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Mike Musso doesn’t know of a time when he wasn’t running on the beach. “I’d run from my house to the surf beach to hang out,” said Mr. Musso, 20, who grew up at the Jersey Shore and now works there.

Half of his high school’s cross-country course was on sand, and now Mr. Musso, a lifeguard in North Wildwood, is aiming to run his first marathon, this fall in Philadelphia, in 2 hours 45 minutes. He considers speed work on the water’s edge an integral part of his training.

He has good reason to use the sand to make him faster. Beach running isn’t easy.

It’s like “running with weights on your ankles,” said Dr. R. Amadeus Mason, a team physician for USA Track and Field and an assistant professor of orthopedics and family medicine at Emory University. With or without shoes, “it’s harder to get your foot planted into the ground, and it’s harder to get your foot up off the ground,” Dr. Mason said.

Running on sand requires 1.6 times the energy that running on a hard surface requires, and your body has to work harder to respond to “external modifications,” said Dr. Thierry M. Lejeune, of St. Luke’s University Clinics in Belgium, lead author of a study on beach running that appeared last year in The Journal of Experimental Biology.

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