Variety is the spice of my running life. In winter, my running trips are confined to footpath, with the occasional weekend foray on grass. But spring presents other options.
And so, at least once a week, I’ll head for the beach.
If it’s an evening time weekday run, I’ll do intervals there. With a miles of sand to choose from, it’s always easy to find an isolated patch on which to work my Paula Radcliffe impersonation. There I’ll be all long of limb and quick of gait bursting over the sand. Ignoring the reality of my middle aged, stumpy-legged gait.
Then I’ll slow for my Chariots of Fire impersonation. You know the opening scene to that wonderful Vangelis score. The guys are cantering along the shore barefooted and in 1920s running gear. The camera pans along their group, some smiling, others frowning in concentration. Their pace belies the beat of the music as they trot easily along the shore and off into the distance.
But I take my cue from the music. And I stay at the back of the pack and a little to one side. I don’t want to get my runners wet, see. Nor do I want to disturb those guys with my 21st century running attire and my alarming running form.
And anyway, this is intervals, a slow run to the Vangelis and then a quicker trot back to base. Though, with the speed aspect, and on these legs, it really is all relative.
My favourite kind of beach run is a meditative one. You know the sort. Slap on the Garmin if you must, but really, the time or distance doesn’t matter. Just relax and run.
Sometimes I’ll keep my head down and watch the patterns of seashells running beneath my feet. Cockle, razorshell, mussel stand out on a bedding of smaller shells. Accompanied by the steady crunch, crunch of shells beneath my feet, the repetitive sight and rhythmic sound are soothing.
And so too is knowing that I am part, however small, of that whole wonderful recreation of shell into sand, just as I am subject to a similar process of growth, decay and renewal.
The cry of a flock of sanderlings catches my attention and I watch as they wheel and turn, gleams of white on grey, and alight on a patch of wet sand. Lug worm bust perhaps? Or is it sand hoppers they’re after? Either way, I am mesmerized by their beaks, rapidly stabbing the sand, as they trot forward in unison.
Out to sea and two trawlers bob on the waves, red hulls on lead grey waters with a light house further beyond. A beautiful site from the shore, and yet the realities of life on board, the cold wet slap of wave, the hauling of nets are, I imagine, far less picturesque.
The sea always throws up delights. It could be a silvery path tracking its way from sun to shore. Or the white foam of waves against blackened rocks.
Recently. I even caught sight of a double rainbows arching above the waves. I followed the perfect arches right down to the horizon. One rainbow was stronger than the other of course. But it was ablaze against the grey sea and darker grey sky, each band of the spectrum more clearly defined than I had ever witnessed before.
The sound of the sea, of course, is always there. No matter what its mood, it is never silent. That ever present sound is a meditation in itself lulling one to other worlds and other places. The distant sight of a cargo ship or a passenger ferry adds to the dream and mystery. To what far flung region of the world are they headed? What adventures lie beyond? What lies beyond in life itself?
Oh, the sea has more questions than answers. It is past, present and future. There before us. There long after we are gone. And always, always there.
As long as I am here, I’ll find my way to it and savour my time along its shore.