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ZooZoom 5k

by Meghann on March 2, 2013

ROAR!!! We survived the chase at the Lowry Park Zoo this morning!


Mary was lucky enough to win two free race entries for the ZooZoom 5k through a Yelp giveaway and asked if I wanted to be her race buddy. No need to ask twice, I said yes before she even finished asking the question. πŸ˜‰ I’d never done race through a zoo before! It sounded like a blast to me!


We arrived at the zoo around 7:00 this morning to blue skies and a wonderful chill to the air (awesome running weather!).

Derek was my hot date for the morning, waking up early and taking over the role of supportive husband/ spectator.


Brooks was kind enough to hook Derek up with some spectating essentials, including:


The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13s are actually an updated version of the Brooks Adrenaline 10s he’s been running in for the last three years. It’s a stability shoe that was named Runner’s World Editor’s Choice in the Fall Shoe Guide in their December 2012 issue. Derek has done a couple of runs in the shoes and loved the updated feel of the shoes, including a noticeable difference in support. He was hoping to run the 5k in the new kicks this morning, but a nasty cold has temporarily sidelined him. (He headed back to the warmth of the car before the race even started πŸ™ ).


Speaking of staying warm in cars, that’s where Mary was hiding before the race. Smart girl! We found her a few minutes before the start and took one last photo before race time.


The race was “old school” – no timing chips, no fancy race bibs, and no timers on the course. It was just you, the road, and the few zoo animals you ran into along the way. Heck, there wasn’t even a microphone or speaker system for the race director to say “Go.” Mary and I had just joined the crowd of 300 or so runners at the start when all of a sudden they started moving. I was still fiddling with my iPod when I started running.


The crowds were thick in the beginning of the 5k, but thinned out rather quickly. Mary and I separated for the first quarter of a mile as we weaved in and out of the crowds, then eventually found each other at a steady pace. Neither of us were truly racing the 5k, we were using it as a short and speedy training run. I tried to not look at my Garmin and instead just ran what felt tough, but comfortable.


(all race photos courtesy of Mary)

The first mile wrapped us around the parking lot, onto the main road, and back to the entrance of the zoo. We entered the zoo at mile two and had the park to ourselves as we twisted and turned through the African Safari, the new DinoQuest exhibit, the rhinos, giraffes, and half a dozen other animals.



There was even a point where we went through the underwater exhibit and ran right beside the manatees and sea turtles. I think that was my favorite part. πŸ™‚


Running through the zoo was really, really cool, but unfortunately the course wasn’t well marked. At the beginning we were glad there were runners ahead of us guiding the way (otherwise there’s no way we would have known to go up a ramp or turn left), then somehow our group made a wrong turn and Mary and I took over the lead when back tracking. We weren’t the lead runners, just the lead in the small pack of runners we were with. It was like the blind leading the blind. There were a few forks in the road we just plain guessed where to go.

Luckily the last part was just a back track of the first. Once we figured that out, it was a clear shot to the end. My shoe came untied in the last mile and I made a very quick 10 second stop to retie it. Mary pulled ahead and sprinted to the finish.


I came in about thirty seconds after Mary finishing in roughly 25:15.

Wonderful collage created by Photogrid.jpg

As we finished, they handed each runner a timing card to document our finish time and age group placings. However, since we didn’t stay around for the results (and I can’t find them online), I have no idea how we did. I do know that I was the 29th runner to cross the finish line. Gotta love a small race where you can finish in 25 minutes and still only be the 29th finisher. πŸ™‚  

There was also a great spread of food and drinks at the finish line, including yummy Jamba Juice smoothie samples and Chick-Fil-A chicken minis, you can’t beat that post- race food. πŸ™‚


Despite the wrong turn and confusion on the course, I thought this was a great 5k. It was fun to run through the zoo and have a little bit of different scenery than your standard neighborhood or city views. I felt great through the whole race and was proud for not starting too fast or feeling awful at the finish line. It was also nice to run a small hometown race. No frills, no thrills, just running. It was the perfect no-pressure race to run with a friend.

Thanks, Lowry Park Zoo, for putting on a great race. πŸ™‚

After the race, I treated Derek to breakfast at a local diner. We both enjoyed omelets and potatoes. Yum!


Have you ever run a race at a zoo?

If you’re a Tampa Bay local, Lowry Park Zoo also has a fall race called the Zoo Run. πŸ™‚

1 Caroline March 2, 2013 at 1:49 pm

My first half marathon ran past a zoo, and they brought a baby elephant out to the edge of the zoo to cheer us on:) I love stripped down races like that!
Caroline recently posted..February Recap (and 13 in 2013 Check In)

2 Erica March 2, 2013 at 2:37 pm

How fun is this? I love the idea of running through a zoo. I recently purchased my first pair of Brooks and I”m in love- they are fabulous. A great race always requires a yummy after brunch.
Erica recently posted..Black Tap & My Fitness Role Models

3 Jessica March 2, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Which shoes are you and Mary wearing- those are the ones with the wider top, right? I remember you doing a review when you got them but wasn’t sure if you still wore them!

