Stuck In the Middle With You: How to get a Strava segment in the middle of the English Channel.

My trainers look REALLY clean at the moment. Like REALLY clean. This is probably because I am spending most of my running time semi submerged in water. 

After attending Love Trails festival the previous weekend (no blog on the because I pretty much hated it although the running was good!) I trotted out to Dover for attempt number 487 to recce the Rat Race Project Explore: Goodwin Sands 5K. We have honestly tried to do this about 6 times and every single time it has been called off with hours to spare due to “weather”. Let me explain. 

Goodwin Sands is a sandbank situated in the English channel between Deal and french France. It’s about 10 miles off Dover, in the middle of the worlds busiest shipping lane. It pops up for about 45 mins a day and then it’s gone. Basically, this is a 5K in the middle of the sea and the only one of it’s type in the world. Sounds legit, right? 


So the day came and it looked like we were actually game on. After a few beers the night before and some map checking, we headed to Dover Marina on Tuesday morning, where we jumped on a pretty nifty little boat and sped out towards the sands. Submerged during the day, this is the site of shipwrecks and plane crashes, with the submerged bank often catching mariners off guard. On the way out we spotted wrecks on the rocks and heard tales of buried war planes. You can see some of the wreckage as you speed out to sea, leaving the white cliffs behind you as you bounce along the waves.

Dover from le bateau. 

After a 20 min boat ride we were given our life jackets and escorted off the boat to start the recce. As we dismount the boat, we start to see the seals. In my eyes, seals are the wolverine clowns of the sea, with sharp flipper claws and cute bitey faces. They were bobbing along next to us, like curious dogs, as we appeared out of the water. I was beside myself with joy, I decided I wanted to cuddle a seal. I was warned against this and it did prove difficult. (Spolier - the seals did not want a cuddle from me)

There she is! Goodwin Sands starts to appear. 

Myself and Lee (of Mongolia fame) were given flags and told to find a 5K route. Why does Jim trust me with this stuff?! So Lee took the lead and we decided to attempt to run the ever changing edge of the sands and mark out a 5K loop using the flags. 

The sand looked flat and compact. It is neither. Much like the frozen lake it is VERY hard to judge the terrain - what looks flat is actually undulating, rippled and quite technical. And in some places, very, very soft - stand there too long and it will suck you in and not let go. Pools of water are everywhere and there are constant rivers of water running up and down the bank, some of them a lot deeper than they look. 

Wettest MDS ever. 

Boats waiting for us to hopefully not die. 

Lee before the incident we don’t mention where his life jacket went off because he “splashed” it. 

Lee and I soon learnt that the edge of the bank is the flatest and easiest part to run on, so started making our way around the edge. There were seals everywhere, sunbathing on the bank and looking slightly pissed off at having to move as we approached. They slithered into the sea like massive slugs and then stayed there bobbing up and down and waiting for us to leave so they could get on with their hectic schedule of sunbathing. They were massive and funny. 

“Please be my friend!”


We made our way round, dropping flags, going back on ourselves and trying to navigate to 5K, working out how we would mark the route for the actual event in August. It was stunningly beautiful, quiet, almost eerie and being able to run towards the white cliffs while being in the middle of the sea was just amazing. The solitude was beautiful, the fear that you could get stuck was real and the sand was deep and very wet. 

Spot the seal.

NOT my friends. 

We eventually came back to where we started an hour after we had been dropped off. Longest Parkrun ever. But we had done it and we now know other people can do it in safety. 

On the way back we talked about the type of runner the event would attract - would people be smashing it out? Would they be going hell for leather, trying to get round in the faster possible time or would they stop, walk a bit and take in just how amazing this experience is? Is it possible for the fast people to actually do 2 loops for a 10K? I guess we will find out in August when the first intrepid Rat Racers get to try it for themselves. 

Dover from the sands. Epic. 

Goodwin Sands 5K is all booked up for this year but you can still register interest for next time round here. I would recommend you do. This is once in a lifetime stuff. Just don’t even thing about seal cuddles. 

Also massive thank to Lee for being my personal videographer on this one - I will miss you pal. Strava segment after the jump!

LOL Strava.