Last night was the Zoom Through the Zoo event here in Memphis. The event is quite popular amongst Memphis runners and last night was my first opportunity to participate in the event. The event is usually held on the Thursday before Memorial Day Weekend, which also means that it is the night before another hugely popular Memphis Zoo event, Zoo Brew, which I also will be attending for the first time this year. Very odd that Susan and I were zoo members, but did not attend these events last year. Both events help fund some of the amazing exhibits that the Memphis Zoo produces, and I am on board for anything that helps shine a positive light on Memphis.
The event was scheduled to start at 6:30 pm last night, and being that it is Memphis in late May, that meant there would be heat and humidity. But all of us racers knew this in advance, and it is something you must deal with for the next few months in the Bluff City. We did, however, catch a little bit of a break with the weather since the night before the race, the temperature was 90 degrees at 6:30 pm and the humidity was significantly higher. So we enjoyed our 82 degree race start!
The race brags about its unique course through the zoo and the access that you would not otherwise get, but this may have been a bit of an exaggeration. You do get to run through the zoo, but at least half of the course is actually through the adjacent Overton Park running trails that are used by several Memphis races. But, it is a four mile race, and there is only so much useable real estate in the zoo, so unless you are going to cut the field to 200 people, you must utilize other resources. 809 people registered online for the event before last night, and that number swelled to 1509 by the time the race started last night. With this many people in a confined space, you are going to have issues. I made the rookie mistake of not forcing myself closer to the front of the line, so I was stuck behind several walkers and it took nearly two miles on the narrow course for me to pass the walkers. This caused some crazy splits for my race, and my pace time actually went down from mile to mile, with the first mile being my slowest by nearly two minutes! I also had to tie my shoe twice during the first two miles since I have been lazy and not ordered any Lock Laces yet despite having them agree to donate to St. Jude on my behalf (use promo code KYLEJUDE), but I fixed that problem last night!
The finish line was the zoo entrance and from there, you could find the water stations, post race buffet, and beer garden. In theory, this was well-organized because you had tabs on your race bib for food and two beers, so entry should go smooth. The problem is 1,500 people is an overwhelming amount of people, especially in the area in which we were, and when you factor in family members, this just became a huge mess of people. The food line was easy to get into, but the water and beer lines were not. They only had one area for bottled water and I was herded away from that, so I fought to get a cup at the water station. The post race buffet was BBQ, beans, slaw, and brownies, that’s it. I was a little surprised that there was no fruit to be found. The beer line was ridiculous, and I decided that I did not need a Budweiser so bad to stand in a line probably 100 deep, so I just left.
The only race swag was a t-shirt for the event. The rest of the goodie bag was ads for four upcoming races, the other three in the M-Town Series and one that I have not seen advertised anywhere yet. But this was not a marathon, so extravagant goodie bags should not be expected, but it was odd that there wasn’t anything from the zoo in there or a Memphis race staple, Chik-Fil-A coupons.
Every year the theme of the Zoom Through the Zoo race is based on some major happening at the zoo. Last year was a dinosaur theme (the year I really should have run the event for the first time) since there was an animontronic dinosaur exhibit here, a few years ago when Memphis first got its pair of panda bears, Le Le and Ya Ya, that was the theme. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Cat Country at the zoo, so naturally that was the theme and the cheetah was emblazoned upon the shirts.
While it may not be the best race in town, it is a good one, and one that I will run again in the future, it for nothing else, to redeem my finish time of 42:03! But, on the bright side, this finish is a PR since this is my first 4 miler race!