Monday, 17 June 2013

Whipsnade Zoo 10k Stampede

You know how sometimes you book things a long way in advance and you spend ages talking about it and being excited for it but without actually twigging that it's getting closer and closer until you go "Jesus I'm supposed to run 10k around a zoo this weekend!"?


Well anyway.

After talking about The Stampede way back in March (you all suck by the way, nobody was brave enough to come and join us) the weekend finally arrived for Lucy and I to make our way down south for a little adventure.

Our hotel was a bargain that Lucy had found, costing us £25 each for a night in the middle of Luton about a 2 minute walk from the train station, and although our hearts sank when we walked up to possibly the ugliest building alive...

 ...we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the hotel was really nice inside. Even better, we had free access to a gym including a pool, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi.

We ran onto the streets of Luton to discover what there was to say and ran smack bang into a store that has changed my life. Why have I never heard of Tiger before?! I can't even describe it, just go on the website and look. (Although be warned, you can't actually buy anything from the website it just shows you what they sell. The swines.)

We also learned that Luton doesn't like you to feed pigeons, handily drawing a picture of a pigeon in case you didn't know what one was.

But you're not here to learn about what there is to see and do in Luton. And anyway I've basically covered it in the above few sentences.

You are here to find out about The Stampede.

This was long awaited for more than one reason for me. I was looking forward to running around the zoo but, after the disaster that was the Hull Not 10k I was looking forward to actually giving a 10k race a proper go.

I wasn't in the best of shape for it. In the week leading up to the race I'd been unable to do any running/training at all because work has been a gobshite lately and my diet left little to be desired as I comfort ate to make myself feel better about work being a gobshite. I haven't checked but I'm pretty sure that Runner's World don't have those in their Top Ten must-dos for race preparation.

I was pleased Lucy was there though - that girl just ran a half marathon, I would be able to harness her running ability somehow and get myself through the race. I hoped. I decided it was a sign that we had the same trainers - these trainers got Lucy through a half marathon, they could get me through a 10k!

For anyone interested they are Mizunos. And you need to be a mega flat footed freak to wear them

In the run up I was a little worried about how hot it might be when we ran the race - I didn't want to overheat and pass out half way round - but I needn't have worried as the weather was outrageously cold on Sunday 9th June. It was almost a joke how cold we all were, hopping about on the spot trying to keep warm.

Before long the hooter went and we were off, we were officially Stampeding! The first big animal we came to was this rhino...

 He looks a peaceful chappy doesn't he? Well he was not peaceful on that first lap. As we came up to his paddock we saw him running and charging about, going up to the fence before retreating and then turning and charging again - he was stampeding with us! Maybe he heard us all running and thought we were a real-life Stampede? I was a little worried we had distressed him but it turns out he does it every year and he seemed happy enough when we went past him on our 2nd and 3rd laps so I think he's ok.

Yes. Laps. Not sure they're a fun way of running 10k. The first lap was brilliant - I was shouting out animals as I saw them and smiling and everything was lovely. Then came the second lap and I got a little quieter. Then came the third lap and there wasn't a word uttered. By the time the 3rd lap came around I was like "Yeah. Whatever. Flamingos. Good work being pink"

The other not fun thing about laps? Getting lapped by the leaders. A bike with a bell ringing behind you going "Move over to the left for the race leaders!" was not a comforting sound. I contemplated throwing an elbow but apparently that's not sportsmanly. I don't need a reminder that I run slowly thank you very much.

I had developed an irrational fear that Whipsnade Zoo would be full of nasty hills, not helped by the fact that in the taxi ride to the zoo we appeared to be going up and down mountains. But thankfully, although the zoo is set on a hill and offers some spectacular views, the course wasn't too bad. There were some inclines but they were pretty gentle really - at least they felt like it compared to some of the hills I have to run up and down near me.

I was so thankful I had Lucy to run with. I had a better deal really, she kept me going whereas I just slowed her down! But having someone to run with who asked if I was ok was a huge help even if the answer was "No, I hate this!"

