I've always run the beach in the same way. I lace up my running shoes and stay above the water line, sometimes dodging the surf, sometimes returning home with wet shoes.
One summer I was with a friend who went on morning runs without her running shoes. Intriguing. I wanted to try it myself, but I'd always been a running-shoe runner.
Vacationing on St. Martin, the beach in front of our house was sand and rock. Entry and especially exit out of the water was precarious. The currents were strong and unpredictable, so timing was critical. I ended up with a bleeding knee. Not willing to give up swimming in the Caribbean, I needed to enter the water at the end of the cove that was pure sand. It was a short distance away, the perfect distance for a morning run. My barefoot beach running was born.
When I reached the end of the beach, hot and sweaty, I swam into the sea. Refreshing! When cooled off, I'd let the wave push me in, and I'd run back to the house. No need to bother wiping off sandy feet and forcing them back into shoes.
My discovery of organic, free form running changed the way I exercised.
Back on the California beach, I no longer wanted to lace up running shoes.
They stayed in the closet and my new way of running became a run-swim or a swrun. I am no longer limited to getting up early for the morning cool. It's even better to go in the heat of the day and even better when the tide is strong and high. I'm in and out of the ocean, alternating between cold and hot. When an especially strong surge comes to shore, my muscles fight the weight of the water. When the tide is deep I immerse and swim. I laugh when I can duck my head. I've never had so much fun while beach running.
The discovery of a discovery makes me more willing and even anxious to make a new discovery. That openness, that ah ha moment, curiosity fulfilled, questions answered, are invigorating to life.
I've tried to be open minded to the burqa, the hajib, the full black dress of a Muslim woman, and now the burqa-bikini that has brought so much controversy to French laws and the handling of those laws.
At different times, the dress has been outlawed in France because it brings attention and dismay to French culture. After several Islamic extremist attacks on France, the outlawing of a dress code that so differentiates one culture from the other, is understandable. In Nice, a woman was forced to remove her hajib on a French beach. The humiliation, the outcry, ended the enforcement.
It was while running/swimming on the beach that I made another discovery, a cultural discovery concerning Muslim dress.
I was wearing board shorts and a swim top purchased when I was ten pounds lighter. The swim top still fit well enough to run in, but my chest was a little bulging. I was aware of this, but it was a swim suit on a California beach. I was well within the dress code.
As I was coming down the beach, I saw her ahead. A woman in the surf wearing the burqa bikini. In contrast, she was modest and I was not. I was not affected by our differences; she had a choice I respected and I had a choice I treasured, respected and was grateful it was a choice I could make.
As I passed her, I said hello. She smiled and said "Hi," and then I had a moment of absolute clarity from her point of view. It's as if I could read her mind. Scattered around her, were her three teenage sons, probably 11-15 years of age. I was a woman revealing more of her body than was acceptable to a mother of three impressionable boys. I understood her extreme modesty. I respected her stance and her choices.
I had made a discovery. I had an insight into the heart of another woman's beliefs and I had been enlightened.
Will I change the way I dress for swimming and exercise? No, but I will make sure the swimwear fits.
A true discovery changes the way we run, the way we think, the way we respect others. Excitement.