This past weekend, while many of my friends were keeping themselves amused at a muddy little event known as the Moosalamoo Ultra, I took it upon myself to spend a little time away, visiting some family members, and enjoying another mix of earth and water – the mixture of sand and water commonly found on the beach. In this case, I was staying at the Jersey Shore. You might thing that there is no trail running on the shore, and strictly speaking, you would be right. But, just like I decided last summer that I could define my own age groups for races (And from that point on, my ages group, which is arbitrary anyways, became myself and anyone older than me), I have now decided that I can call any path I take a trail, so I might as well define my trail as that which was scenic and convenient – the Ocean City boardwalk. Yeah – I didn’t think I would have to worry about bears or poison plants, let alone mud bogs, but I was just making the best of what I had to work with!
So, I set off on my not-so-adventurous adventure run on a humid morning. I had hoped that the day would be at its coolest first thing in the morning, but I soon discovered that the early morning was probably the most humid time of the day, and there were few breezes to cool off by. I guess I know the mountains better than I know the oceans! After a few short zigzags on town streets, I found myself on the actual boardwalk. And yes, the running was flat! As is the case in most ocean resort communities, the homes facing the beach and ocean were among the largest, fanciest, and undoubtedly (to use what I suspect is a real estate buzzword) “exclusive”. Hey- I can’t stay in them, but my sweaty middle-aged body can block their otherwise pristine ocean view.
After a mile or so running through the high rent district, I reached the more heavily used stretch of boardwalk which fits most vacationers’ expectation for a Jersey Shore boardwalk. The next two miles were replete with fudge stores, tchotchke shops, and enough tshirts to outfit everyone on the beach twice over. It also made for great people-watching, even in the early morning. In addition to runners of all shapes, speeds and sizes, there were lots of cyclists out for early morning rides on their beach cruisers, and couples of all ages on bicycles built for two. At one point, I had fun trying to race against a 6-person pedal vehicle – they won until they got bored. Turning around at the north end of the boardwalk, where I could see the remnants of the once thriving city of Atlantic City a few miles further up the coast, I mostly retraced my steps.
As I neared my base of operations, I left the easy footing of the boardwalk for my real reason for being there – the beach itself and the water. As it was low tide, and the beach had been recently packed by the groomers, the running was easier than expected. Since there were only a handful of people on the beach this early, I could see my footprints in the sand, and also smiled when I came across the occasional heart with initials drawn in the wet sand, perhaps left behind by lovers out for a morning walk with more privacy than one could have in the heat of the day.
When all was said and done, I ended up covering about 6 miles, and since it was the shoreline, the biggest hill I had to climb was the short set of steps up to the boardwalk! Now that I am home, I will be returning to writing about trails in our corner of Vermont, but it was fun to run and write about a very different sort of running experience.