With four races – a half-marathon, a 10k, a competitive 5k, and a fun run 5k – Albuquerque’s Run for the Zoo could easily become the very thing for which it raises money.
Although I’ve run the 10k a few times, I abstained from running any of the races this year since I’m still easing back after my marathon. My sister Erin, however, ran the half-marathon, which meant I got to play one of my favorite running roles: cheerleader! Just, um, without any herkies or cartwheels.
Erin and I picked up her race packet on Saturday afternoon and found the packet pick-up scene crowded, but well-managed. A couple of changes I’ve noticed over the last several years: one, the packet pick-up moved from a local sports store to a hotel. BIG improvement, as picking up my packet at the sports store was starting to feel a little too much like Lord of the Flies. At the hotel, there was an actual line to get bib numbers! And people respected it! Second change: there’s now a mini pre-race expo. Say the words “pre-race expo” and I always get giddy, even if it’s just a couple of vendors. Running shopportunities = bliss.
We didn’t buy anything, but we made it through the experience smoothly. That evening, we went out to dinner at Farina Alto, where I, staunchly loyal sister that I am, vicariously carbo-loaded on delicious pizza.
The race’s start time the next morning was 7 am. It demanded an early wake-up call, but doing the first race of the day also meant that we had our pick of the parking. No stress there whatsoever. We meandered to the starting area. More wins for the Run for the Zoo: ample porta-potties, and a start line and finish line that are close, but not on top of each other. The main hub of activity is contained to several blocks: just about perfect.
Now the weather…well, nothing’s perfect. From year to year, the weather at this event see-saws more violently than a pair of six-year-old boys. This year, the temperature was great, but the wind was…character-building [I say “character-building”; my sister probably has more colorful language for it].
I delivered Erin to the starting line and saw her off. My intention was to trot to a couple points along the course to cheer her along, but that plan got scrapped once I realized that only the very beginning and very end of the race were easily accessible to spectators. Oh well. I got in a few miles’ run, narrowly avoided getting lost [don’t laugh, Albuquerque residents, it IS possible to get lost downtown!], and snagged a prime finish line vantage point. Erin rolled in, with me hollering and wishing I had pom-poms, as the 7th overall woman, and 2nd in her age group!
More points for the Run for the Zoo: easily accessible beverages and snacks in the finish area, free coffee for EVERYONE (not just the runners), rapidly-posted race results, and rapidly-distributed awards. No forced milling around, no “technical glitch” delays. Beautiful.
One of the best parts of the Run for the Zoo is that runners get free admission into the zoo that day. We didn’t take advantage of that this year – breakfast burritos were calling our names, and then Erin had to head back to Alamosa – but maybe next year. As long as the cheetahs don’t look at us runners too hungrily.
Cheers to the New Mexico BioPark Society for putting on a great event!