When we got to 7km I was still feeling not too bad and actually thought to myself that I was ok and was definitely going to be able to do this, but things went rapidly downhill from there and 8-10km was a real struggle. I retreated well into myself and started focusing on following the yellow lines on the road we were running on, I felt if I just kept running on that then everything would be ok. What can I say, I'm not entirely sure running is good for your mental health.

After the race we discovered that we both were pretty sure that 9km was never going to come once we'd passed the 8km marker. I swear it was longer than 1km between those markers. But hilariously, when I checked on Endomondo the other day, that lap was our fastest, we were obviously desperate to get to the marker!

We turned a corner and there it was the finish. The end has never been more welcome and I sped up to get there as quickly as possible. I like to think that the people lining the sides and cheering us on were fooled into thinking we'd run that fast all the way around but given the time I'm guessing they probably wouldn't have been fooled.

Ah yes. The time. The time that I should be really proud of and should be shouting from the rooftops because three years ago I literally couldn't run for 5 minutes on a treadmill without having to stop. The time that I shouldn't care about, but do because I'm an idiot who needs to learn to stop comparing herself to others, especially when people can run further and faster than she can.

My official time was 1.09.26 and I am proud of that time. This is only the 2nd time I've run a 10km race. The last time was in September 2012 and it took me 1 hour 18 minutes so I've knocked a good bit of time off that.

So yeah. Sorry I'm not a super fast runner but I run as fast and as hard as I can and I will never in a million years get below 60 minutes and actually I don't want to. I want running to remain fun and something I enjoy doing, not become yet another stick I can beat myself up with.


I'm done.

Even better than the euphoria of finishing a 10km is the euphoria of then getting to spend the rest of the day looking at animals, and although we had to get changed in a toilet and try and wipe the sweat off with some baby wipes, it totally made it worth it.

I have celebrated my victory by immediately stopping running. Much as I do enjoy it when I'm doing it I have learned to accept that unless I have something to run for I'm not going to run.

So I have signed up to my next 10km - the York 10k on August 4th.

Time to dust off the trainers, get out Hal's training programme, and start running up those hills again...


  1. Congratulations! I could bestow lots of comments about that's a good time, etc., but I know nothing about running and I both suck at and hate it. I really don't think I could ever run a marathon which does mean I am super impressed by anybody that can, no matter what time they do it in. So, yeah, I am super impressed!

    And animals as the backdrop? That's pretty damn cool.

    Oh and nobody should fee pigeons. As rats of the sky, they should be left to starve and rot.

  2. Oh my god girl - you are running crazy! So impressed though! Glad you made it and enjoyed it.

    As for Tiger - yeah they started out in Hammersmith (well that is the first store I was aware of for years before I noticed them anywhere else) and have spread since...I love that shop too - it was a well kept secret for a while and an excellent place for Christmas stocking fillers! We have them in Spain now too!

    Anyhoo! Big congrats! xxx

  3. Well done! I would have joined you, really I would, the idea of running around a zoo is seems much more enjoyable than running anywhere else but I can only just manage to run up the stairs. I would have held you back you see and that just really wouldn't do at all.

    Off to see the Tiger website now...

  4. Yeeeah well done!
    I live down the road from Whipsnade, but haven't done the 10k there. I didn't realise it was done in laps, interesting. I have done the one in London Zoo, which was laps of Regents Park and barely in the zoo!
    Well done you for doing it without stopping :)

    1. Well that's interesting! Lucy and I were saying we wanted to do the London Zoo Stampede next year as it was a bit of a faff to get to Whipsnade as we were without car. But now you've revealed it's barely in the zoo I don't know what to think!

  5. Well Done :D I love your write-up and was so funny about the flamingo's being pink :P I was there and it was freezing to start off with but looking at all the cool animals keeps you going :) and I wouldn't worry about your time as the idea is you enjoy it :D

    Jamie :)


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