- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 11, 2005

LOS ANGELES - For nearly 40 years, Dr. Ron Lawrence ran on sandy beaches as part of his marathon training. He loved inhaling the salty air and listening to the sounds of crashing waves as he got in shape.

Now 80, Dr. Lawrence still runs once a week in ritzy Broad Beach in Malibu at low tide when the sand is hard-packed.

“There’s nothing like running on the beach,” said Dr. Lawrence, a retired physician and 13-time Boston Marathon competitor. “It’s a wonderful sensation.”

With more than 100 miles of sun-kissed beaches, Southern California has always been a runner’s paradise. Many hard-core runners flock to the Pacific coastline to leave their footprints in the sand, jogging and sprinting under a dawning sky or setting sun.

But beach running can be a challenging workout.

Runners digging into soft sand — the type found higher up on beaches — use up more energy because their feet tend to sink in the loose sand, and they have to work harder to cover the same distance, said Dave Watt, executive director of the nonprofit American Running Association.

“The difficult thing about running on sand is that you don’t have great traction,” Mr. Watt said. “It’s more of a struggle, and it’s taxing, but that can help you get in better shape.”

Specialists advise running on wet, firm-packed sand near the shoreline at low tide because the surface is flatter and less punishing on the body. When running on soft sand, a shortened stride is recommended for a more even-footed landing.

Avoid the shore’s slope, which can cause strain in the knees, calves and ankles, said Dr. John DiFiori, chief of sports medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Mike Reilly, a 52-year-old sports announcer from San Diego, prefers beach running over coursing through streets, especially after an injury, because sandy surfaces are easier on the body than concrete or asphalt.

“If you have a hamstring or knee injury, you can still do your workout at a slower pace on the beach,” Mr. Reilly said. “It’s just much more forgiving on the injury when you’re running on the beach.”

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