run for the polar bears recap

Wow. I have so much to say. This has been just an amazing and wonderful day. This morning I ran the Kansas City Zoo Run for the Polar Bears.

My father drove me to the zoo, and we arrived at about 7:30am. I went to the registration table, paid my fee, and received my bib and bag of “goodies”. Dad and I were kinda standing around waiting, and happened to meet another lady who was running the race and her husband who was her “support team”. Her name was Linda and she was older (59 years old)  but very athletic-looking. They’d driven in from central Missouri for the race. She was very nice- we walked to the restrooms together, and then we walked to the starting line together. It was nice to have another “person” to talk to while we waited for the race to start!

me at the registration table

wearing my race bib!

nifty chip timer on my shoe!

Even though I’d expected a big race, I was surprised by the number of people lined up at the starting line. Several hundred, at least! Because there were so many people, and everyone was talking or whispering, all I could hear was a “dull roar”. Slowly though, the people quieted as they heard the national anthem being sung. I couldn’t see anything because I was so far back (even the flag!) but it sounded live, and later I saw 5 older gentlemen who looked like a quintet.

you can kinda see the line of people at the start

The race began outside the zoo. There was a large brick overhang-thingy which I think was the “official” start. The first mile was surprisingly pleasant. Mostly outside the zoo, we ran on pleasant asphalt streets. There was tons of energy, and everyone settled into their “place” in the pack. After about 3/4 mile, I saw my father holding a camera, which surprised me because I didn’t think he would be allowed to approach this section of the track. Turned out he snuck in to take a photo! He had a little camera trouble, so I turned around and did a few steps backwards at one point so that he could get his photo. 🙂

At this point we entered the zoo through a back entrance. To my right was the elephant enclosure and a couple of elephants, looking at us quite curiously! To my left was a sign- 1 mile! woo!

A little further and I came to the first aid station. Grabbed a cup of water and gulped it down. It was like hitting me with a bolt of energy- immediately I felt stronger!

I think the second mile was probably the hardest mile. A good portion of it was on a staff-only road, so there were no animals or anything to distract me. But after what felt like the longest time, we entered the “Africa” portion of the zoo and, pretty quickly, the sign that indicated we had completed 2 miles.

This was where the run started to get really interesting. First I saw meerkats- cute! Then we got some curious glances from a rhinoceros, a few giraffes, a few zebra, and an ostrich. The zoo has a kind of boardwalk-style pathway through Africa, and it was at this point that I realized that the wood was a very comfortable surface for running! I was feeling strong and ready for the next portion of the race.

At the next aid station, I accidently grabbed Powerade instead of water. Oops. Powerade is fantastic after long runs, but it really needs to be cold, and this was not cold! Oh well- sometimes fluid is fluid. I gulped down the powerade and kept running.

Soon we entered the “Australia” section of the zoo. Somewhere in there, I saw the 3-mile sign. Again, we were running past really neat animals- several birds, dingos, koalas, lots of neat stuff. Plus we were surrounded by beautiful plants- trees, bushes, grass- just very pleasant in the middle of a big city!

Australia seemed to whip by very quickly! We left that section and went into the older section of the zoo, and pretty soon, also, the fourth mile. We went past an aid station and I grabbed a cup of water. We also passed the two Sumatran tigers who, like any good cat, were ignoring us and taking their mid-morning nap. This section was probably the hilliest part of the zoo. The route was not very hilly overall, but there were some slight inclines in this part of the zoo, and after running that far, even a small hill felt quite large! So I had to push, but I got through it and kept going.

Towards the end, I was a little confused because several of the people who had finished the race (and were still wearing bibs) were walking in the opposite direction. But I kept going with the “flow” and what looked like the right pathway. A volunteer told us we were almost done- “just up this hill and down a little path”. So I kept going.

And suddenly I turned a corner and, there it was. The finish. What an amazing feeling! I had a surge of energy and was just so excited to run across it.

over here, dad!

no no, HERE!

yea right there- that’s me!

There was a large tent, where we were given free fruit (bananas, apples, grapes, and strawberries), free donuts, and free bottles of Dasani water. It was just such an amazing feeling. I can’t even describe it.

One other thought… I was really surprised by all the positive energy at this race. Back in high school, the cross country team was very exclusive, and very snooty. But at this race, everyone was just… positive. There were volunteers stationed every hundred yards or so along the track, probably to keep us going in the right direction. But they were almost all so positive! Clapping, hollering, “good job!”, “keep going!”, “you’re doing great!”, “good job!”, that kind of thing. Everyone was so encouraging. I’m not a super fast runner, or super qualified in any way, but it just felt great to be welcomed so openly!

I won’t get my “official” time until after 5:00 this evening, but next to the finish line was a timer-clock, and when I ran across it, it was at 1:00 hour, which would be an amazingly good time! But either way I’m totally delighted with the run. I’m exhausted and sore, I have at least two blisters which I wear with pride, and I feel more like a runner than ever!

yea baby, runner’s feet!

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