for those who love the outdoors

26 July, 2022

The Toughest Parkrun in the World - probably

Have you run Woolacombe Dunes parkrun? Well you really rather should. Though be prepared... the Dune of Doom is real!

Woolacombe dunes parkrun

If you want the abridged version of this recap - watch our short video below.

This North Devon parkrun is set in the stunning sand dunes of Woolacombe beach, and is widely regarded as one of the most challenging courses in the UK.

Can you buggy run on sand?

We got in touch with the event organiser and asked about taking part with a running buggy and my co-pilot in tow. They said it would be challenging... they weren't wrong! We know we would take it slowly and it would be more about the experience as opposed to going for a time - they were happy, I was happy, BabyGurl had no idea what we were about to run!

On a hard packed trail, the hilly undulating terrain of this course would be challenging for many anyway, but add in the soft sand and narrow paths and it certainly makes for one of the toughest parkrun's in the country.

But... the views are worth it.

The Toughest Parkrun in the UK

According to Athletics Weekly (click here to see the full list), Woolacombe Dunes is second behind Great Yarmouth North Beach and just in front of Whinlatter Forest parkrun.

There's a reason this parkrun is tough... the sand and... the dune of doom!

The Parkrun Course

The course starts off down a gently, all be it bumpy, track for a couple of hundred metres before taking a sharp right down a much steeper path. Pushing the buggy at this point, I'm grateful for having on my trail running shoes on as we start to meet some of the sand underfoot and a good grip is definitely needed here.

We make a sharp left and onto the south west coastal path. The first hundred metres or so isn't too bad - a bit of sand slowing our running buggy down, but bearable. Another hundred or so metres along and we hit the soft sand. The kind of sand that feels like you're pushing the buggy through quick sand. With each step, the buggy gets heavier and harder to push and we start to walk.

We wiggle our way down the second kilometre with a few narrow parts for the buggy to navigate and then we see the flat, wide open beach ahead of us.

A short stretch before we open up our stride onto the flat hard sand of Woolacombe Beach. We pick up the pace, we make up a few places, we're loving life and my co-pilot is enjoying going "fast" again and about 500m before we have to make the turn into the sand dunes ahead, the soft sand returns. Babygurl wants to get out and run too, which I'm extremely grateful for as we make the approach to the Dune of Doom!

The Dune of Doom

It has been called that name for a reason, people. The Dune of Doom is a killer, and takes us up what feels like 100 metres in height over a very short distance. That's not all... with every step you take, your foot is slipping back in deep sand so you're taking one step forward for every two back!

There was no way you could (Safely) push a buggy up this dune. My co-pilot wanted to run it herself so off she went as I was left to drag the buggy up behind me. A little stop for a waterbreak in the middle for babygurl and we carried on to the top!

Hurrah... we made it!

As we turn for the remaining 1.5km or so, the terrain was a mixture of soft sand with some more compact path too. Babygurl would run the soft parts and hop in the buggy over the hard. We've built up a pretty good routine together and we were now cruising through the heart of the dunes with beautiful fauna surrounding us.

We're now in the heart of the dunes and the views open up in front of us. Truly stunning scenery to run through, but I'm also starting to feel the burn in my legs from all the extra effort required to keep going through the sand.

The Final Push

Before we make the sharp ascent, we chat to one of the many volunteer marshalls on course (mainly so I can have a breather from pushing). We're told we have just under a kilometre to go and it's all uphill. The good news is, there's no more sand to contend with and the buggy wheels will find some traction on the hard packed path.

The first hill is pretty steep and again I'm grateful for wearing my traily's as I get a bit of extra grip on the toes when leaning into the buggy uphill. We round the corner and with 400m to go, we push for the line.

We made it.

I'm absolutely knackered, my legs feel like they're made of lead. I high-five my co-pilot (who did an amazing job too having run about 2km of the course!), say our thankyou's to the amazing volunteer team and... make our way over the café for the well earned parkrun debrief.

Should you run this course with a buggy?

I must point out that I've been buggy running for well over 6 years so have quite a lot of experience on most terrains having completed many races with my kids over the years from wintery trail ten milers to half marathons with the kiddos. I wouldn't recommend this run with a buggy if you're new to buggy running or aren't running with a proper run buggy. I would also strongly advise against running with a child in a buggy that's too young.

This parkrun was only really possible because I knew my kiddo would be happy to jump out and walk / run the really hard bits. I just don't think it would be safe with anyone younger and you certainly couldn't push the buggy up the dune of doom.

Woolacombe dunes parkrun buggy run

Would we do it again?

100% absolutely we'd do this again - although next time...perhaps without the buggy.

Woolacombe Dunes Parkrun

For more details and information on parking and such, have a look at the parkrun website here.

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