Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Race Roundup: Meerbrook 15

race roundup meerbrook 15

Bored of entering 10km races? Fancy kicking it up a gear but a Half Marathon just seems too out of reach? Then boy do we have the race for you! We completed the Meerbrook 15km road race this weekend (Saturday 29th July 2017) and have to tell you all about our experience.


Ahead of the day 
The Meerbrook caught our attention due to its unusual distance, 15km. It’s not often an event pops up that sits so nicely between a 10km and a half marathon and it seemed like an opportunity not to be missed!
It first appeared on James’ radar after receiving an email from one of the sponsor’s, Mick Hall Photography, we can’t say we saw much advertising for it at all but when I say local(ish) I mean we don’t even live in the same county so that could have been why...

male runner staffordshire moorland meerbrook 15 2017

To sign up online was a simple online form and pay the entry fee of £18.50 (for entry and T-Shirt) or roughly £36 (for entry, t-shirt and hoody). 
It sounds as though, in previous years, race numbers used to be posted out but not this year in an attempt to lower the costs.
We also received an email a couple of days before the event confirming details for the morning, where to park (and the cost), where numbers could be collected from and where the race began.


On the day organisation 
We decided to go with the “official” car park recommended in the email, this was at Tittesworth Reservoir, an overflow area had been opened for race parking and it generally seemed as though there was enough space (best get there early just in case!) and a discounted fee of £2.50 was available to entrants – instead of the usual £4.70 for a full day's parking.

female downhill runner meerbrook 15 2017

Once we’d parked we headed to the village hall, about half a mile down the road, to collect our race numbers, this is where things got a little chaotic. As no one had received their numbers ahead of the day there was a pretty big queue to collect them, this in turn led to a few grumpy competitors and a delayed start by 10 minutes. There was confusion once you did get inside the hall as there were loads of tables around and no obvious way of knowing which to go to.

downhill male runner meerbrook 15 2017

Once you did collect your number, fill in the emergency contact details, pin it on and sort your chip out there was still the mile walk to the actual start line!
Given the rural location it’s understandable that things are a bit spread out but having the numbers in advance (regardless of a little extra cost from postage that could have been included in the entry fee) would have made a big difference to the race feeling more organised.

Atmosphere 
The race consisted of a good mixture of runners, both from clubs and unaffiliated, young and old (adults only, 16+). The biggest group of supporters was in the centre of Meerbrook there to cheer you on before you begin your climb up the hill and again as you cross the finish. 

meerbrook 15 flat section female runner

There were very few people along the course itself but given that it’s a road (which isn’t shut for the event) it’s completely understandable. Something which we do think boosted moral along the way was the presence of the photographers and videographers from sponsor Mick Hall Photos – it definitely gives you a push to know you’re being caught on film!

The course 
In the pre-race e-mail we were told the Meerbrook 15 had been voted the third hilliest race in the UK, we weren’t sure about this claim, how can something be voted third hilliest, either it is or isn’t – surely it means road race, what about the fells?
Whether it’s claim is true or not it certainly is a hill the defines this run.

meerbrook 15 route

The course is out in the Staffordshire Moorlands and comprises of 15km of racing on the road, the road is not closed for the event but is fairly quiet - I think in total about 15 cars passed me en route.
The race begins flat for the first couple of km’s before the climb begins, you run up this hill twice, once from either side, but it’s certainly toughest for the first ascent! 

male runner hill ascent meerbrook 15 2017

Once you’re at the top make sure to take in the stunning views of the Staffordshire countryside!
It’s downhill for a fair while from here, with a water station around the 6km mark. There’s quite a steep but short ascent at about 7.5km that managed to stop a few runners in their tracks (it’s probably the steepest section of the route). You’ll hit the water station again at about 10.5km before the long ascent back up the hill begins! Once you reach the top though it’s all downhill to the finish line.

meerbrook 15 elevation

The route did have a few marshals on hand although not very many at all, everyone seemed to be hanging out at the water station where the marshals were very attentive – even handing out some sweets!
The road itself was good to run on and it fairly good condition and whilst it might be described as the third hilliest UK race it was undulating rather than relentless – still something to be proud of accomplishing and, we thought, an excellent route.

The goodie bag 
Upon crossing the finish line there’s a table filled with bottled water, there were no medals for participants of this which we thought was a bit of a shame – the course is certainly worthy of one! Entry fee included a technical t-shirt which could be collected from inside the hall (no xs available) and we are fans of the design!

i kept calm and climbed on meerbrook 15 survivor 2017

Overall, despite a few organisational let downs, this was a good event with a challenging but enjoyable course and we’d definitely recommend it! Having a route length sitting nicely between a 10km and half marathon is a rare thing to come across and a great way to push yourself a bit further if you’re stuck in a 10km rut. We’d recommend the Meerbrook 15 and would come back again ourselves – in a different car next year, I think that struggled more than we did on the hills!

post race selfie runners completing meerbrook 15 2017

Key stats:

Entry Fee: £18 (for race and t-shirt) £36 (to include a hoody as well)
Atmosphere: 4/5
Race Organisation 3/5
Course Difficulty 3/5
Goodie Bag 2/5
Overall Score 3.5/5


Key Stats explained
Atmosphere rating (1-poor, 5-excellent) based on other runners, the crowd and general feeling of the event.
Race Organisation (1-poor, 5-excellent) based upon key information being communicated ahead of time, race information including number arriving in plenty of time, speed of response from organisers on requesting information, facilities available along the route and ease of starting the race. 
Course Difficulty (1-very easy, 5-extremely difficult) based on gradient of the route, running surface eg. Road or trail, obstacles along the route and ability to stay on the correct route through markers or marshals.
Goodie Bag (1-none available, 5-best goodie bag ever!) based on prizes given out post event such as medals and t-shirts.
Overall Score (1-Would not recommend, 5-would recommend to everyone) based on all factors above to give an overview of how good the event was. 
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