Meerbrook 15k: 23 September 2007
Leek is famed among bikers for being at one end of the Cat and Fiddle Pass in the Peak District, where they go to test their speed and skills. Leek is also famous among ambulance drivers as that's where they take bikers once they've peeled them off the road.
Among runners in the North West and Staffordshire, it is the home of a feared half marathon, notorious for its hills.
Meerbrook is very near Leek.
If anyone ever complains that Hyde Park is "hilly", point them in the direction of the Meerbrook 15K. I missed the first turning from Leek, so much for my recent navigation course, and it wasn't long before I came across an "11K" sign. Ominously, it was all uphill from here to the "13K" sign, before a big downhill to the finish. Unfortunately, there was also a 4K sign at the top of the hill, suggesting the start wasn't going to be too easy either.
This was a club championship race for my "other" club, Saddleworth Runners, who know how to put on a decent race, but none of us had heard a pre-race speech quite like it. A detailed history of the race was followed by a description of the sites that could be seen on the way round (I saw mostly tarmac) and, bizarrely, a history of the Staffordshire Wallaby, which may or may not be extinct. I'll have to hunt for them one day. 5 minutes late, off we went, relatively flat for the first 2K, before the first climb up to some very welcome sponges at the top of the hill. This 4k took me nearly 22 minutes, I'd not be very happy with that for a flat 5K, but the next k was back to just over 4 minutes, possibly because it was so downhill! More undulations followed past the 7K mark, but, while it's nice at the time, you always know that there is a big hill around the corner somewhere. Just before 8K it duly came, crossing a river brought us a to a hairpin bend and a short, sweet climb that reduced many runners to walking. That over, more undulations but steeper than before, and a chat with a local who giggled manically when I asked if it got any easier before that last climb. I guess not then. Through 10K in 51 minutes, consistent if nothing else, then back up the long climb to the marshals with yet more sponges at the top. Downhills are always harder than you think they will be, and I struggled a bit on the way down and was happy to finish in 1.17.46.
Overall, a tough road race, excellently put together to benefit a local special school and well marshalled. A purple tshirt is hard to beat too, especially one with the slogan " Why run a hill when you can run a mountain!". Well worth seeking out, and a guaranteed PB to boot. And if you still don't believe me about the wallabies, here's proof! http://www.roaches.org.uk/wallabies.htm
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