Woolacombe Dunes parkrun Event #77

Run Reporter Andy Lack
25th September 2021

Firstly a big thank you to the 15 volunteers that made the event possible, every runner is grateful that you get up early on a Saturday to allow parkrun to go ahead safely and extremely well marshalled at Woolacombe dunes.

If you are not in the habit of volunteering please do so, it is very rewarding and the runners are always very appreciative.

88 people ran walked or jogged the course, 39 of which were first timers.

Stunning morning as we gathered on marine drive, the mist had cleared giving a glorious view across Mortehoe bay. High tide at 9:10 meaning the ocean would be licking our running shoes as we ran the approximately 3k across the golden sands, incidentally recently voted the best beach in the UK.

What can be said about this unique parkrun that has not already been versed.

Those that have run it never forget the dune of doom as it saps the strength and energy from your legs, however for me the real test comes once you top the dune.

At this point you think the hard work is done very wrong, with over a kilometre to go the sandy path saps the last bit of energy from your legs, only to be confronted by the steep path ran down at the start, once at the top, the turn leaves you a further 300 meters of gentle up hill as you know it hurts.

Summing up woolacombe dunes park run, I see it as beauty and the scorpion, great views and everlasting memories of running. With the Scorpion showing it’s teeth, with the final sting from its tail during the last lung sapping kilometre.

It should be on all park runners must run list, simple the best.



woolacombe Dunes parkrun Event #76 – A Sandy Challenge

Woolacombe Dunes parkrun, let's take these three words one at a time. Woolacombe, is a seaside resort on the North Devon coast. The resort beach has a fantastic two mile stretch of golden sand that faces the Atlantic Ocean and draws in tourists all year round.

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The dunes are the area of sand between the beach and the headland that have been blow into mounds or small hills and require a good amount of energy to scale. The 230 feet elevation gain might not sound too much but the majority of the course is sand and the icing on the cake is the Dune of Doom !!

parkrun is an all inclusive, 5 kilometer, world wide phenomenon for anyone that wants to run, jog or walk that distance on a Saturday morning at 9 a.m.

This is my run review of a course that sites in National Trust land, includes the South West coastal path and proudly relishes its North Devon AONB status (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).

Woolacombe Dunes parkrun has been labelled the toughest in the UK and it has been on my bucket list for a while, I can confirm that the event lives up to its billing and on top of the difficulty the inspiring views almost make up for the lung and calf busting test that you experience.

Parking on top of the headland the beach’s full glory takes your breath away, facilities wise the Porthole café has toilets and naturally tempting food and drink on offer. I arrived early so as to get my bearings and have a chat with Paul Cooper the race director. Parkrun simply wouldn’t exist without the volunteers who cover all that’s required to give us a great run, so thankyou to Woolacombe’s volunteers.
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Our run briefing was informative and entertaining, lets say we all knew what was in store and we all knew we were in good hands.

142 of us set off in an orderly fashion due to the width of Marine Drive, at the standard 9 a.m. time. The first 400 meters were slightly quicker than I’d planned but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who did this, however, it allowed us to space out. A sharp right hand turn took us onto a compacted track that was no more than ten feet wide and quite steep. In no time at all we took a sharp left hand turn onto the South West coastal path, a sandy undulating track that immediately introduced you to the “sand factor” that would play a part in the rest of our run. The ferns and rough grass either side of the track made it easy to see where the trail was heading.

Apparently according to studies running on sand requires 1.6 times more energy than running on a hard surface. Yes, our friend “Lactic acid” was about to kick in. That burning sensation in your lungs and muscles is a sure sign you really are trying your best.

The undulating path then took a steep drop down to the beach, so care was needed as your momentum meant your feet sunk quite deeply into the shifting sand. As we hit the beach it was a magnificent sight, no wonder it’s an award winner !! This was the first mile done and with hindsight, the easiest mile of the three.
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Next a mile of beach running and what immediately struck me was just how far the leading pace setters were ahead. However, first things first, this is a run and not a race. The sand was reasonably good underfoot but still with that slight “sinking” sensation. We had lots of room with it being out of Summer season, no jellyfish, children’s sand castles or Dad’s buried up to necks to avoid !!

