In the movie Chariots of Fire, British runners in white shorts and shirts run en masse along a sandy beach in bare feet. It’s a pretty cool opening scene, and the music really adds depth and intrigue. Since it won four Oscars including best picture, I like to say it’s because it was about running, specifically, running in sand.
Okay, a shot of guys running in sand wasn’t the reason it won an Oscar. I use this as an example of using soft running surfaces to prevent injury. Foot strike is about as soft as can be in sand, and if you do it day in and day out, barefoot, you’ll also save a ton of money because there’s no need to buy running shoes anymore. The downside is that it wouldn’t take long to get real tired of sand running.
When I lived in California, my apartment was very close to a beach. I ran there from time to time, and occasionally I’d remove my shoes. But it was more a novelty, and I didn’t put in lots of miles training in sand. In the photo below, the only painting I own hangs over my bed. I like it because it’s so similar to a section of beach called Oxnard Shores that I used to run along.
When I went through a period of recurring stress fractures, my legs were particularly sensitive to running surfaces. I discovered that a hard-packed dirt surface that looked about as springy as concrete was noticeably easier on my injured leg than a sidewalk.
Because of my many injuries, I try to run on the softest surface possible. I no longer have a beach nearby, and since I live in the city, this means the best running surface I’m going to find is grass. Many of my routes involve running from one park to another, and I tread on the edge of lawns to get to them.
And with Spokane’s biggest race of the year, Bloomsday, coming up, I’m re-familiarizing myself with another surface that brings back memories of tough, punishing workouts.