Run for Wildlife 10km: report by Laura Rangeley

Sunday 21st April 2024

Strap in folks, this is another long one!

Last year, I raced a LOT. I raced so much I won Long Distance Strider, averaging not far off a race a week. I loved it, but it was definitely getting a little out of hand. So this year I decided to pare things back a little, focus on enjoyment and look for something a little different in terms of the race experience. So a 10k around Yorkshire Wildlife Park (organised by the excellent Curly’s Athletes) including the opportunity to spend the day there afterwards seemed like it fitted the bill – especially as my sister and brother-in-law are annual passholders, meaning they would join myself and husband/clubmate Jim for a jolly day trip after the race, along with my gorgeous baby nephew Ralph.

The week before the race was not ideal prep. Jim took a nasty tumble, resulting in a gruesome leg injury and three days in hospital, wiping him out of the race and sadly even the exploring afterwards. As well as this being upsetting on its own, I spent the week in a state of constant high anxiety and became a (thankfully very temporary) full time carer as well as working full time and trying to keep up some semblance of training for my upcoming ultra in July. The morning of the race itself was already due to be an early start, with registration opening at 7.15 – but my cat had additional plans, chucking up a sizeable hairball onto the bed at 5am, meaning I was up at an ungodly hour attempting to change bedsheets around an incapacitated husband. Lovely. I had a tantrum and nearly didn’t go, but managed to pull myself together with Jim’s encouragement and only cried once on the journey. At least the weather was on my side!

As with all Curly’s events I’ve attended, organisation was exemplary – easy number collection, ample parking and toilets, and plenty of friendly marshals. The mood at race HQ was very jovial, with lots of runners in wildlife themed fancy dress and a really inclusive sort of spirit. Despite this, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly lonely and was very aware of my missing other half. I took myself for a grumpy warm-up jog around the car park and still wasn’t sure I wanted to be there. Luckily, I bumped into fellow Strider Holly just before the start of the race which was a much needed boost and a reminder that when you’re in a club you’re never really alone.

Well done for getting through that, I promise it gets more cheery from here on in! At 8.30, we were off. I didn’t have a race plan – I wanted to try and enjoy it and soak up the vibes, and experience has taught me that hard effort plus tough emotion generally doesn’t end well. So I simply allowed myself to run to feel, with my “10k bangers” playlist in my ears and the sun beaming down. The first 1km or so looped around the car park, allowing the field to spread out a little before heading onto narrower paths within the wildlife park itself. And then we were herded towards the hyena area! Sadly the hyenas were still in bed, as were the sea lions, cheetahs and red pandas. By 3km, I’d seen a swan, a mallard, and two baby rabbits, which whilst lovely wasn’t quite what I’d been hoping for

Wallabies to the rescue! A whole mob of them lining the race route – the cutest cheer squad I’ve ever seen. The next 3km of the race was absolutely brilliant, and very distracting. Once round wallaby corner we found ourselves on a path in between two enormous enclosures each containing polar bears. They were magnificent – I couldn’t resist pausing to watch them and take a few photos. I managed to put my phone away after that though, remembering I had the whole day to revisit the animals, but I couldn’t help but dawdle and dither a little as the path became a woodland trail through warthogs (where I accidentally very loudly exclaimed WARTHOG!, to the surprise of nearby runners – they should count themselves lucky I held in the full rendition of Hakuna Matata), ring tailed lemurs, baboons and a very enthusiastic spectating meerkat.

All too soon the path took us out of the park again, onto what I think was the old entrance and car park area. There was a short and uninspiring out and back section on a road before Surprise Grass at 7km. It was only for a few hundred metres, but very slightly uphill, and I couldn’t believe how much it sapped the energy from my legs – the Facebook page after the race was full of people commenting how tough they felt this bit was. Then a quick whizz past the still sleeping red pandas, and we were back in the car park for the final kilometer, great terrain for a fast finish.

Considering the varied terrain, photo stops, distracting onlookers and the air of malaise I’d begun the race with, I couldn’t believe I finished just 40 seconds slower than the PB I set at Dewsbury earlier in the year. It wouldn’t have been a day to go for a PB, and it wasn’t what I wanted from the race on this occasion, but it was very pleasing nonetheless, especially as I also got a top 10 placing in my age category. I was rewarded with a very nice rhino themed medal and tasty cupcake at the finish line, before carrying on jogging for another 2km to reach my stupid weekly Strava target.

The rest of the day exploring the park was a joy, just what I needed after a really tough week. The warthogs were my favourite animal – although I discovered they were in fact “Warty Pigs” – closely followed by the capybaras, and baby Ralph LOVED the meerkats (and immediately stole the cutest cheerleader title off the wallabies). We even saw the baby rhino! I’d hugely recommend this event – great value too at pretty much the same price as the park entry would be on its own.

The race was won Tom Calvert in 34.34, and Nicola Holland in 39.56. 1068 runners completed the race.

Full results are available here:

Club details aren’t provided but here are the Striders results I’m aware of!

Position Name Category Time
169 Laura Rangeley F35 51:41:00
172 Jill Hallsworth F50 51:49:00 3rd place F50
457 Holly Burbridge Fsen 01:01:20
(In the turmoil of my morning I shockingly forgot to put my Striders top on, but did manage a Yorkshire theme!)
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