Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a keen (though very slow!) runner. I usually trot along my neighbourhood pavements or round my local park in my cushioned running shoes. I love the feeling of speed (well, compared to a walking pace anyway) that running gives me and the challenge of the effort that it takes, as well as being outside in the fresh air and among leafy, pretty scenery.
Last month, I was down in Devon and had the chance to run on a number of long, sprawling beaches at low tide. One of my favourite stretches was along Saunton Sands where the sand is firm and fairly smooth. In contrast to city streets or parks there was no hard tarmac and no landmines of dog poo or rusty cans or broken glass. I took the chance to whip off my shoes and set off on my run barefoot.
What a sense of freedom to feel the warm sand underfoot and the cool air around my toes! It was like being a child again, running for the joy of running. Without the line of the pavement or the footpath I was used to in the park, I ran in any direction and in a tangle of routes. And all the while I could feel the salt air in my hair and the sound of the surf in the distance.
I had to adapt my style of running to being barefoot. I couldn’t pound down so hard on my heels as I would normally do, nor push off on the balls of my feet with the same vigour. I ran more lightly. I became aware of the feel of each footstep, taking care to tread carefully so as not to land on a sharp edged shell or pebble. I sensed areas of firm sand, other patches of more soggy, loose sand. I felt the changes in temperature in different parts of the beach, splashed through pools of stranded sea water.
I was sad to leave the beach and to put on my shoes again to walk across the hard tarmac to the car.
A part of me is still running like a child on Saunton Sands – and I hope to rejoin her again before too long…!