There are several parkruns entirely on beaches, but not loads, so I decided not to miss my chance to fit another in. This is a fairly new parkrun, in that this was only the 18th event, but it started before everything closed down in 2020, so it is a year and a half old.
There is a car park right next to the start, and there are also toilets there. The car parks along the sea front are all quite expensive, though, so for cheaper paid parking, park in town or on the sea front itself. In town, it’s £1 an hour, on the road at the front, £4 for 3 hours. Alternatively, a little further North, there’s free parking. I parked in Salisbury Road, from where it’s about half a mile to the start, and there are more toilets on the sea front at the end of the road. Parking by the sea is free here, too.
As well as being a run entirely on sand, which I thought might be kinder to my knee (it was not), this is a relatively small one in attendance – we had 39, which is fairly typical at this point in its life. The record is 160, from the first event, but they’ve only three subsequent times had more than half that.
It’s useful to listen to the first-timers’ briefing if you’ve not been before, as there are a few important instructions. First of all, don’t run in front of anyone fishing – it might be annoying, and they might be casting. Keep on the sand, and don’t run on the dunes once on the town-side part of the course. There are plenty of ‘keep left’ signs on spades, which was a nice touch, and a couple of marshals patrolling to keep us honest.
All of this means that there are only a couple of places with firm footing. There’s an area which has enough grass in the sand, up towards the boating lake. And you get the chance to run nearer the sea once you turn at that end – though the temptation to stay there, in front of fishers, must need a bit of controlling. We were told there were lots of fishers, but that turned out to be just the one, who seemed unbothered by our presence.
Other than that, it’s soft sand, then soft sand with some pebbles, and an occasional tiny incline that feels, thanks to the soft sand I must remember to mention, like a big hill. It is very tough. I have run Woolacombe Dunes, famously hard thanks to having an actual hill up a dune, but was significantly quicker there (over 8 minutes). I am, admittedly, a different runner now, with only one good knee, but gosh, this was hard. The Dunes run has a lovely downhill bit. This one, flat. With soft, soft sand.
Still, don’t use my times as a guide. Expect to be a minute or so per kilometre slower than a fast course – it was more than that for me.
It is absolutely lovely, though. The conditions will vary wildly with the seasons, and even from week to week. We had some crazy clouds, and a bit of a headwind for the South-bound section, but it was pretty good. A cold start, but this is an ideal way to warm up, and running (or struggling) through (I use the word advisedly, and not “on”) the sand with the sound of the sea rushing in to shore is a glorious thing.
Other than the run the Venetian waterways, right next to the course, were renovated in 2019 and look great. There are hotels all along the front, and also several cafes, which combined to torment us with the smell of breakfast on the entire route. The Beach Cafe itself opens at 10, though looked open when we finished, so may have clued in to the fact that some customers are appearing from the beach at 9:30. I managed to resist, walked back along the front past people setting up for the Fire on the Water festival, and drove along the sea front to soak up a little more sea air.