The white water of the breaking Atlantic waves, the squawks of seagulls overhead and the salty taste in the air all added to the seaside vibe but even though nature was trying to offer us wellbeing and mindful distractions the inevitable trip back up the sand dunes couldn’t be disguised.

The golden sand is clearly what beings tourism to the area and I, like the majority of the parkrun tourists that have run here, contemplated how lovely it would be to live here.
As the two mile mark approached so did the Dune of Doom. A twenty meter incline that had our names nailed on it, character building, yes, painful, yes but that said, an experience to remember.
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With seventy odd runners already having scaled the dune with was a mixed blessing. The imbedded footprints were almost like stepping stones to aim for so as not to interrupt new shifting sand but at the same time where the sand had been churned up it gave you an unbalanced feeling.

The lactic acid in my lungs and calves had hit in big time and there was almost a sense of an anxiety dreams when you are running with lots of effort but not actually getting anywhere !!
What encouraged me was the fact that I overtook a coupe of people with my fast walking and once at the top there was definitely a “Rocky” moment when he runs to the top of those stairs in the film. However, there was no time to dwell on reaching the top it was a case of trying to get back into a rhythm and trying to even out you breathing.

We were once again on the sandy Coastal path with a repeat of the undulating trail until, as I suspected, we joined the compacted path that that took us up the headland to Marine Drive. The speed that I generated on my return was in stark contrast to almost having to put the breaks on coming down.

Again, aggressive fast walking and some slow running were required. Thankfully the lactic acid kicked in for the final time. However, with only the prospect of 400 meters left once summitted this spurred me on to dig deep and find my “inner fell runner”. Once we hit that home straight it was still curiously uphill when it felt quite flat at the beginning of our 5K.
I guess these are the tricks our mind plays on us when we are fresh and when we are done in, ha ha.
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I took out my parkrun barcode, thanked the volunteer for scanning the tags and briefly thanked Paul the Race Director with my final words being “I’ll be back”. The event is a great partnership between the National Trust land and the spirit of parkruns inclusive community running . Naturally there are hundreds of parkruns up and down the country but this is a special one.

Time wise 33.40 and position wise 76th out of 142 wasn’t too bad but I know I can do better now I know what’s involved. Whether this review has wet your appetite or confirmed that you will be steering well clear thanks for reading.

In summary, if you look up the words scenic or challenging in the dictionary there will be a picture of Woolacombe Dunes parkrun but it’s the same picture when you look up rewarding too . A great day, a tick on my bucket list and a pleasure writing about it.

Cheers, Roger

This report also features on Roger's blog, IRUNOFFROAD. If you would like to read about more of Roger's off road running adventures, you can do so here https://irunoffroad.com

This week 142 people ran, jogged and walked the course, of whom 91 were first timers and 7 recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 42 different clubs took part.

The event was made possible by 17 volunteers:

Roger THOMASSON • Michael NOTT • Jonathan FAIRHURST • Paul COOPER • Jane RATTUE • Malcolm KIRK • Will COOPER • Paula WIDDOWS • Peter REAN • David RATTUE • Andrew REA • Ann WALLACE • Peter MURPHY • Gracie HUGHES • Julia WATKISS • Noah ZEALE • Jo MORTIMER


Woolacombe Dunes parkrun Event #75 – A parkrun Tourist’s View

Run Reporter: Colin Earl
Home parkrun: Rotherham
11th Spetember 2021

My wife (Fiona) and I are keen parkrun tourists; Fiona has 251 parkruns in total to her name and over 70 different events and I have 205 total parkuns and over 60 different ones to my credit. We were delighted to be able to do the iconic Woolacombe Dunes event while on our holiday in Devon. We were staying in nearby Croyde, which is only a short ‘hop, skip and jump’ to this parkrun.
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We had heard and read so much about the Woolacombe Dunes parkrun, and for us it would be intriguing to see how much of a challenge it would be compared with some of the ‘toughies’ we have done in the North; including in particular Whinlatter and Lyme Park. Each is tough for its own reasons and wow, like these others, Woolacombe didn’t let us down.
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For anyone who doesn’t know, Whinlatter is brutally hilly and Lyme Park is hilly and fell-like, with quite technical terrain to negotiate. More on Woolacombe below. All three are beautifully scenic.

