Manhattan Beach Sand Dune

33rd and Bell Ave
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
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Type: Outdoors
Category: Fitness
Company: Friends you want to torture, Dates who won't mind seeing you cry and/or vomit.
Cost: $1.

Quick-Rec: It’s a giant hill of deep sand. You go up, and down, swear its your last one, then argue with yourself and begrudgingly repeat.
There is also a set of stairs alongside, if you get scared off.

OTC Tip: Run either barefoot or in some type of sock - ditch the shoes for sure.

Review: There are many things in life that are extremely challenging, and then there are people who want to make them harder. Winning the Tour de France 7 times isn’t tough enough? Lose part of your manhood first. President of the United States? Do it as a Bush. 100 yard hill with a 12% grade? Screw it, make it out of sand.

(I’ll let you figure out which picture goes with each example)

This post should really be titled: “Sand Dune – an act of Exercise Masochism”. Any optimism you have at the bottom of the Dune is quickly reduced to simple ignorance. The majority (actually, pretty much everyone) walk up to the top of the Dune and back down. That alone is a killer workout. I use that technique as a warm up before stretching, and am already out of breath.

But I don’t like doing the (relatively) easy option. I want to get my heart rate to a deathly level. I want to push myself to the brink of seeing my lunch again. So I run the damn Dune. I suggest doing set of 5 – 10 sprints, but not to the top. I place a cone about 40 yds or so up the hill and gas it to there, walk back down and immediately go back up. This combination of sprints keeps my body pumping at a much higher rate than just walking it. Plus I get to feel like a badass, which is really why anyone should subject himself to this hell.

So, aside from the pain part, what does running the hill actually feel like? With each step I was surprised with how slow I was going, and how much I sank. The sand is fairly deep, slowing down the progress. If you focus, you can step on denser and lower pockets of sand, making the trip easier. During each rep, I reached a burnout point about 30 yards up, making the last 10 that much more excruciating. On the bright side, the Dune takes less of a physical toll on the joints, compared with running on pavement. The sand absorbs most of the impact, and the steep angle means that you aren't raising your legs as high with each step, thus reducing the downward force. On the flip, the unsteadiness of the sand offers a higher chance of tweaking knee or ankle. I would rank running the Dune right after running hills/stadiums but above flat pavement in regards to short- and long-term injuries potential.

Due to nearby residents complaining about the amount of traffic associated with the Dune, there is now an online reservation system for using the Dune. I’ve heard some people gripe about it being a pain to have to sign up, but the way I see it is if THAT is too much trouble, then the Dune isn’t right for you. It’s easy enough that anyone can figure it out (see middle image above). Initial registration takes longer than you would expect, but after that, it’s as simple as logging in and choosing when to go. You need to present the confirmation page along with a dollar bill to the attendants at the park.

One of the upsides of the reservation process is that there will only be a half dozen or so other idiots with you on the Dune. However, this means that you don’t have the usual gaggle of people to help push you along. Everyone is guilty of being on a treadmill and setting their speed to juuuuuust a little bit higher than the guy next to them, or making sure you catch and pass a runner on a trail. But on the Dune, unless you manage to convince a friend to join you, it's all you. You have to push yourself to keep going. You need to have the insane will inside to want to wipe the sweat and sand off of pretty much every inch of your body and keep at it. The view at the top, if you make it, is worth it.

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