It seems like "tired" and "coffee" are two absolutes in my life. I will always be tired. I will always need coffee. Even on vacation.

Last Saturday morning I woke up early so I could run on the beach. I'd missed the chance to do that over Memorial Day weekend and with two weekends in a row at Oak Island I wasn't about to miss my chance again. So at 6:45am on Saturday I headed out the door with my running shoes on.

I tracked the distance with my GPS watch: 0.25 miles to the seafood shack on the main drag, 0.5 miles to the beach access, and then I headed west against the breeze. The tide was much higher than I expected and I spent a lot of time running in soft sand instead of the preferred packed sand of low tide. Sand running essentially added 2 minutes to my mile time: all that effort on push-off dissipated into the shifting surface and, though I felt like I was running fast, in reality I just plodded along, fighting the sand and the breeze. It's alright. Running along the ocean was worth it.

It's always worth it: no matter the vacation location or how early I have to get up to run (because I NEVER have time in the afternoons) it's always wonderful and memorable to get up and explore on foot. Running on vacation is less about the exercise and more about the discovery: the huge banyan and baobab trees in the Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu, the quiet neighborhood park in Asheville, the humble old man who surprised me with his quick pace on Hilton Head beach, the quick tour of Rome and the runners dressed like Santa in Florence, the hot and humid summer mornings in Florida which prompted me to get up earlier and earlier to avoid passing out at 8am, the Waikiki marina. Some of my favorite vacation memories are from runs: when I have a moment to myself to just think, just see, just experience a new place. It's a perspective you can't get any other way, and it's beautiful to just go on a run at any pace, with no pressure, and just the hopeful optimism of going out to explore.

Here are some of my favorite vacation running spots over the years:

1. Oak Island, NC

Seriously, how can you beat this "golden hour" sunrise run?!?

2. Waikiki and Honolulu, Hawaii

Banyan tree! (and another runner!)

I love sailboats. No really, it's weird just how much I love sailboats. Someone want to buy me a sailboat? I'll travel all around the world and I promise to post pictures...

3. Florence, Italy on Christmas Day

I wasn't in the Santa crowd, but it was a great Christmas day bonus!

4. Florida

One of the many days I struggled to wake up early enough to beat the brutal Florida summer heat and humidity. The first day of this vacation I went running and barely made it a mile because the conditions were so rough. By day three I was up early enough I made it 10 miles (hey, I had a race in a couple weeks! I had to train!)

5. Hilton Head, SC

One of my absolute favorite beaches to run on...until I had to turn around and face the brutal morning sun on my run back. It's even worse when you figure you don't need water for a quick run but it was so beautiful that you end up running 8 miles...without water...all while the ocean is like, "Hey! Lots of water over here! But no, you can't drink me! But I've got lots of water! Aren't you thirsty?" Ocean, you're cruel.

Do you have any favorite runs from when you were on vacation? Let me know in the comments!


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