Race date: 24 September 2023
Race distance: 10k
Race report by Matt Broadhead
Having had a good laugh at the Run for Wildlife in April, Elin Reeves and I both thought it would be fun to do another zoo run, this time at Chester. At quarter to five on Sunday morning, after I’d done the Shelf Moor fell race and spent some hours in the swanky* pubs of Hillsborough with my brother, it just about still seemed fun.
The race was due to start at 8.30, so with numbers to be collected on site, there was no choice but to make an early start. There was no traffic though, so after a toilet stop at Chester services, we arrived in plenty of time to join the queue for our race numbers. It was a good job we did, as it was a much bigger event than we’d realised and the queues quickly became long.
The start was delayed by ten minutes to get everyone registered, but eventually we were off. Unlike the Run for Wildlife, this one doesn’t spend much time in the zoo, so after a quick sprint past some very beautiful and slightly altruistic azure-winged magpies, and across past some other enclosures where the animals were presumably still having their makeup done, we were out of another gate and on to the weirdly flat roads of Cheshire. The route is more or less a clockwise loop, with a little out-and-back section in the middle. The roads are country lanes, closed to traffic and very well marshalled, seemingly by soldiers in places. I’ve done very little road running (or flat running for that matter) this year, and it was quite nice to just let loose without worrying about tree roots or unrunnable hills. I’ve definitely lost some road-pace though, so maybe next summer I should get back on it.
There wasn’t a huge amount of note, apart from a bloke who’d done his hamstring but refused to DNF (I went back to look for him after I finished, but he was still refusing help. Nails.). We did get to hear some roaring lions in the last km which ran between enclosures, and two (count ’em!) medals at the end, one of which was studded with wildflower seeds to plant in the garden.
Most importantly, when I finished I got a sausage sandwich from the stall and a sausage roll Elin had brought from Piper’s in Crosspool, which between them shifted the last vestiges of hangover.
That done, it would have been rude not to take advantage of free entry to the zoo itself, where the animals had emerged from their Sunday morning slumber to peer at the ungainly bipeds lumbering about the place. I swear the painted dogs laughed at us when they heard us mention we’d done 10km. (“Srsly these humans, I can do three times that in 40-degree heat with an antelope leg in my mouth.”)
It’s a nice race, if a bit far away, but if you fancy seeing an aye-aye or some parasitised cockroaches, or just a tiger and a giraffe, it’s well worth it.
The race was won by Gary Briscoe in 32:47, and Linda Mclaughln in 44:17. 890 finished.
*Seriously, Hillsborough’s really gone uphill since I moved in.