Matt and I enjoy supporting the Oakland University volleyball team, so when we saw that they were going to play at Cleveland State University on a Saturday, it sparked the idea of taking a weekend road trip. I was curious if I could find any good races in Ohio the day after the game. The one that stood out the most was the GALlop for Children 5K at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. The race was only $20 and included a long sleeve tech shirt and admission to the zoo. It also benefited a good cause – the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Project. GALs for the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court are appointed to represent the best interests of children involved in abuse, neglect, and a variety of other situations. We thought it would be nice to support the cause and visit a zoo we’d never been to.
The race took place on Sunday, November 8th, and it was a beautiful, crisp morning. The parking lot wasn’t very full when we got there 45 minutes before the start. I had looked for info about the race and it didn’t look like a huge event – a little over 100 people had run last year. I couldn’t find any info about the race route though. Matt and I have run two races at zoos. The Cheetah Chase at Battle Creek’s Binder Park Zoo took us through part of the zoo, while Run Wild for the Detroit Zoo took us through the neighborhoods outside the zoo. After checking in, I asked a volunteer where the race started. I was excited to find out that we would actually run through the zoo.
We lingered near the start and found out that the half-mile kids’ run started first. A small group ran a quarter mile down the path and back. When everyone returned, the 5K runners were gathered and taken a short way down the path for the start. A rock at the side seemed to mark the starting line. Our bibs didn’t have timing chips, so Matt and I lined up at the front.
A golf cart led the runners, and soon enough it was out of my view and I just followed the people in front of me. We hit a gradual hill fairly early and a more significant hill came a bit after that. I saw a few interesting birds and a horse-like animal, but didn’t see as many animals as I had hoped while running. Although the uphill portions slowed me down, a long downhill stretch had me flying enough to make up for it. We came back around to the start for another loop, but luckily the route was a little different and we didn’t have to climb the bigger hill a second time. We didn’t get the major downhill stretch either, but still had a nice downhill segment leading to the finish.
I treated this run as a fun run with some effort rather than an all-out race. I ended up with a nice negative split, finishing around 30-40 seconds slower than my PR. I was pleasantly surprised by that, and I was also a little bit faster than the 5K we ran at GVSU a couple weeks earlier. I think the downhills must have really helped my time.
I was able to catch a photo of Matt as he finished.
They had told us at the start of the race that cookies would be waiting at the end, and they weren’t kidding. I had no idea how awesome the post-race spread would be. They had bottles of water, hot chocolate, coffee, apples, bananas…and cookies galore! They had over 20 varieties of homemade cookies and I was in heaven.
Nearly an hour and a half after the start of the race, they finally got around to awards. Matt was second in his age group and I was third in mine, so we each received something.
Next, we took advantage of our admission to the zoo and walked around for a couple hours. Some areas were closed and we didn’t even try to get to everything, but we saw some fun stuff.
Between watching OU’s volleyball team beat Cleveland State, running the 5K, then enjoying the zoo, we had a fun, action-packed weekend.
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