Race Review: Run for the Zoo

The Chicago area race tour continued this past weekend at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The 41st Annual Run for the Zoo on Sunday offered a 5k and 10k as well as kids’ races — and a wonderful venue for some family fun!

The challenge may be getting the kids up for the early start! The 5k went off at 7:30am, while the 10k start was an hour later. My daughter was still in bed when got home – forgivable as she’s still a teen. My boyfriend’s late-20-something son joined us for the 5k. There was something for children of all ages.

The start was on Stockton Drive adjacent to the zoo’s west gate and proceeded south. It picked up the path north of La Salle and stayed west of Lake Shore Drive. Rather than beach or lake views, this course wound its way through Lincoln Park, passed ball fields, along the path between the lagoon and North Cannon Drive with a turnaround just before the Lincoln Park Boat House. On the return trip, the course took runners along the Nature Boardwalk which was a little slippery due to early morning condensation, but it was worth slowing down to enjoy the scenery anyway!

The final half mile or so was through the zoo and finished at the Lion House. Runners could be seen taking obligatory selfies in front of the lions, seals, and zebras after they finished. There were also free race photos available online almost immediately after the event. Personally, I thought the photographers were well positioned to capture runners on the best parts of the course.

The event was organized by Vision Event Management and citing my experience as a participant in many races (this was my 299th race!) and also as an event manager, I can say this group did everything right. Every aspect of the event from registration to packet pick-up to start, course, and finish line logistics, to gear check, access to the zoo, and post-race celebration on the zoo’s Main Mall, this event as far as I could tell was flawless.

Perhaps most importantly, the proceeds of this event supported the Lincoln Park Zoo which is free all year and open every day – yes, 365 days a year! The Zoo’s mission is “dedicated to connecting people with nature by providing a free, family-oriented wildlife experience in the heart of Chicago and by advancing the highest quality of animal care, education, science and conservation.” In addition to the exhibits, the Zoo offers lots of events for children and adults. During the holidays, I attended “Zoo Lights” with my daughter and an adults-only New Year’s Eve Party with my boyfriend. Check out their website for a full list of upcoming events.

This event should be on the list for all Chicago families! Faster runners shouldn’t pass this one up either – just start close to the front. Walkers and strollers are asked to start in the back. Plan to stay after the race to take in everything the zoo has to offer. I may be putting this race in the permanent rotation!

This coming weekend, I’m off to Green Bay, Wisconsin for the Bellin Run (10k) and have 2 more Chicagoland races on the schedule for later this month before I start fully focusing on Marathon training which officially began this week. More to come on all of that! Happy Running!


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