The opening scenes of the Bourne Supremacy find the action hero played by Matt Damon enjoying an intense running session on the beach in Goa. The vast expanses of yellow sand and the beautiful clear blue sky no doubt were viewed by the cinematographer as a visual metaphor for the freedom Jason Bourne has found after the rather complicated lifestyle and tricky situations he found himself in the first instalment. Not surprisingly this freedom is not to last – sorry if you haven’t seen the film yet – but it is possible to enjoy the benefits of running close to the surf line without any requirement to shoot an army of bad guys before heading off into the sunset.
Let’s begin with why a stretch of sand is a good place to choose: well, there is clean, fresh air that is a million miles away from the oxygen available on urban routes that city dwellers negotiate on a regular basis; then there is the lack of traffic and pedestrians, save for the odd motorised coastguard patrol and local family dog chasing a ball across your path; how about the advantage of little or no ambient noise save for the lapping of the waves - this is a lot more natural than any mp3 download of whale music or other such relaxation track.
Holiday DestinationWhether you are lucky enough to have a good stretch of beach near your home, or are interested in taking advantage of the sand at your holiday destination, it is important to follow a few rules to get the most out of the experience. For a start, time your run to coincide with when the tide is out and a good stretch of wet sand is available. This will provide a firm yet cushioned surface upon which to clock up the miles. Check for any camber also – i.e. a slope down towards the sea – as the resultant uneven surface can cause a problem for the knees because weight is not evenly distributed across both sides of the body.
FootwearAs far as footwear is concerned, use your regular shoes, but remember when you have finished to clean out the interior lining thoroughly to remove any remaining sand. Alternatively, if you are a regular beach runner, simply assign one pair of shoes for the route. Whatever the frequency of your time on the beach, it is best to wear socks which will alleviate irritation from the sand that is kicked up and unerringly finds its way down the narrow gap between ankle and shoe.
Given the natural surroundings, there may be the temptation to forget about shoes and run barefoot. Two potential problems here: the wet sand may not provide enough cushioning to prevent buffeting of the ankles, knees and hips; equally, you can’t legislate for the odd anti-social barbecue enthusiast who discards glass or items of metal, risking the safety of anyone venturing onto the sand with unprotected feet.
Running on a beach is one or the most exhilarating ways to experience the sport, as well as a welcome alternative to the regular route and schedule. And unlike Jason Bourne, the only bad guys you’ll have to worry about are the ones enticing you towards an ice cream cone with a chocolate flake in the top.