One of the big benefits of running is the opportunity to experience nature at close range.

Since many runners stick to the same dawn and dusk schedule often preferred by wild animals, it’s not unusual to hear them comparing wildlife sightings with the same enthusiasm they have for comparing mileage.

It’s a beautiful surprise to see a coyote casually loping along the dune line, or a deer and fawn peering out near a wooded trail, or a family of nutria swimming toward their home, but not all encounters with nature are as pleasant.

The latest reminder that Mother Nature doesn’t just hand us blue birds and roses is the influx of seaweed that anyone running along the beach or on the seawall in Galveston has noticed.

While freshly washed-up seaweed has a tangy, salty smell, after a few days it begins to lose its appeal.

As it ages and decomposes, the smell becomes sulfurous and is unpleasant to inhale, though not actually harmful.

What really makes running a challenge when the seaweed piles up is the swarm of gnats that live in old seaweed.

It’s almost impossible to run near them without inhaling a few.

Perhaps it’s time for beach runners to try a change of scenery.

For those who just can’t run without a view of the Gulf to inspire them, McGuire-Dent Recreation Center at Menard Park has a row of treadmills overlooking the Gulf and the seawall.

The rec center is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and using it is free for all residents and visitors.

Running on a track may lack the cool beach breezes, but at 5:30 a.m., when Legion Fitness hits the track at Ball High School every Thursday, it’s still relatively cool.

In addition to the coached workout Thursday, the track is open at other times as well.

It won’t be long before the seaweed is gone and beach running becomes a pleasant encounter with nature.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of safe, fun options nearby.

Bernice Torregrossa is a five-time marathoner and a water exercise instructor. She can be reached at bernice92@aol.com.

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