And 3 Route Evaluations
1. The Tide. Most everyone knows it goes in and out, but it is important to know which direction it is going when you start out. Depending on how far you run and the width of the coastline you have to work with, just a couple of feet change can make an area that you ran through very troublesome, or even dangerous, on the way back.
Another important thing to know is that how much it will change is not static. This can vary with the weather, the phases of the moon, and other ocean swells that I don’t understand. So, how it was one time you were at the beach may not be how it is another time, or even later in the same week.
2. Shoreline Debris. This can cover anything from sharp pieces of coral to trash to molted lobster shells. You may have been running along on pristine sand, when all of a sudden there will be a large patch of something that is inconvenient. The combination of water currents, terrain, and nearby living creatures affect what washes up in certain places. If you are barefoot, it will likely slow you down, but how much depends on your own barefoot running adaptations and experience. If you have shoes on, you are more at risk for twisting an ankle.
Along the west Maui shore, there is what looks like a locust tree that drops twigs with 3/4 inch thorns on them. I have stepped on these barefoot a few times and it hasn’t been serious, but it is not my favorite thing to do.
Not exactly debris, but still an obstacle, is fishing line from shoreline fisherman. Most of the time, the poles are far enough back from shore and put far enough out to sea that it is not a problem. However, the fishing line can be nearly invisible in the bright sunlight.
3. Optimal Waterline Zone. Running in the dry sand may be a very good workout, but it also slows a body down considerably and can result in cramping calf muscles. Running in the waves is romantic, but adds variable water resistance as the waves wash in and out. If you wear shoes, getting them soaked and subsequently caked with sand could lead to major raw spots. There is also frequently unseen debris being rolled around at the edges of the surf. Thus it is that there is about a two foot width of packed, wet sand that every walker or runner on the beach is drawn to like a tractor beam. How this will affect a given run depends on the density of people, which might also include people playing in the waves along the shore line. A runner may end up darting this way and that to be polite or not get bowled over.
4. Slanted Sand. There is almost always some degree on the shoreline. While trail running or other varied terrain may be fun, a constant one-direction slant can be fatiguing.
5. Isolated Sections. If a beach is not popular, then there may be the opposite issue of meeting questionable characters. A few feet north along the beach at one nice beachside condo we stayed at there was a camp of homeless people. The sand was narrow there and directly adjacent to it was a wide, wooded lot where many of them slept. I don’t care how compassionate you feel about such people’s plight, it can be unnerving to be the only other person passing by in the early morning hours. There were also a couple of isolated spots where I ran past groups of young men that were just hanging out, smoking something. I may have run faster there.
6. Sunlight Reflection. Even with the sun rising in the east, beaches on the west side of Maui are largely in open sunlight soon after the sun rises. With the island being closer to the equator than most areas of the United States, people may not realize that you can get a sunburn in Maui at 8:30 in the morning. The water on one side intensifies the sun’s rays like a mirror. One direction you run in in the morning will mean dealing with high glare.
7. High Humidity. Although the southwest side of Maui receives much less rain than the east or north, it is still deceptively humid. This means evaporative cooling is inhibited. The extra effort of running in the sand and the reflective effects of the sun on the water can add to this, making it easier to overheat.
8. Barefoot Assumptions. The classic way to run on the beach is barefoot, and it should be a fun place to give it a try, but it is still not the place to run significant distances barefoot if you are not used to it for reasons related to everything listed above. You don’t want to end up with horribly sore muscles or raw feet on your vacation. If you want to enjoy running barefoot on the beach, it would be a very good idea to gradually become accustomed to barefoot running well before your beach trip.
I have run on three main routes while staying near Kihei, Maui.
1. Sugar Beach, also known as Maalaea Beach, is the stretch of beach along the most northern part of Kihei, ending just before Maalaea Harbor. It is the longest, most flat beach I have seen on Maui. It is also the least congested. It is definitely my favorite for a medium length beach run, being about 3 miles long, so a run out and back can be about 6 miles.
I walked up and down Sugar Beach, then almost all the way back to Lipoa Street in the heat of the day recently. My feet did start to get a bit warm on the black asphalt after a couple of miles on the road on the way back. Here is a link to my Strava report and map for that. I started using the Strava app this last summer.
2. The coastline road from Kihei, beginning around Lipoa Street, down through Wailea is a nice route if run early enough to avoid most of the shoppers and people on there way to the beach. (Beware of people unused to carrying surf boards on the sidewalk…) I found it best to start a run no later than 8 AM if I wanted to run for an hour, or else the return through Kihei was frustrating.
There is sidewalk all the way along the side opposite the ocean (east side). Through most of the shopping section of Kihei there is sidewalk on both sides, and I prefer the ocean side. Since there are plenty of crosswalks in town, it is easy to cross over to the east side at the beginning and end of this section. The sidewalk comes and goes along the ocean side in a few places both before and after that, and the road is narrow with lots of traffic.
South of Kihei and into Wailea, there are some pretty good hills. I turned right at Wailea Ike Ave, but it looked like there was still a ways to run both straight and to the left at that intersection. There were certainly some runners and walkers following those routes. There were sidewalks all around here. Here is how Strava mapped that 9.2 mile run for me.
This is the tourist side of the island, but there is some residential housing. Several of the side streets I saw in Kihei leading to neighborhoods said they were private and/or were gated. North of Lipoa Street, there were not any long stretches of sidewalk, plus the road was quite narrow with lots of cars. I ran here once, to avoid the homeless camp on a return, but felt it was fairly high risk. So many of the drivers are tourists (as I am), and thus sort of trying to figure out where they are going. I don’t like to be an unexpected obstacle in their paths.
3. There is a public beach access road at the end of Lipoa Street that leads to a semi-reliable long stretch of shore. It is not as wide as Sugar Beach, so more subject to tide difficulties. It is also more slanted, and I found it uncomfortable enough to move to the road for the second leg of my 6.5 mile run. And there is that homeless camp, but if you are running at a lower tide and with someone else, it would be more pleasant. It does seem to collect more debris and in larger sections than Sugar Beach, but that is easier to work around at lower tide. And here is a link to the Strava record for this part beach, part road route for a 6.5 miles that overlapped some with the Sugar Beach route.
The intent is not to discourage anyone from running on the beach, but to make it a more pleasant experience by planning and realistic expectations. I will still probably run on the beach in Maui at least once each time I get to visit, because it is special. Also, there is no vehicle traffic. The ocean is soothing and can help me relax into my run. But for the rest of the time, I’ll be happy running on the flat and reliably continuos sidewalks.