RECAP/REVIEW: 2016 Zoo Run Run (at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo)

Ever since I ran the Baltimore Marathon in 2012, I have had the idea of running another race through/around a Zoo – the closest I had done since then were a few runDisney events through Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but y’know, that one is “Nahtazu!” 🙂


So, when the Zoo Run Run popped into my Facebook feed a little over a month ago, I was stoked! Not only would I be able to fulfill that dream of zoo-running, but it’d be my chance to gauge my fitness since the last 5K I had raced…18 months ago!

Yup, the Python 5K, in April 2015, was:

  1. the last time I donned my Oiselle singlet
  2. the last event I “raced” before having Abby
  3. run in 25:30

Ironically, today’s race was:

  1. the first race I’ve donned my singlet since having Abby
  2. the first 5K I’ve raced since having Abby
  3. run in 25:34

Pretty crazy coincidences, dontcha think? Hah!

My goal for this race was pretty simple: to run the entire race at moderate effort, stopping only for water. I did not put a time goal out there, because I wanted to see “where I was” as far as pacing, and I think it worked out pretty well.

Mile 1 – 8:20

I have to say, this was the first race that I can recall that did not start with the anthem! We were all lined up (self-seeded) and I had just powered on my Garmin when HONKKK went the foghorn to start the race! Okay, then!

As in most self-seeded races, the first minute or so was shuffling of the people who should have been near the front, and the people who definitely should not have been. The air felt very thick, but the temperature felt comfortably low, so I settled into a pace around a quarter mile in. This first part was very nice, green, alongside the river, and then up into the zoo area. At the mile marker, I grabbed water, and spotted hubs and Abby!

Mile 2 – 8:16


After that first water stop, I was pretty energized! We spent this entire mile inside the zoo! Since I had never visited this park before, everything was new and exciting to experience. I started to recognize “my peeps” (those running around my pace) in the few out and back sections. This is also when I saw my friend Ashley!

Mile 3 – 8:21

Creeping on Ashley lol.

Settling in for the last mile, we hit the green river path again. This was the loop return, and I tracked right through some mud with about half a mile left! I strode up to Ashley near the end and chatted for a second, before dropping back behind her (letting her know I was NOT trying to draft her, haha).

Last (.12) – I overran the course, most likely on account of my mud-detour – 7:59 pace

Being that person, pausing the Garmin.

Whoo! Saw the finish line emerge, and I felt the surge to push before the timing clock struck “26.” My Garmin said 25:57, but later, official results set my chip time 25:34, good enough for 8th in my AG, and 49, overall! So, despite finishing just 4 seconds slower than my last raced 5K, it was an experience that just FELT stronger!

I could not have asked for a better “comeback race!” Here’s why I’d recommend the event:

  • Value – I registered in the “early bird” category – just $30 for my 5K registration, which included my bib, a drawstring swag bag (great coupons inside!), AND complimentary same-day admission to the Lowry Park Zoo (value ~$30 ea.) This was great for a family event, and Abby’s first trip to the zoo!
  • Low key, yet organized – there was great communication leading up the event, good signage day-of, and a very no-frills start (no delays, whoo!)
  • Easy to access – we drove in from Sarasota, but it was a straight 1 hr, 10 min drive. No difficult directions/weird traffic issues. Parking was free and organized.
  • Perfect size – a nice crowd, but not claustrophobic. Results indicated there were 715 participants and 519 chip finishers (you could opt in or out of chip timing).
  • Fun course – this was a nice surprise! Not only did you get to see (and hear!!) the animals, but there was a surprising amount of varied terrain (asphalt, cement, bridges) and elevation changes (little hills).

On top of it all, this race serves as a fundraiser for the zoo, so it’s a win-win!

Have you ever run a zoo-themed race? What’s the coolest local event in your town/area?


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