For runners across the country, it's half- and full-marathon training season. Here in the Philadelphia area, it's also Jersey Shore season, which means we're tossing running shoes and shorts into our duffle bags along with flip-flops and bathing suits.
You have a few different running options when you're on a Jersey Shore vacation. Here are the pros and cons of each. Something to keep in mind for all three: The Shore doesn't offer a lot of shade, so make sure to wear sunblock and/or a hat, or get out before or after the sun brings out the sunbathers.
Streets and sidewalks
It's not as if you're hanging out on a deserted island. They have roads and sidewalks - even bridges! - just like we do at home.
The pros: This is probably what you're used to running on a daily basis, so you can keep your training consistent. Unless you're doing a trail race, you'll be running on asphalt for your actual race, too, so this will help your body prepare.
The cons: Shore roads can get extremely crowded, and not just with moving cars: pedestrians with beach chairs, families on beach cruiser bikes, and yes, those moving cars, all packed together onto roads where, most likely, cars are parked on both sides. You could be fighting for space, or dodging cars that can't quite see around that turn. So keep your headphones off or the volume down low when you're running on Jersey Shore streets, or hit Dune Drive between Avalon and Stone Harbor, or Landis Avenue between Sea Isle and Strathmere, which are wide enough for everyone.
You're at the Jersey Shore, home of the original boardwalk, so of course running down one is on your to-do list.
The pros: Wood is a more forgiving surface than asphalt and concrete, so if you're nursing an injury or dealing with nagging pain, a boardwalk run could be a nice break for your legs. You can also see the morning on the boardwalk as opposed to the show at night, which are two very different scenes.
The cons: More crowds. Most boardwalks allow bikes on the boards in the morning, so you might not get the gentle ocean sunrise scene you want. Also, if you're looking for a long run, you're going to need to run on more than just the boardwalk. Wildwood's boardwalk, for example, is only two miles long. Ocean City's is about two and a half. If you're running in Ocean City, stay in your lane - there's one marked for runners. If you're running in Wildwood, watch the tram car, please. Also, if you're running in Sea Isle City or Cape May, the boardwalks don't have actual boards. They're paved promenades.
Who doesn't want to run on the sand with the Chariots of Fire theme playing in their heads? It's a romantic notion, as is early-morning beach running, which is why you'll see so many people out there before the lifeguards come on duty.
The pros: It's a gorgeous view, and you can jump into the water afterward, which is what kept me going on my beach runs last year. A cool ocean breeze can combat a hazy, hot, and humid day, making it a more pleasant place to run than on the street.
The cons: Beach running is challenging because you're running on a soft, shifting surface. The muscles in your feet and ankles work harder to steady your foot, as do your calves to push you up out of the sand. This can be a better workout, sure, but it can also leave you limping later in the day. Also, don't expect to hit your normal times when sand running. And keep an eye on the ground - those holes kids dig into the sand can be dangerous. All that extra work takes longer, but for me? The view and the post-run plunge are worth it.
Browning Ross Summer Sizzler Series: 5k, Rowan University, Every Thursday, July 11-Aug. 29. 7 p.m. Fee: $5, $3 for students. Age group prizes. tuffgangrunning.com
Stroehmann Back on My Feet 20in24 Challenge: 8.4-mile loop starting at Lloyd Hall at 1 Boathouse Row. A 24-hour race. BackOnMyFeet.org