The weather today was kind, with it being bright and calm. We arrived fairly early in order to take in the event atmosphere. A big shout out to the lady and gent attending the car park entrance for their best wishes ahead of the event. When we got to the start area there was much excitement and chatter amongst the 130 runners taking part, which appeared to include a majority who were tourists, as is probably the norm for this event. There were runners on the start line from many places across the country including York, Bristol and London, and a large contingent of juniors from the Wycombe Phoenix Harriers and Athletic Club.
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The course is a single lap run on National Trust land and an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB). Runners are treated to stunning views of Woolacombe Bay. The pre-briefings added some excitement to the proceedings, when runners were advised it was going to be high tide in the bay at 9-30am – so high, in fact, we would have to detour around the rocks on the beach that are reached just before the ‘dune of doom’.

The run director set us off promptly, after a succinct briefing. The first 400 metres or so were downhill on compacted track and allowed the field to fan out a little before a steep downhill to join the South Coast footpath. I had anticipated this would be a compacted footpath, as it is elsewhere in the area and was a little shocked to find it was sand! This was going to be even harder than I had estimated.

After around half-mile, the path converged with the beach and we made a right-angle turn and headed towards Woolacombe. I felt the high tide added to the event, with the water lapping against the runners’ feet. I mis-judged the waves on a couple of occasions and ended up with wet feet. It was tough-going for what felt like ages although after a few minutes the climb back up from the beach to the coastal path loomed large.
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Summiting this climb is met with some relief, but it is not time to be complacent because after a further half-mile or so, the steep hill we ran down earlier to reach the coastal path now had to be climbed. This is a real sting in the tail which doesn’t receive the same amount of commentary as the dune of doom and is, therefore, a bit of a shock. However, from my own point of view I was not going to be beaten by it and am pleased I achieved my own challenge for today, which was to run the whole event. This landed me into 9th place which I am really pleased with.
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We stayed in Woolacombe for a drink and bite to eat at Meraki Coffee, which is recommended by the parkrun team. This turned out to be a good choice and we would similarly recommend it to anyone else taking part in this event in the future.

The event delivered everything we anticipated, an expertly organised parkrun, a super-friendly atmosphere and, of course, the infamous ‘dune of doom’. All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit. It’s a must for any parkrunner. This is one of the most unique and enjoyable events we have visited.
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I would really like to thank the Run Director and all the other volunteers. Everyone in the parkrun team were welcoming and encouraging – thank you to all of you. I would encourage all parkrunners to volunteer from time to time or, if you are unable to, to at least thank the marshalls as you pass them on your run or at the finish. Having volunteered myself almost 50 times, I can say it’s very heart-warming when the runners show their appreciation.

This week 130 people ran, jogged and walked the course, of whom 86 were first timers and 2 recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 22 different clubs took part.

The event was made possible by 16 volunteers:

Chris DENT • Colin EARL • Jonathan FAIRHURST • Paul COOPER • Jane RATTUE • Teresa KIRK • Will COOPER • Rebecca WORTH • Simon OLIVER • Nicola OLIVER • David RATTUE • Andrew REA • Caroline PAGE • Gracie HUGHES • Julia WATKISS • Noah ZEALE


Woolacombe Dunes parkrun Event #74 – A Perfect Saturday Treat

As the summer holidays draw to a close, the temperature soars, creating perfect blue skies and glorious views across Woolacombe Bay.

However Woolacombe Dunes parkrunners usually prefer a bit of rain to dampen down the sand on the Dune of Doom, and a southerly wind to blow you down the beach!

Personally I was happy to be a volunteer today instead of a participant. It is always good to experience parkrun from a different angle, and I certainly enjoyed being the Roving Reporter!



