Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Make Tracks Through the Zoo 5k

On May 19th I walked (with a dash of jogging) the Make Tracks Through the Zoo 5k with a friend.  I ran this race back in 2022 with a different friend, but apparently I didn't blog about it.  Back in 2022 I had convinced my husband to come along and support me since my friend was bringing her husband and two sons and we planned to walk around the zoo after the race.  Now I like to be early to races, typically parking with at least an hour to spare depending on the size of the race. So in 2022 I thought we were leaving early enough to allow plenty of time to park and walk through the zoo to the start line, but everyone decided to arrive at the same time we did.  It was a nightmare!  We waited for 30 minutes just to get to the light at Hampton Avenue from interstate and then it was a solid line of traffic into the south parking lot. Unfortunately I didn't think to have my husband drive so that I could hop out and get to the finish in time so by the time we finally parked, I was basically running through the zoo to get to the start line after the race had technically already started.  Luckily so many people were stuck in traffic that they left the start line open and my friend waited patiently for me to arrive.  

Flash forward to 2024 and a different race friend picked me up at 5:30 a.m. for the 7 a.m. race.  Parking this time was an absolute breeze!  The pre-race emails and the race packet from packet pick-up had maps showing the many options for parking including at the start line (Muny lot), the Forest Park Visitor's Center lots, north zoo entrance lot, and the south zoo entrance lot where I usually park.  We also opted to park by the lot exit, and there were still PLENTY of spaces available in this area when we left the zoo around 10 a.m.

The race started at the Muny but ended within the zoo, so we still had to walk about a mile from our parking spot to the start line.  You can easily get lost in Forest Park, but luckily there were plenty of people to follow to the start line.  Once we arrived at the start area we waited in a short line for porta-potties before lining up.  There were corrals by pace to indicate who would be starting first, but there was no break in between the corrals which would have cut down on the congestion.  Speaking of, the course congestion reminded me of Disney races.  In many sections of the course you just couldn't pass due to the width of the course or strollers, so we just opted to walk most of the race.  The course was beautiful as any race in Forest Park is but once you enter the zoo, I was reminded again of Disney races.  Music is playing over the speakers and you pass little crowds of spectators as you wind through the immaculately landscaped grounds.  Many of the animals were out, so you saw many runners stopping to take pictures.  

The finish line had changed from 2022 though and it seemed more congested this time.  You received a bottle of water right after the finish line then you had to walk a bit to get to the "post-race participant breakfast."  In 2022, I think they just handed us a brown bag with the food already inside but by the time we reached the food line this year, they were already out of paper bags.  My friend and I ended up grabbing a banana, an apple, a chocolate muffin, an orange juice, a chocolate milk, and a Clif Kid Z Bar.  Apparently there was also some kind of electrolyte drink offered as well, but they were out by the time we walked through the line.  Because my friend and I frequently shop at Aldi, we grabbed discarded drink packaging to use as our makeshift bags since there was so much post-race food to carry.

From there we walked around the zoo for a while with our makeshift bags before leaving.  We were able to see quite a few animals and talk to some amazing zoo volunteers during that time.  Since we both LOVED this race, we plan to come back next year.  We'll arrive early again, park in the same area since it was a breeze this year, but we will pack little baggies in our fuel belts in case they run out of paper bags again.  

Here are a few pictures from this fun and family-friendly race:

Zoo entrance from the south parking lot

Waiting near the back

Race t-shirt, I loved the color this year

Cicada status: I did not notice any cicadas along the course or at the zoo.  I've heard that St. Louis City isn't seeing near as many cicadas as St. Louis County and in this case, that proved to be true!

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