Running along the beach, I’d just found my stride, taking short quick steps, feeling good for the first time in the thirty minutes I’d been running. I was contemplating this good feeling, glancing at the waves rolling in off the bay, when BAM! I came to an immediate halt and fell flat on my face.
I swore, loudly. It took me a second to realise that I had sunk into the sand, almost up to my knees. The knees that I’d landed hard upon. I pulled my feet out quickly, checked that I wasn’t bleeding anywhere, then thought to look back for the deep footsteps I must have left behind. Only there weren’t any footsteps!
The sand – just like before I’d run across it – was smooth and flat.
On the beach in Sandringham. Who would’ve guessed! I looked up the beach to the offending storm-water drain and the pool of water that wasn’t linked to the tide as it sometimes was. I had forgotten about the drain, and I hadn’t been paying enough attention to my surrounds. I was now fully awake.
I ran on. At least this sixty-minute sand run was proving something of an adventure. The day, like many lately, hadn’t started well. And I was all alone on this long stretch of beach. So, like a lunatic (or perhaps just like a mother), I shouted into the wind about how awful everything felt, how that stretch of quicksand seemed just about right for the way my day had been going. The wind took my words and swept them away.
I ran on.
The trouble with a sixty minute beach run where I live is there is no continuous stretch of beach. I knew this when I set out, so I’d had a plan, courtesy of satellite view on Google Maps. I would run from home, do a stretch of the Coastal Track, then drop down to the beach at Trey Bit Reserve by the Sandringham Yacht Club. From there, I could see a long-ish stretch of beach, and I would run it as far as I could. The sand was soft and slanted and it hurt to run on. I kept sinking and wondering why I was doing this, but I get determined, and I keep going.
I came to the rock shelf where my son and I used to look for Dinosaur fossils when he was younger, and climbed up. It felt good to challenge my stability, to be there in this wild spot alone. I ran to the end of that shelf, where I intended to jump off and continue along the next stretch of beach, but the tide was in, so that was it, end of the line. I turned around, but this time, I decided I’d try to stay on the beach until Hampton.
And that’s where the fun really began. First, the quicksand. Once I’d brushed myself off, I continued along the beach towards home, with my eye on the road I’d run down by Trey Bit Reserve to get to the beach. But I was bored with that route. I glanced to the left, at the yacht club. There seemed to be a concrete barrier between it and the sea – perhaps there was a small path there? I’d never looked before.
I got close, and sure enough, a thin stretch of old broken bitumen ran there. I expected it to connect to the beach on the far side. I jogged along it, marveling that I’d lived here for six years, but never tried this trail. The sea crashed a few feet below. I was complimenting myself on my bravery when the path came to an abrupt end at some small coastal rocks. I glanced down at them. I’ve covered many a coastal rock in adventure racing, but always in an organised event. I didn’t know where these rocks led.
Still, I found myself taking the first tentative steps onto them. I went cautiously, alone, aware that I had no phone and no one knew where I was. The rocks were small and would shift easily.
I swayed between two thoughts. One, that this was a good stability challenge for my ankles, a good training exercise; the other, that this was remarkably like that movie 127 Hours (that’s the movie about the guy who gets stuck under a rock in the middle of nowhere for 127 hours).
Except the guy in the movie had water.
I had $50 and my house keys.
I stepped carefully, not putting my feet between any rocks. It was about then that I saw the shoe. The black shoe, wedged down between rocks. I nearly laughed. I stepped carefully around the gap. Glancing forward, I couldn’t see where the rocks would end. I checked the waves to the left, but they were far enough away not to be a worry. The rocks grew larger, and I clambered on, using my hands for balance.
To the right was a grassy cliff and beyond it I could see the yacht club buildings. I knew I could climb up that cliff if necessary but I didn’t want to. I was scared of snakes in the grass. And I wanted to see where these rocks ended. Silly, stupid, crazy, but I was craving adventure. It felt good to trust myself again. A few steps further, and I came onto the continuation of the gravel path. “Ha!” I said out loud. “Take that beach! Take that coastal rocks! I’ve gotten through!”
It felt symbolic.
I jogged along the now-clear path behind the yacht club, slightly concerned by my isolation and the graffiti on the back of the building but still elated. I looked for the upcoming beach.
It was then I realised that my track was leading out to sea! I’d found my way onto the marina seawall. If I continued on, I would end up in a lovely scenic spot, five-hundred meters out to sea, with no way but back to swim.
Darn! I turned back, reluctantly, and wondered what to do next. I didn’t want to go back along the coastal rocks. I didn’t want to climb over the building (yes, I did contemplate whether I’d have to).
Luckily, a few minutes later, I found the trail connected to the car park as well as the coastal rocks. Normal people might just park their car and walk down this path to the boats.
I ran up the path, then in front of the yacht club onto the dog beach. A few dogs played in the sunshine, chasing sticks and ignoring their owner’s calls. At the end of that beach, I had to scramble over a rock wall (more fun!) to get to the next section. From there, it was a nice, soft-sand five minutes out and back along Hampton Beach.
There were people around now, couples walking, children playing, people having a normal beach-side morning.
Me? I was feeling elated by my unexpected adventure. It felt like I had arrived on this beach from some other primitive, wilder world. A world full of danger and thrills, where I could test myself, and prove myself worthy.
Take that, bad morning! Take that, feelings of sorrow and anxiety! Today, I topped you with one great adventure, and reminded myself of who I really am.