Run4Papa versus The Sandbar


You might not think heading to a lake would be an ideal running spot to train; however, with a venue like The Great Wall of China, I am constantly thinking outside of the box. There is no handbook to simulate the elements of this run so I figured any type of training would be beneficial. With this in mind, my father and I headed to  Union Lake, located in Commerce Township, Michigan.

We headed out on our pontoon boat and took a loop around the lake.  The weather was around 75 degrees and being a fall Sunday in September, there weren’t many boats on the water. As we reached the midway point of our ride, I had the notion of running the sandbar: End-to-End. I figured, why not? I have run on all types of surfaces and races the past couple months; surely, this would be a one-of-a-kind training experience.

I had no idea exactly how accurate that statement would turn out to be…

For those of you unfamiliar with the depth of a sandbar, it is roughly 3-5 feet.  Most people pull their boats into the designated area, anchor, and swim. With only a couple of boats on the lake, we dropped anchor and I slid into the water – slightly cooler than 4th of July weekend.

When I began running the sandbar, there was soft sand beneath my feet which produced minimal resistance in my strides.  This lasted for several hundred yards and was comfortably manageable.

As I continued getting further and further away from the boat, the dynamic of the run shifted because the surface below was getting deeper and muckier. My strides shortened considerably and transitioned from a solid run to a slower jog. The once smooth sandy surface quickly turned into a thicker muck surrounded by algae (god only knows the species roaming around below).  It felt like someone attached 10 pound weights to my ankles because my feet were sinking and needed to be stretched ever so carefully to release them from the surface below.

Step after step became tougher and tougher; however, like running any long-distance race, you just put one foot in front of the other and push forward.  I was able to reach the end of the sandbar and was jumping up and down for a long-distance picture.  On the third jump, my sunglasses flew off my face into the murkier water.  I held my breath, cupped my hands and dove below to try and catch ’em.  For the record, I have never lost a pair of sunglasses on any body of water; yet, a pair of $7 Venice Beach sunglasses were just donated to the bottom of Union Lake.

After reaching the far end of the sandbar, I thought it only appropriate to run back to the boat.  Without a doubt my father would have grabbed me, but he looked pretty content relaxing on the boat.  And to be honest, it has never been my mentality to do anything halfway.  Putting one foot in front of the next, I strided back through the sandbar until the muck was behind me. At last, I was able to run full stride and complete the Run4Papa v. Sandbar challenge.

This valuable run proved to be a solid test of both mind and body because you can never fully anticipate how the elements and mother nature are going to alter your route. Marathon preparation is 80% mental & 20% physical so when unexpected moments occur, you need to be able to readjust your approach and improvise along the way…

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