Keep Fit: A Study in East End Beach Living and Running

Starting the Strides for Life 3-Mile Run
Starting the Strides for Life 3-Mile Run, Photo: Courtesy WordHampton

I couldn’t find them.

I was tearing through my closet, tossing yoga mats to the side, placing my stand up paddleboard paddle neatly by my bed. Dust bunnies brushed my knees. It had been a while since I was in this deep.

I hung a right at the pile of dirty clothes I’d been meaning to wash all week and approached a mound of flip-flops. Digging through, something silver caught my eye. There. Sitting neatly, side-by-side in a dark corner toward the back, I found them.

Strappy high heels.

It’s August, and it’s been about six weeks since I’ve worn heels.

Or, more accurately, it’s August, and it’s been about six weeks since I’ve worn shoes at all. Shoes are for work; or for going on runs. Otherwise, summertime on the East End is for living barefoot.

There comes a magical point in the summer, usually just after the 4th of July, when I fully settle into beach life. Hair is always air-dried; makeup is rarely put on. If a night out is in order, sandals are appropriate about 85% of the time; wedges are the perfect fit the other 15%.

My car comes fully stocked with sand, when I take it out at all. I’m 26 years old, and a bicycle is still my preferred mode of transportation. I love the freedom of just hopping on the seat and heading anywhere I want; traffic is of no concern. The wind whips through my hair in the most satisfying way. I have yet to master the art of carrying a beach chair on my handlebars, but I’m almost there.

As the weekend approached, I was snapped back to reality by readying myself for two days in New York City for a friend’s bachelorette party. High heels were a must, I assumed, as I contemplated whether I could convince everyone to ditch the plans for bottomless brunch and instead head to Rockaway for more sand and surf. Going into the city in the summertime is like waking up from a nap. My eyes and brain haven’t quite adjusted to the pace that is necessitated by New York life.

New York is great. Growing up on Long Island, I’ve visited Manhattan hundreds of times. I’m inspired by the buzz and the energy, fascinated by the fact that you can find whatever you want, 24 hours a day. I once told a friend that I feel like a true New Yorker because I know the subway system. A Massachusetts transplant, she was also impressed by her mastery of public transport, and proceeded to tell me, from memory, which trains headed where. “No, no, no,” I interrupted. I meant that I felt like a true New Yorker because I could read and understand a subway map.

Yet the price I pay for walking down a Brooklyn street with the word TOURIST plastered on my forehead is beach living, which comes with its own set of skills. I can masterfully swing a board on top of any car and secure it in under two minutes, and I know how to most efficiently maximize time in the water in between showering and errands. I can jump in the ocean regardless of temperature, time of day and proximity to a towel; spot rip currents from the sand; tell you when produce is in season and expertly smash a lobster.

And I’m thankful that prioritizing running is a pleasant endeavor that I can undertake the minute I step out of my apartment, rather than something I have to travel to do.

This weekend, I’ll test my theory that I’m naturally more fit in the summer simply due to the amount of time I spend outside. I’m happily signing up for the Strides for Life 3-mile run, held on Sunday, August 9 at 8:45 a.m. at Lake Agawam in Southampton. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the race, which raises money for lung cancer research. Registration opens at 7:30 a.m. at the Southampton Cultural Center. Join me!

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