WOOLACOMBE DUNES parkrun EVENT #86 – Running into a sandstorm namely Storm ARWEN!

Run Report written by Mike Harper
Home parkrun : Bideford
That parkrun was off the scale crazy. I've been running for over 40 years and have
never experienced a sandblasting run directly into a Storm before!
First things first, all the parkruns in Cornwall were off, all the parkruns in North Devon
were off except this one.
Credit has to go to Jonathan for keeping Woolacombe open, when the main road was
blocked, so we had to use some very narrow lanes.
52 crazy, I mean brave, nope crazy, parkrunners shivered at the start line, but without
doubt, even more than for a standard week the volunteers were the absolute stars. It
was so cold & windy, at least we were moving, although barely on the beach. The lady
stood on the beach was fabulous, I think sand was covering her boots. It was so high!
I know the volunteers get a front page thank you but going above and beyond this week
I have to include them in my report.
I should warn you I quite like stats!
The U.K had 430 parkruns survive, many of the 300 cancellations were in the west.
I'm pleased to say that no under 11's were running, in fact only 2 runners were under
Fabulous effort from Jacob Hartley JM11-14 to complete the run today.
One runner - Helen Holmes - was running her first ever parkrun, someone is
guaranteed a huge p.b next time ��
Of the 430 surviving parkruns, the top age grade here of 61.06% was the lowest in the
The conditions were the toughest so far experienced at Woolacombe, the previous
slowest 1st time was 22.52, today Chris Suter ran 25.23 for the 0001 token, significantly
slower, but a superb effort given that beach mile.
Similarly, the top female time has always been a sub 30 minute run, but Shell Smith
battled to an excellent 31.18 today.

I've run at 130 different parkruns and my slowest time when actually trying was 23.25 on
NYD at a muddy hilly Henley-On-Thames, today I shuffled to 33.06, so I look forward to
returning and bagging a 6 or 7 minute p.b!
The event itself is excellent, cafe open early, excellent and numerous choices there too,
loos open early, parking is easy on Marine Drive, very close to the start.
The first mile is potentially quite fast, downhill from the car park, tarmac, then sandy
paths down to the beach. The mile along the beach can be fine, it seems to head
directly north, so you just don't want a strong northerly storm in your face. If you do, in
hindsight I'd recommend ski goggles and leggings, not shorts!
I kept shuffling along the beach, the wind occasionally blew you to a standstill, the sand
really stings your legs if you're wearing shorts. I just kept looking ahead to the Dune of
Doom, not as I had anticipated with trepidation, but in relief, knowing that once arriving
there I'd be off the beach.
The Dune did mean that I eventually had to walk, I wondered how many of the really
fast guys actually run up it all the way, I was a 16.30 minute 5k runner 30 years ago,
and I honestly don't know if I could, if I had to guess I'd say no, but some runners are
very strong on hills, but a Dune isn't just a hill, as your feet sink in with every step. Not
something many of us have to worry about.
From the top of the dune, the legs get a bit of rest for a few minutes as you head back
along fairly flat sandy trails. We eventually got back to the steep tarmac track we came
down earlier. It's a steep climb, but it's runnable, as is the final stretch, a slight uphill run
back along a car park area to those fabulous timekeepers.
I will be back and praying for a nice southerly wind


Woolacombe Dunes parkrun Event #84 – enjoying all that parkrun has to offer

Run Report written by Trevor Huggins
Home parkrun: Bushy Park

If parkrun is all about getting outdoors and exercising with a friendly group of people on a Saturday morning, then Woolacombe Dunes is definitely the ideal place. And last Saturday’s event summed up everything that makes parkrun so special. Weather-wise, the local rain clouds had taken the morning off and were watering other people’s gardens, and at times the sun managed to squeak through the clouds and light up the surf as the breakers rolled up the beach. The only opposition came from a light breeze as we headed along the mile of (mercifully) hard sand towards the fabled Dune of Doom, with Woolacombe and its green hills as the picture-postcard backdrop.

Whatever the weather, part of the feelgood factor of this parkrun is being completely surrounded by nature as you follow the sandy tracks below Marine Drive. The roar of the nearby sea is muffled by the dunes and mixed with birdsong from among the shrubs, bracken and blackberry bushes that were groaning with fruit about six weeks ago, but now have nothing to offer. Then you break out onto that fabulous wide beach, and the ever-changing sea, which is sometimes in the distance on your left and occasionally, with a high tide, just a few feet away, almost snapping at your heels.

But what about the run? After all, it’s one of the toughest in the country, thanks to the sandy surface and, of course, that scramble up the Dune of Doom.
The answer to the question is: ‘it’s as hard, or easy, as you want to make it.’ It’s not a race. What’s great about parkrun – and especially here at Woolacombe Dunes -- is that the only competition is yourself, and the elements that Nature decides to serve up on the day. And despite parkrun’s name, you don’t even need to run it. You can jog or walk the whole way round, knowing that you’re among friendly people, with cheerful volunteers (a speciality down here) always being on hand, however long it takes you to get round the course – whether that’s 17 minutes or 57 minutes. It’s true that we have the ideal beach for the movie cameras, but it’s really not Chariots of Fire. In fact, one of the 67 people taking part on Saturday had undergone a hip replacement barely three months earlier…

We know that exercise is good for both the body and the mind. Thanks to the race directors and all the other volunteers at Woolacombe Dunes, we can do this together in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and for free (and there are no parking charges at Marine Drive at this time of year). Add the ever-welcome coffee at the Port Hole café near the finish line and it really is a great way to kickstart anyone’s weekend.
I’ll be back next Saturday…


Christmas and New Year parkrun at Woolacombe Dunes

Yes we are back with a bang this season and plan to host a parkrun here in Woolacombe Dunes on Saturday 25 December - Christmas Day AND Saturday 1 January - New Years day. See you there with bells on!


