Running With Cheetahs

I have been remiss. I failed to post a recap of my favorite running weekend of the year so far. This May 4th (May the Fourth be with you), Brad and I ran with cheetahs, giraffes, elephants, gazelles, rhinos, and one very friendly camel. Cool, right?? Can you believe it?! I wish it were all true, but the spirit of the sentence is right. We ran the San Diego Safari Park Half Marathon.

I love an excuse to go to San Diego. I’m not sure how it got the nickname America’s Finest City, but it’s kind of true. There’s just “something” about it. San Diego has an appealing quality. Coronado is a dream. La Jolla is a paradise. And Gaslamp is a blast. Enough about the town though, let’s talk about the race.

Saturday we drive to Road Runners Sports to check in and get our bibs and bags. We pick up our shirts, sign our waivers and yeah, whatever. That is all fine. A race packet pick-up in a huge running specialty store though? Quite a sly trick there, race planners. Like luring a kid into a candy store, or an ax murderer into an ax store. Oh the temptation. This store is awesome.

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I want all the shoes

I want all the shoes

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Seriously this store has me in its grip. I almost make it out alive. Just as one of the shoe sales reps almost coerces me into a new pair, he begins to tell me about their policy that you can return running shoes for up to 60 days after purchase (or was it 90? I can’t remember) no questions asked, no matter how much you’ve worn them, for a full refund. Now I’m sure even non-runners can understand the value in this. You just really don’t know about a pair of shoes, ESPECIALLY running shoes, until you get them on your feet and spend a day (or a run) in them. No matter how much you half-heartedly jog around the store as if that’s actually providing you with useful information, until you’ve got those shoes on your sweaty swollen dogs for 5 miles or more, you don’t know if they’re really right for you. So this whole 60 day return window is AHmazing. I love this store. Anyway, I digress. The point I mean to make is that this concept has me wondering, what happens to all of those sad unwanted shoes? Poor lost shoes. I ask the guy, “You can’t resell them right? So what do you do? Do you donate them?” Well well well. I’m glad I asked. Turns out they DO resell them, heavily discounted, and only in this store. The guy leans in close to give me the scoop. “Actually, you head around back, see? At’s what we calls our lightly-loved shoe department, see? We cleans ’em on up, gives ’em a second chance at life. Head on back, ask for my boy Maurice, he’ll hook you up.” Actually he didn’t talk like a 1940s gangster at all, and there was no one named Maurice; but the lightly loved shoe department is a very real place.

I scoot on over to Brad who is seriously considering a purchase of some Hoka One Ones (Brad’s nursing plantar fasciitis and will do almost anything at this point to cure it, including buying new shoes that aren’t from Ross). I lean in close to Brad’s ear and give him the scoop about the secret lightly-loved department behind the store. We hurriedly make our way outside and around the back. At first we don’t see anything but more of the industrial strip mall we find ourselves in on this warm San Diego day. I’m feeling like this sales guy mobster was giving me the runaround. Then, all of a sudden, there it is. A wall of the most heavily discounted first class running shoes I have ever seen. It’s basically heaven.

After spending much more time and money than planned, necessary, or budgeted, Brad and I pull ourselves away from the lightly loved shoe department with a pair of Hokas for me (how did I get roped into the Hokas? Well they look like mermaid shoes and they were on sale. What do you want from me?), a pair of Hokas for Brad (that super stuffed cushioning felt darn good on his pf), and a pair of Newton Gravitys for Brad as well (Newtons are so flippin’ expensive so to find a pair of practically new ones for 75% off is hard to turn down. I convinced him).

So there we are, two running nerds in our matching Hoka One One shoes, waddling out of the running store two big bags heavier than we intended. No regrets. I love a good bargain. And we love our new shoes.

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Enough about shopping, let’s get to the race.

We raced! Add another Half Marathon to our growing list. The San Diego Safari Park Half Marathon is tops in my book, but there are some things you need to know. Contrary to my perhaps misguided preconception you will not be running with or near wild animals. I guess I’m so used to Disney races where I know you’ll get to run as many miles as they can squeeze in the parks. I assumed this, being an entertainment park, would be the same. It didn’t occur to me, of course, that 8,000 or so loudly thumping heavily breathing runners might sound like a stampede to a sensitive wild animal and oh, I don’t know, spook them? Yeah, you don’t really run near the animals. Duh. Makes total sense.

Most of the race is through beautiful nearby Escondido, and truly, it is beautiful. And not without animals! We run alongside lots of cows! As you approach the Safari Park you run up a hill. The most intense hill I have ever seen on a race course. Seriously, it is like a joke. It is as if someone plopped Runyon Canyon smack dab at mile 8 of a half marathon. Funny right???

I’ll let the video tell the rest of the story of our lovely run. There is one more thing I wanted to mention about this event, but I hesitate because I don’t want to end on a sour note. I’ll just write it out and then think of something nice to say after so we won’t end on bad terms, k?

They ran out of medals. As I cross the finish line I am handed what looks like a laminated backstage pass. At first I think, oh, these are the medals? Well, I guess times is tough at the old Safari Park. But then the volunteer explains to me that they have run out of medals and I would receive mine in the mail in 4-6 weeks. Ugh. Listen, that’s fine, I get it. I’ve dealt with many events and I know that logistical nightmares happen. The wrong number of this get ordered, or the vendor sends that to the wrong address, or whatever. It still completely sucks, and in that moment I am very disappointed to say the least. I’m not one of those runners that gets super into the “bling” as they say, but I do enjoy a good medal. I enjoy what it represents. However the ONLY time I really enjoy my medal is the day I run the race. That’s the day I wear it around my neck proudly and wait for people to yell Congratulations so I can shoot them a coy smile and say Thank You So Much. I can’t do that 4-6 weeks from race day. I could, but I’d be kind of a dummy.

my bitter face

my bitter face

6 weeks later

6 weeks later

That’s all I’ll say about that. It was a major bummer, I was unfairly bitter about it for approximately three hours. I currently do not blame the Safari Park in any way (we’re cool Safari Park), and I’ve let it go. Things happen. Moving on.

I promised I wouldn’t end on a bitter note so here are some other things, and these far outweigh the medal debacle. Included in your race entry fee is FREE admission to the Safari Park for the entire day (hear that Disney?? FREE!) which is the coolest thing ever. It’s a truly beautiful park; a “zoo” that you can feel at least half way good about. Did you know the Safari Park used to be the breeding facility for the animals that would end up at the San Diego Zoo? That’s why there is so much land and it resembles as closely as possible the animals’ natural habitat, to keep the animals healthy, calm, and in the right mood to get it on. Someone over the years got the idea to open it up to the public. Isn’t that cool?

Also, we saw a cheetah run y’all. Up close and personal. Did you know cheetahs can reach speeds of 70 mph? Next time you’re SPEEDING on the freeway (cause 70 is SPEEDING you guys), think about that. A cheetah running on the freeway could get a speeding ticket. We saw a cheetah run. So. Cool. I actually cried. I’m totally not kidding. I choked up. It was an amazing sight.

All around it was an incredible weekend. I love San Diego, I love my husband, I love running, I love animals. All these things at once. Can’t go wrong. Definitely doing it again next year (if nothing else to get back to that lightly-loved secret 1940s mobster shoe store! Shh!).

And now, the actual best part of this post, the video. Enjoy!

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