. I’ve run with a cousin, an uncle, and my husband on vacation. I didn’t run with anyone this year, but really wished for a partner one morning. It turned out to be the newspaper delivery car, but I was really freaked out for a bit. You don’t know the area like you think you do. Be safe and smart.
7. Run with the wind first. I know, it stinks to get halfway through your run only to turn around and fight the wind the rest of the way back. But running into the wind on the way back helps cool you off (and slow you down; see #2). If you head out on a morning with no wind, well, you’re screwed.
8. Take some pictures. I don’t care if you take scenery shots or pictures of your feet or selfies with the tourist trap giant beach chair; just take some pictures. This is part of your vacation. Just like those eleventy pictures you took of your kids building a sand castle or boogie boarding, you need to remember that you took time for you on vacation. Put a picture or two in the album to remind yourself how awesome you really are.
I’ll always remember this was the year they were repainting the water tower closest to our house.
9. Turn off the music. One of the largest complaints I hear from people about not running with music is that they don’t like to hear their own breathing. Pro Tip: You can’t hear your own breathing over beach wind. You may get some ocean sounds, a voice of the tweens eating breakfast on the beach, the dog barking at the tweens, or a seagull trying to steal their food (all true stories), but your breathing won’t be heard. Enjoy the natural sounds (and not-so-natural squealing) if only for your vacation.
10. Be flexible. Yes, those of us running a fall marathon are likely already into our training cycle. Yes, it’s important not to flake, especially early on. You need to set up good habits to help get you through those high mileage weeks. But… it’s vacation. I keep saying that, and it keeps right on being true. In fact, I had to bump my long run which I intended to take the morning after we arrived. Instead, I arrived kind of woozy and wobbly due to a touch of motion sickness. I went to bed early and decided to sleep in that first day of vacation. I ran the next morning instead. The world did not implode and no one took my running card. Who knew?
11. Run on the beach at least once. I only run on the sand on our last full day of vacation. Due to my previous back injury, I still feel cautious about sand-running. I’m scared that one wrong step or shifting sand will throw my back into a tizzy and I’ll be right back where I was in 2010. However, running on the beach is kind of awesome—and a bonus calf workout—so do it at least once on your vacation. Run at or near low tide on the hardened sand. Pay attention to your posture and your footfalls, to the sand around you for holes, shells, fish, crabs, and yes, even washed up sharks. Don’t try to match your stride length to the runner who left footprints 15 minutes in front of you, just run your own gait. And really…
12. Enjoy it. It’s your vacation. You’re choosing to run, whether you’re running to train or just running for the sake of running. Breathe in that magnificent salt air, sweat your buns off, and give thanks you’re able to run another day. At the very least, it sure beats those 16 milers in the snow and ice, right?