4 Meghann March 3, 2013 at 8:02 am

I think Mary’s wearing the Pure Flow 2’s and I’m wearing the Pure Connect 2’s. The ones you’re thinking of are the Pure Drifts, which I wear at CrossFit, but am not a fan of running in them because of the wider toe box.
Meghann recently posted..ZooZoom 5k

5 Elizabeth @ Positive Change March 2, 2013 at 3:22 pm

That sounds like so much fun! I would love to run at our zoo!
Elizabeth @ Positive Change recently posted..Now What?! Wedding Edition

6 Angela March 2, 2013 at 3:37 pm

How fun! I also would love to run through that underwater part. πŸ™‚ I am from Oregon so it’s not completely unbelievable…but I’ve never had Chick-fil-a! I have always wondered what it’s like. I went to go one time in Florida but it was closed. πŸ™
Angela recently posted..Heaven’s Lessons [a book review]

7 Kim March 2, 2013 at 3:57 pm

My first ever 5k race was at The Bronx Zoo. It was really cool to run through the zoo before it was open. We raised money for Penguins. πŸ™‚

8 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats March 2, 2013 at 5:11 pm

I’ve never run a race at a zoo, but here in Chicago I live right next to the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is free and has a few large open entrances which they open up around 5:30am during the summers (not sure why since the zoo doesn’t officially open yet…) and I take advantage and run through the zoo! I love it because it’s the only time of the day that I ever see the polar bear out playing!
Katie @ Peace Love & Oats recently posted..March Goals

9 cath@1970kikiproject March 2, 2013 at 5:21 pm

i ran a 10k at the toronto zoo a few years ago! it was super fun – how cool to be running past giraffes then polar bears!…i definitely recommend it to fellow canadians (or anyone visiting!).
congrats on your run!

10 Alyssa March 2, 2013 at 5:42 pm

I’d really love to see a post about your’s and Derek’s different workout approaches. It seems like he’s not quite as active as you are. What are your thoughts about marrying someone who’s not out running races with you, waking up a dawn on the weekends to train, and possibly not sharing the same eating habits

I’m in a relationship where my boyfriend hits the gym but its usually in few months spurts, takes a few months off, then ramps up again. Even getting him to walk with me was a struggle (until we got a dog! – my secret plan!). I’d just love to hear how you balance your different lifetyles and offer any tips for others in similar relationships.

OR maybe I have it all wrong – maybe Derek is a heavy workout fanatic and the blog has just made it appear differently!

Love your blog, been reading daily since 2008! Keep up the amazing job.
Alyssa recently posted..How to turn your Girlfriend into a Sports Fan

11 Katie March 2, 2013 at 9:50 pm

I second this idea for a topic – that’s a good one! πŸ™‚
Katie recently posted..Fish Tale Brewery

12 Meghann March 3, 2013 at 8:07 am

I’ll see what I can do. Derek goes through spurts too. Sometimes he’s really into running and other times he’s not. I think the big secret is that I look at running/ working out as “me time” or an excuse to hang out with my girlfriends. I usually run/ workout in the early morning hours before he’s even awake so it’s not really that big of a deal. We’re sort of opposite in that department. Derek isn’t a morning person, so when he does run it’s usually in the afternoon. And I’m more of a morning person who likes to get everything out of the way before breakfast.

13 Jen@HealthyFoodandFamily March 2, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Oh my gosh, how fun!!!! And that post-race omelet, deeelicious!
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14 Karen @ Runner Girl Eats March 2, 2013 at 6:16 pm

Looks fun! We’ve run a couple small no frills runs and they are a nice change from the bigger races were used to. Running through the zoo would be a blast though.
Karen @ Runner Girl Eats recently posted..Running to the Altar

15 Tempie @ The Texas Peach March 2, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Running through the zoo does look like it would be fun! Might just have to see if one of the zoos here in my area does one!
Tempie @ The Texas Peach recently posted..Energybits Review

16 beka @ rebecca roams March 2, 2013 at 7:54 pm

How fun! I almost Tweeted an attempt to win these tickets, but knowing I had to work today, I decided to stay local to home for my long run.
Looks like you and Mary should swapped shoes to be color coordinated πŸ˜‰
beka @ rebecca roams recently posted..February #GoalGetter2013 Results

17 Meghan R March 2, 2013 at 9:08 pm

I did this race too and had a great time!

18 TorontoRunner March 2, 2013 at 10:22 pm

Nice! Congrats on the race. Never knew a race could take place around a zoo, love it!

19 Serena March 3, 2013 at 3:39 am

That sounds like a blast!
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20 Robyn @thereallife_rd March 3, 2013 at 11:19 am

I love the simplicity of small races, and not having to be super speedy to place in the front of the pack πŸ™‚ Congrats!

and three cheers for derek, he’s a champ πŸ™‚
Robyn @thereallife_rd recently posted..a simple saturday.

21 Natalie @ Free Range Human March 3, 2013 at 11:42 am

That sounds like so much fun! I always think that a huge part of what makes a good race is the scenery you get to look at while you run!
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22 Barry Wright, III March 3, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Never ran at a zoo – sounds great! Last week went through a hilly park/art museum though! Scenic races are great, especially when not going for a PR!
Barry Wright, III recently posted..It’s March 1st – Do You Know Where Your Goals Are?

23 Amanda March 3, 2013 at 4:15 pm

I love small local races like that! The last 5k I did was kind of like that. People just started running at the start. It was weird, but I loved it!
Amanda recently posted..Flower City Half Training: Week Five

24 Tori @ In Love and Peanut Butter March 4, 2013 at 9:56 am

I did the Zoo Run Run a few years ago at Lowry Park. It really is a fun course!
Tori @ In Love and Peanut Butter recently posted..Tips for Running in Costume

25 Travis March 4, 2013 at 4:51 pm

I can’t believe I accidentally found this post. I was part of your small group that made that wrong turn. I finished in 25:12. Nice racing with you :).

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