I wanted to race again before this summer became too miserably hot (haha, too late—it’s still spring and we’ve already had several days in the 90s). I thought a late spring 5k might present me with the chance to PR, but I did not want to run West River Drive again. Luckily Girls on the Run was holding their spring 5k at the Philadelphia Zoo on June 7. Score!
I’ve wanted to work with GOTR for quite some time, but my work and class schedule doesn’t allow me to join regular practices. The organization also gives the option of being a “running buddy” at their races, but for this event, I elected to run solo.
When I was reading up on pre-race information, I noticed that this 5k would be giving awards to the top three placeholders in each age group. “Hey,” I thought to myself, “I might have a shot at finally making a podium!”
As I waited for the race to begin, however, I spied some serious competition. While at first there were only preteen girls and their running buddies onsite, more and more solo runners started to arrive. So I adjusted my expectations and decided to have fun, in the spirit of GOTR: this run was going to be about positivity and confidence building, not pressure.
|And they're off!|
With my newfound motivation, I didn’t stress too much as we started queuing for the race itself. I started out near the front of the pack, but gradually I was crowded in by young runners and their parents and mentors. ‘Twas okay—this was about the kids (and I was more concerned with not stepping on a youngin’ or accidentally elbowing somebody than I was with getting to the front).
We went off with a very faint cry of “go,” and it was all tangled limbs and confusion as everybody tried to find their pace. I started off slow so as not to collide with any of the kids, but I was able to pick myself through the crowd within the first half mile. I was moving along at a fairly fast clip, but still I enjoyed the shade (shade! So unlike West River Drive) that the zoo course provided.
With our first loop inside the zoo complete, I settled into a brisk but comfortable pace behind a pack of three girls (these chicks were half my size and kicking up serious dust). I eventually ended up alongside one of the three, and we began to chat. “Are you trying to win?” she asked me. BLESS YOUR HEART, I thought.
I told her that no, this was not about winning—I was out there to support all the girls and have a fun time.
Having the girls nearby helped the time to pass quickly. I followed on the heels of a seven-year-old for much of the race—I swear, she had one of the steadiest paces I’ve ever seen.
Even though I had brushed aside thoughts of a PR, I wanted to run the course the whole way through. Sadly, I wimped out and took a short walk break on a particularly gnarly hill. The zoo was full of them hills! I still like my elevation gain, but my body wasn’t into charging up the steepest one.
My walk break separated me from my seven-year-old "pacer," and without her to guide the way, I became lost several times. There were orange cones and volunteers at several turns along the course, but other splits (the zoo has many of them!!) were unmarked. I found myself questioning, slowing and turning around many times. To this day I still do not know what the course was supposed to be (there is a map online, but being that this was only my second time ever at the Philadelphia Zoo, it means nothing to me).
Thankfully I managed to spot the girl runners or a volunteer each time to lead me back to the main path, but I know I lost some valuable time due to my confusion.
Eventually I found myself at the final turn, and I tried my best to power through. In the end, I finished with a time of 26:19. It wasn’t my best 5k, but it was a good effort, especially given my loss of direction. I knew I had finished near the front, but what I didn’t know what that I had finished third overall, and first out of all adults—automatic age group award!!! My seven-year-old pacer finished second—she was a little powerhouse!
Overall I loved the zoo setting, but I wish the course had been more clearly marked. I was happy to support such a good cause and see so many kids achieve their goals. I’ll be back in future years!
Course: B+ (grading based on course and setting, not the markings)
Post-Race Experience: A
Event Organization: C (due to a lack of course markings and chaotic start line)
Overall Grade: B+
After the race, I hung out in the zoo, and it was awesome.
I was probably more excited than any of my preteen counterparts who had been in the race.
I saw lions, gorillas, otters, peacocks and so many other kinds of animals. I even took a few laps around the lake in a swan boat.
Yep, I am truly a kindergartner at heart.
This weekend I was originally supposed to head to Hershey for a 5k, but then I saw the weather forecast (90s, sunny, humid) and decided NO. So it’s air conditioning and resting all the way instead.
What are you up to this week?