Saturday I was up bright and early for a fun 5k at our local zoo – the Lowry Park Zoo!
I won 2 free entries through Yelp a few weeks ago through a Twitter contest (see, social media pays off again!). Since I had 2 tickets, I had to grab a friend to bring along. Of course I asked Meghann, because I know she is just as likely to say yes to any type of race like I am! We met bright and early for our 7:30 start time, and danced around to keep warm until the gun went off. I was told at registration that they were expecting around 500 runners – not too shabby for a small, local race!
The gun went off and we pretty much just squeezed in with the front of the pack. We both were just looking for a training run, and didn’t even think about pushing the pace. We weaved in and out of everyone for the first few hundred yards, and then met up to run together after that. There were a lot of people in a pretty small space, and we were much more confortable after getting around the bulk of the crowd.
The race took us in a local park for about a mile, and was very nice to run in. The path was well paved, and it was right on the Hillsborough River.
After the first mile, we headed in to the actual zoo, which was obviously the fun part! A lot of the animals were still sleeping, but we did get to see a few of them just starting their morning. It definitely made me think of Madagascar! It would be pretty fun if that was actually real life I remember seeing a panther, a rhino, and my favorite… the manatees!
Even though I have seen so many of them since I have lived in Florida my whole life, it never seems to get old. They are just such neat animals! After running through the manatee exhibit, we came out and found ourselves a bit confused. The markings on the course we less than ideal, so we ended up having to pick which way we thought was best – which ended up being incorrect. Woops! We turned around, and had everyone else follow us as well. We weren’t in the front, but there was enough of a gap between us and the leaders that we had no clue where we were going.
The next half a mile or so was just a lot of guessing. Meghann and I hoped we were headed in the right direction, but really didn’t know for sure. This wasn’t a big deal since we were not trying for a certain time, but I would have been pretty frustrated if I were trying to PR. We ended up running back along the same path that we had ran for the first mile, and pretty much just hoped we weren’t taking everyone else on a completely wrong path.
A note to any race organizers – have someone run (or walk) the course that didn’t have anything to do with the planning, and see if they can figure it out. If not, be sure to place markers or volunteers at those spots. It can be as simple as using sidewalk chalk with a simple arrow, pointing runners in the right direction. They will really appreciate it.
We ZooZoomed around the last corner and finished with a respectable 8:20 pace. It was a very comfortable run for a chilly Saturday morning! We grabbed a few snacks and we were on our way – for these Florida girls, the 40 degree temps were enough to have us running back to our warm cars for sure!
Thanks Yelp Tampa Bay for hooking Meghann and I up to run the race. We had a fun time taking in a view of the zoo we had never experienced before. I would recommend this race to families and those looking for a fun, low key race. There were no timing chips or fancy scoring – just a simple card as you crossed the finish line indicating your time and place.
The race was perfect to keep my legs nice and fresh for my 19 mile long run that I had on Sunday. The weather was pretty dang chilly, so it made 3 hours of running a breeze. I hope race day is even a little bit close to that kind of weather. With a late spring race, it is not too likely – good thing I am expecting heat rather than cold weather. 53 more days until race day! This race is really starting to creep up on me!
Are you a fan of bigger, more commercialized races, or do you like the small local ones? Have you ever been lost on a race course before?