Choosing where and when you run may come down to practicalities like the weather, friends availability or family commitments but try to make some time for a purely emotional choice, every now and then.
I’m lucky enough to only live a fifteenth minute drive from the coast and a twenty five minutes drive inland to the South Downs Way (SDW). Coastal trails may not always get the kudos their countryside cousins enjoy but todays Solent sunset was breath taking. Hampshire has so much to offer, it might be Winter but get outdoors and you’ll be rewarded.
While contemplating my latest jog I decided to consolidate Wednesdays 5K with one more before moving up to five miles. So the challenge was to maximise around 32/33 minutes as my mobility returns after a fall. The late afternoon decision was an easy one, yes, I was off to see the sunset. I parked at Hill Head then mapped an out and back 1.55 miles to make a 5K route below the Chilling cliffs.
The beach offers a softer surface, with less impact on your body, but in many ways you are working harder to achieve the same distance. The reduced stress on my ankles, knees and hips was apparent almost immediately, so I knew I’d made the right choice, but the motivation for my seaside session was emotional rather than technical.
Why is a coastal run so rewarding ? Setting off at 4pm I knew I’d be treated to both views of the Isle of Wight and the sun disappearing below the horizon. I don’t mind admitting I was feeling the same glow of warmth inside me as I was witnessing before me.
The sunset was due at 4.36 so I’d already arrived in golden hour, complete with the orange glow shimmering on the sea like a “yellow brick road” layered onto the Solent. My running shadow was still with me for the time being but the sun was sinking fast, I decided to take a quick video to try and capture the beautiful light and colours that nature was displaying. This clip is 40 seconds long and no matter how much I try to paint a picture with my words, it’s a snapshot to cherish as a memory.
There’s a rhythm to the sea as the waves ebb and flow, a rhythm that hasn’t changed for thousands of years. Perhaps this expected and predictable feature is what relaxes us and lifts our mood. I’ve read that this experience is called blue therapy. There were a number of walkers out along my route as I headed towards the Solent Breezes caravan sites and it’s safe to say we were all enjoying our free blue therapy.
In many ways your physical activity matches the waves rhythm, your breathing almost seems to match the lapping motion of the salt water, it’s like your running is connecting you to the sea. This might sound a bit pretentious but feeling part of your surroundings can be emotional and empowering. Granted the tide was out but I still felt the waters energy.
I’m sure the years of happy beach memories were being rethought somewhere in the back of my mind and who hasn’t left a trip to the coast without a smile a sense of positivity. Today wasn’t about sun tan lotion and ice cream, it was barely above freezing, but the cold heightened your senses and you appreciate the fact that you made an effort to enrich your afternoon.
My pace was relatively slow and naturally the crunching of the shingle and the sinking feeling of the sand didn’t lend itself to speed but I’m not at that point in my recovery to even worry about what my garmin says. I’ve walked numerous times through January and added various daily stretches in a bid to add flexibility and movement to resolve a fall five weeks ago.
I appreciate five weeks is no time to be injured, and I did have physio but as it was on the back of other previous niggles. I enjoyed the fruits of my efforts even more on this wintery Saturday afternoon. Ultimately I guess the work that you put into your training results in having opportunities like today.
I will definitely return, in weeks to come, to add the strength and endurance training that beach running offers but for the moment I’ve simply enjoyed the salt flavoured breeze and my mindfulness / wellbeing cup being topped up with sea water !!
Thanks for reading