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I run along the boardwalk or beach almost every day here and find myself watching the people as much as the waves. Central Jersey shore towns have a mix of older and young, wealthy and working class, locals and here-for-the-dayers, families on the sandy playgrounds and adults doing their thing whether it’s running, cycling, surfing or curling up on one of the heavenly rockers to have a think or read. In the off-season, you can come here and be among others while still enjoying the solitude.

photo 5

Every day here is different and sometimes it feels like you get three days in one. The other day was so foggy on the beach I couldn’t see more than 50 feet in front of me. From a distance it felt like walking to the edge of the world. Up close the white cap waves crashed in and out like they know something you don’t. The water is frigid and at the same time it wants to be touched.  Days like today are so calm the water looks more like a lake than mighty sea. Doesn’t it make you want to dive in and just float for a while?

After the long winter the warm, clumpy beach has more pebbles than whole sea shells with the exception of swirlies. Swirly shells are my nieces’ favorite so I fill my pockets full of them to re-stock their sea shell stand next visit time I get to see them.

swirly shells

swirly shells

There must have been a storm out at sea over the weekend because we found not 1, not 3, but 34 sand dollars in a patch of shells. My dad used to collect them so we couldn’t resist piling as many as we could carry in larger shells to surprise him. If there was a market for sea shells, my family would be tycoons.

This visit is just what I needed both for my peace of mind and my running. The towns here are no more the 1.5 – 2 miles long, so passing through an extra town out and back makes it easy to boost mileage without planning a good route ahead of time, provided you consider ocean views acceptable. The flip side is the wind. The wind is continuous and has an extra bite because it’s coming off of frigid water. I don’t mind the constant cool down, but it’s tough on my sister riding her bike. It also makes it easy to get a sun burn as you don’t feel how strong the sun is. I wear a lot and re-apply and still get tan lines after late afternoon runs.

Nothing stops the surfers from savoring the waves these few weeks before Memorial Day when they still have the water to themselves. They look like specks and sometimes little sharks from a distance. Last year in June I happened to look out at the water during a particularly difficult run and saw, for the first time in my life, a whole school of dolphins. They weren’t very far out, only just past the jetty, and happened to be going my way. I forgot all about my heavy legs and ran with/ chased after the dolphins for about a mile before the rocky inlet cut me off. I haven’t seen a single fin yet this year, but it’s early.

Those dolphins are often on my mind, so hopefully I didn’t imagine them. When I’m having a hard time, they continuously remind me to look around, stop struggling and have some fun instead.

As of yesterday, I’m at 525 miles for the year. That’s slightly ahead of pace to reach my goal of 1400 miles for the year. My endurance is finally noticeably improving. It’s nice to come home from a 10 mile run and not collapse on the floor in a “stretch”. I think the salt air is a cure-all. It exfoliates the mind, speeds healing and lures you out the door on otherwise lazy days. The only thing it’s not good for is my hair, which goes from short and relatively tame to a ginormous jerk in the first mile. No hat or headband will stop it from whipping my face and flying in my mouth. It’s not that I care what I look like when I run. I find it funny that my best self is me looking my worst – sweaty hair everywhere, tears streaming down my face thanks to the wind and no tissue, licking my lips at the fountains that aren’t on yet.

In true shore fashion, I’m about to engulf myself in a hoodie. The only thing I’m missing from this visit is a pork roll sandwich, fudge, frozen custard, fries with malt vinegar, a giant slice of boardwalk pizza and zeppoles. None of the above are Hailey-friendly, so I’ll settle for a few rounds of skittle ball and The Horrible Crowes instead. If you haven’t heard this band yet, give ’em a listen on Grooveshark.