Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Barefoot on the Beach in Portugal

The day after the Summer Solstice and for once I am somewhere where the sun can be relied upon to shine on throughout these longest days.

Running in the early morning, barefoot on the beach from Vale do Lobo to Quarteira on the Algarve. Running between the Atlantic and the low red sandstone cliffs reminding me of Chesil Beach in Dorset. A housemartin swoops down and flies ahead of me, gliding just above the sand and mocking my graceless progress. 

Running like this entails a fine tuning to the subtleties of the landscape via the information passed from foot to brain. Too far from the sea and the sand is too soft, each step sinking too deep then having to lift a mass of particles ground down by an eternity of wind and wave. Too near to the sea and the waves lap your ankles - cooling and refreshing in short bursts but no way to fun for any distance. In between is the zone of harder sand best for running on,  but here too there are distinctions to be negotiated. There is a wavy line of shell and stone marking the limit of the tide. You find yourself following that line  while keeping just away from it in order to avoid the pain of treading on it. Following too the footsteps of other runners and walkers for a while, just to see if they found some better way through the terrain.

Sand is deceptive - initially it feels soft underfoot, and it does absorb some impact. But never forget that it is made up of tiny stones - the stuff they make glass out of no less. My second beach run  the next day left me with a blister on my foot. Still I did manage to avoid the beach trip hazard of the buoy lines.

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