Woolacombe Dunes parkrun Event #83 – The Windy one

Run Report by Vicky Cooper

Home parkrun - Chippenham

One of the things I love about being a parkrun ambassador is helping teams set up new events and then going back periodically and visiting the teams, running the course or volunteering and just generally catching up with everyone and finding out what they’ve been up to since my last visit.

And so it was with Woolacombe Dunes parkrun (WDp) on Saturday; their first event was held on 15th December 2018 and so it’s nearly three years old and a lot of the original core team are still involved; as with all parkruns, some volunteers have moved away and gone on to do other things (probably parkrun related!) and there is some new blood onboard also.

I have to say, I think I’ve yet to run on a warm, toasty non-windy day at Woolacombe – but then it wouldn’t be the same! It had rained a little beforehand, as the hardy crew set up, it was windy whilst David delivered the first timers briefing – noting that the battery had died in the speaker – or the speaker had given up the ghost - so unless you were up front, you missed his humorous messaging. We then all moved down to the start line to listen to Paul, the RD on the day (and also co-event director) providing the main run briefing. It didn’t help matters that my lovely running companion Oscar, decided this was the perfect opportunity to bark and try to get the attention of the golden retriever nearby that he wanted to play; Oscar and I moved further back to minimise disruption.

This was Oscar’s 11th parkrun and whilst he’s sort of getting the idea of it, I’ve long since given up the hope of a pre-Covid performance. However, it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things does it. What matters is we’re spending time, with people we like, taking part in an event we love, being outside and getting fresh air and exercise.

WDp is simply the most stunning parkrun I’ve been to – and I’ve been to a few; but I guess I could be biased. What I specifically like about this one is I can compartmentalise it into 3 – sort of 3 miles you could say. So, we set off and the first third is downhill and I’m tying to ensure we don’t get caught up with any other runners or dogs; I wear a running belt and the lead is no more than 1 metre long but Oscar doesn’t run fast yet, so there’s always a little slack in the lead. Down you go, then left and down some more on the soft sand. Not sure he was keen on that; he decided now was the perfect opportunity to have a sniff about in the grass to the side; oh well, at least we’ve moved over for the other runners


Woolacombe Dunes parkrun Event #82 – The Spooky one

Run Report by Dave Sowerby-Williams

Home parkrun - Chippenham

It’s that time of year where there are whispers of strange and spooky occurrences haunting the lands, which clearly need investigation… Of course, the famous line tells us what we need to do “if there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who are you going to call?  PARKRUNNERS!!” So we had to make plans to seek out the creepiest venue around for this week’s parkrun… which of course means going to experience the mythical location that is most definitely whispered about in parkrunning circles because of its ability to conjure wails and groans, where could this location be?  Why of course it’s the DUNE OF DOOM over at Woolacombe Dunes!

The first downhill

So off we went (oops we forgot our proton packs!) following the ghosts and ghouls that could be seen heading in the direction of Woolacombe… but what we really should have been expecting to find there when we arrived was in fact a super friendly team of volunteers ready to welcome us runners to their truly beautiful event.  

As regular tourists, we love seeing how all the different events are set up and organised and all the special touches that the team prepares to welcome first timers, tourists and their regular runners… This week the wonderful team were definitely feeling the eerie season in their spine chilling costumes (especially those in pink, spooky!), but of course, their warmth was what really shone through.


While we were waiting for the event to start, it’s hard to not be drawn into the breathtaking backdrop of this wonderful location. It almost fools you into a false sense of excitement about the parkrun you’re about to complete!  After a first timers briefing and then the run briefing it was time to go… a nice downhill section to start you off with that thought in the back of your head of “will we have to run up this later on?” but also a warm fuzzy feeling that you are running through such beautiful scenery and a big grin at how crazy the course is as you run around the course!  

It took a while, but we finally got there… to this much-discussed and often highlighted point in all of the parkruns out there… THE DUNE! 


Words can’t prepare you for what you will find there, but it seems appropriate given the weekend that it was definitely terrifying and petrifying and yet such a thrill to run up!  There’s nothing else quite like it the parkrun world, which is why Woolacombe is such a must-do parkrun :) 

Once we left the dune behind us, we thought thank goodness… we’re nearly finished, it’s nearly done!  But, no - Woolacombe Dunes still had a treat for you, to get back to the finish you’ve got a hill to climb (or is that two, maybe three?)  perfectly placed though were the marshals, who everywhere you needed them were there with words of encouragement and cheering you on in your attempt to defeat the dune (and direction) of doom!  Thank you to all of the super marshals for their help to get around!

Finally, you see the finish… but your legs don’t have anything left to give until you hear people behind you and you find that second wind… and you’re across the line and done!  Immediately wondering why you don’t just stay in bed on a Saturday morning before you remind yourself that you feel runderful and wouldn’t give up parkrun for the world :D 

Thank you Woolacombe Dunes parkrun, all the volunteers and to the runners for such a memorable day… we will definitely be back!

Today there were 128 runners with 47 first-timers to Woolacombe Dunes and 2 first timers to any parkrun (welcome, hopefully you enjoyed your first time in the parkrun family!)  and amazingly 23 runners achieved brand new shiny personal bests!! Well done to you all too!  

This week’s wonderful event couldn’t have taken place without the fantastic volunteers, so thank you to:

Nick BILBY, Paul COOPER, Will COOPER, Lisa DEARNE, Gracie HUGHES, Caroline KEMP, Grant MCGILL, Nicky MCGILL, Caroline PAGE, Linda PAGE, Andrew REA, Dave SOWERBY-WILLIAMS, Rebecca WORTH, and Noah ZEALE

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