It was a good turn-out (129) with lots of visitors (one as far away as Orkney!), some local runners and walkers, and the usual crew of lovely volunteers.




Not many PB’s today in the hot sunshine and soft sand… it felt a bit cruel taking photos at the top of the “Dune of Doom”, but I still got a few smiles!



It’s always good to see everyone enjoying the view and a post-race coffee at the Porthole…https://www.facebook.com/theportholewoolacombe/

it’s become a perfect Saturday morning treat.



by Nicola Oliver

Home parkrun - Woolacombe Dunes


Woolacombe Dunes parkrun Event #73 – A tale of two runs

Cast your mind back to 10th august 2019, height of the summer…… or more likely gale force winds and torrential rain and my first trip to this awesome parkrun. Had a blast with my best friend as we navigated the course in the rain and wind – literally flew across the mile long beach section with the wind behind us, even the dune of doom was manageable in the wet sand…..
Fast forward two years to 28th august 2021, back again on holiday. This time bringing the husband. Excited about trying again in the sun and the good weather, even more excited when a Facebook post suggested we turned up wearing our brightest outfit - I do like to be bright ! Armed with our leis and my brightest outfit we arrived early, chatted to some of the lovely volunteers and met another family also wearing suitably bright outfits.
Started the run, felt good, I’m not a fast runner so soon settled in to a good pace going downhill to the beach, having loads of fun running though the dunes in the lovely soft sand…… then you get to the mile long section running along the beach, I love this part, although not wind assisted this year I still made a good pace for me, met up with another lovely lady visiting and we had a nice chat. And then you come to the “Dune of Doom” feeling slight smug in the fact I’d done this before albeit in wet sand, how hard could it be? It’s just a little sand surely? Well I stepped up with one foot, sunk
back down 5 steps…. Tried again a few more times and was getting nowhere fast. It was ridiculous. I seemed to be going backwards at one point….. the lovely marshal at the bottom once he’d stopped laughing at me helped me by telling me to take small steps and once I’d found a rhythm and stepped in other people footprints, I actually managed to make it up the hill. The husband was taking pics and videos of me, then there’s a nice run back to the start through the sand dunes up to a nice tarmac/gravel finish where you could actually do a bit of decent running (if we weren’t trying to
recover from the dune! Finished a lot slower than last time and someone asked me once if finished if
I enjoyed it, my initial response was no! The dune of doom was ridiculous, however once I’d recovered I did think it was a brilliant parkrun, the core team was friendly and the volunteers great, a lovely atmosphere, there were facilities at the start and a lovely café afterwards. Can’t wait to go back next year! Definitely one for the favourite list, but you have been warned, there’s a reason its called the dune of doom and classed as one of the hardest parkruns…….
By Lynsey Miles from the Curly Wurly (Somerdale pavilion – equally as nuts but nowhere near as hard)


Woolacombe Dunes parkrun
Event number 73
28th August 2021
This week 224 people ran, jogged and walked the course, of whom 131 were first timers and 21 recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 47 different clubs took part.

The event was made possible by 16 volunteers:

Jenny STONE • Paul COOPER • Jane RATTUE • Will COOPER • Lynsey MILES • Chloe LAMBERT • Rebecca WORTH • David RATTUE • Linda PAGE • Andrew REA • Caroline KEMP • Caroline PAGE • Gracie HUGHES • Michael LAMBERT • Noah ZEALE • Jo MORTIMER

Today's full results and a complete event history can be found on the Woolacombe Dunes parkrun Results Page.

The female record is held by Mara YAMAUCHI who recorded a time of 21:07 on 22nd December 2018 (event number 2).
The male record is held by Ronnie RICHMOND who recorded a time of 17:33 on 1st January 2020 (event number 56).
The Age Grade course record is held by Emmie WHITE who recorded 79.57% (24:33) on 31st August 2019 (event number 38).

Woolacombe Dunes parkrun started on 15th December 2018. Since then 4,848 participants have completed 9,535 parkruns covering a total distance of 47,675 km, including 1,321 new Personal Bests. A total of 228 individuals have volunteered 1,141 times.

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